“My Vagina’s Falling Out”

Copyright: chajamp

It’s not mine, actually. It’s a friend of mine; the title is a direct quote from the text she sent me. And I don’t mean “friend.” If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know I’d tell you if it were my vagina that was falling out. I once typed out several frank paragraphs about the time I lost a tampon in my hoohah for months and the ensuing odor. I almost wish it were my vagina falling out, just for the material.

No, no, not really, vagina gods. I am making light of an uncomfortable medical condition for the sake of art. Please do not visit that karma upon me. In all actuality, I would like my vagina to stay right where it is, in that boring yet comfortable place, tucked inside my body where I can’t feel it nor do I feel compelled to write about it. But things do not stay put as we age, so read on for a few common, distressing and distressingly common female reproductive issues.

FUN FACT: "Vagina" refers to the inside part you can't see that leads to the cervix and then the uterus. The outside parts we tend to call the vagina in everyday conversation are actually the vulva and labia. Helpful definitions and diagram here.

Jen’s Wayward Vagina

Jen woke up one morning, and while getting ready for work, she noticed a familiar yet uncomfortable feeling — like her tampon had slipped down and was poking out. Only she wasn’t wearing a tampon. Upon exploration, she was horrified to discover what she felt was not a wandering sanitary supply but her actual self — tissue from inside was trying to be outside. Jen has some medical experience, so she knew what she felt was a prolapsed vagina, which is just doctorspeak for, “Your vagina’s falling out of your body but we’d like to make it sound a little less terrible.”

After five or two hundred deep breaths, Jen calmed down enough to do some research. She was shocked to discover that 40 PERCENT of women have vaginal prolapse at some point in their lives. Why then, we wondered together, did we not know about this? Vaginal prolapse can come with a smorgasbord of fun symptoms that range from that feeling of “tissue protrusion” Jen felt to constipation and general sexual concerns about having a loose vagina.

We all know about erectile dysfunction and vasectomy reversal; pharmaceutical companies are falling all over themselves to develop treatments and yelling it out to the world as they do it. If 40 percent of women have vaginal prolapse, why had I not heard so much as a peep about it until Jen freaked out and shared it with me? Might she have freaked out less if she’d seen 80 thousand commercials for how to treat it? I’ll leave that to rattle around in your brain while I move on to another friend of mine. More info on vaginal prolapse here.

Rachel’s Pain-in-the-Pelvis Bladder

Rachel and I were supposed to meet up to walk, but she texted me that morning to say she didn’t feel well enough, but could I come over and talk? As I walked to her house, I wondered what was up. Maybe she’s worried about one of her kids. Maybe she’s leaving her husband. Maybe she has cancer. All three of these, I’m finding, are common at our age. It was none of them.

Rachel has a chronic urge to pee, though not much comes out. She doesn’t have a urinary tract infection. A urologist gave her a vaginal suppository to treat it, but she had a bad reaction to it. It burned her insides. Her doctor “had never heard of this happening before.” Now, she can’t exercise because she’s in too much pain. She has trouble sleeping because of the pain. And she’s generally unhappy because, again, pain. Our shared gynecologist suggested melatonin and general disregard for the impact this pain was having on her life.

She’s since done some internet research, diagnosed herself with interstitial cystitis (IC) and altered her diet, which has helped some. IC affects somewhere between 3 and 8 million women and has no cure. Thanks, medical people. Let that one marinate along with vaginal prolapse.

Sarah’s Disappearing Clitoris

That’s right; that little motherfucker who brings you so much pleasure can disappear, and she is not going to go quietly either. She’s going to go kicking, screaming, itching and scarring all the way. It’s called lichen sclerosis. I would never have heard of it if Sarah hadn’t told me she had it and has to keep Clobetasol cream on her person at all times for the rest of her life. Obviously, it messes up your ability to enjoy sex. Four percent of women who have it wind up with vulvar cancer. It’s a lifelong, incurable thing that affects one in 80 women, mostly those peri- or post-menopausal. Betcha never heard of that one either. Ever see a commercial for itchy, scarring clit pills? No? More info on lichen sclerosis here.

The Really Disturbing Thing

It’s scary that these conditions exist, but what’s worse is that no one talks about them. That makes them even more terrifying. Men can make jokes about not being able to get it up because everyone knows about that thanks to Viagra and their never-ending ad campaign. No one jokes about itchy clits or vaginas gone rogue. Or undefinable, vague pelvic pain that maybe wouldn’t be so undefinable if there were more research dollars poured into women’s reproductive issues.

I don’t want much. I’m not asking for science to make me fertile at fifty. Believe me, I don’t want that. I’m just asking for a little transparency — that women not be blind-sided by these conditions. That we not feel horrified and alone about something that affects 40 percent of people with vaginas. And maybe some money and research put into what medicines, procedures or therapies would help us be more comfortable as we age.

The Inconstant Moon

Photo by Roman Klimenko on Unsplash

I finally got up the nerve to make an appointment to get my second tattoo, 20 years after my first one. I’d known what I wanted for quite some time. It wasn’t until the day I was going to get it, though, that I completely understood what it meant to me.

The Moon

I’ve always been fascinated by the moon, from the time I was a toddler and named it “noom.” Its obvious influence on our planet and artful appearance has kept me looking skyward at night ever since. You can stare up at the moon on consecutive nights, and it will appear differently each time, but in a predictable cycle. Waxing crescent, half, full, waning crescent, new. Comfortingly, it even has a name when we can’t see it. Regardless, the whole moon is always there, apparently consistent. But…

It gets about one inch further away from Earth each year, and its tilt on its axis has changed over time. In the past, it has sustained impacts that have altered its landscape, adding new craters and debris. There’s no reason to think there won’t be more. There has been some evidence that our stolid moon is rusting. The moon, a constant in the night sky with its soothing, reliable cycles, is changing.

In the wee morning hours of yesterday, I observed the moon, Venus close at hand, in its Cheshire Cat form, grinning at me from above. I then fell back asleep on the couch and had a vivid dream that was a very literal interpretation of killing the past. At the end of the dream, I looked skyward to see that same smile of a moon. A letting go of what no longer exists, a look toward the present and future.

Middle Age

Middle age can seem like it sucks. My body is doing all sorts of socially undesirable things — getting bulgier, wrinklier, less predictable. Involuntary physical change can be distressing regardless, but when it’s in defiance of our cultural worship of youthfulness, it can feel downright alarming. Suddenly, I’m different. But I’ve always been different.

To paraphrase Heraclitus, you can’t step in the same river twice; you are different and so is the river. My body is plumper now than it was five years ago, my hair is purple, and (as of yesterday) I have a tattoo of moons along my forearm. But look back a little further, and you’ll see a creature with a pregnant belly, a blond bob and a naked forearm. A bit further, a fiery young person with long pink hair and a chip on her shoulder. A strong, tan little girl who happily spends all day in her own head. Remove the societal stigma of aging, and this body I have now, this person I am now, is just the latest iteration. Remove the stigma, and I actually feel pretty damned good about it.

My body is changing. My mind is changing. Yours is, too. In a world where even the moon isn’t truly constant, we should expect no less. Instead of fighting the inevitable, wouldn’t it be more fun to embrace it?

Thanks to Maggie Hughes at Little Pricks Tattoos for honing my idea and making it a beautiful reality

It’s National Barbie Day!

Copyright: alepenny on Unsplash

When I was a kid, much to my feminist mother’s chagrin, I adored Barbies. I spent my allowance money on Day-to-Night Barbie, Pretty-in-Pink Barbie, and Barbie and the Rockers. One entire corner of my room was drenched in Barbie pink. The Barbies’ house, built by my father, contained everything from a refrigerator with fake food, to tiny pink coat hangers, to a goddamned Barbie toilet.

Thirty years later, that same Barbie house, with a paired-down menagerie of accessories, still adorned a wall of my adult house. When my friend, Kelly, came to visit, her daughter rebranded Barbie in a more sophisticated light, referring to the dolls as “the Barbaras.” Since Barb’s over 60 years old now, I think she deserves the extra respect.

National Barbie Day, which was actually yesterday (I know, you’re pissed you missed your chance to celebrate), conjures mixed feelings for me. I’m nostalgic for the time my best childhood friend, Kim, and I spent weaving storylines inspired by our favorite soap opera, Santa Barbara. (It just now occurred to me how appropriate that title is for Barbie play.) I’m also inclined to snort at how ridiculous Barbie’s tiny waist and permanently high-heeled feet are and to ponder the effect that has on young people’s body image.

It turns out, though, that Barbie, despite her nefarious image by the 1970s, began as sort of a feminist icon. And, maybe it’s time for her to take it a step further.

The Syndrome Mag was gracious enough to publish my article, It’s National Barbie Day. Check it out and discover some little-known history about Little Miss All-Things-Pink.

Where Did 10,000 Steps Come From?

Photo by Clique Images on Unsplash

Ten thousand steps. That’s how many we’re supposed to get. But did you come across that article about bodybuilders who conserve their energy all day (take the elevator, drive the car to the mailbox) so they have plenty of fuel for their high-intensity workouts? Did you read that bit about high-intensity exercise being bad for your joints? Did you see the one that said weight-bearing exercise is optimal for bone health? It’s a wonder we don’t all throw our hands up, go home to binge-watch Game of Thrones and eat ho-hos. (What are ho-hos, anyway? I’ve never had one, but they seem to be the ambassadors of junk food.)

According to one Guardian article, the ten thousand steps thing was originally an arbitrary figure used by a Japanese marketing campaign to promote the first wearable fitness device in the mid-sixties. The “research” was based on the fact that most Japanese citizens took 3,500 to 5,000 steps daily, so 10,000 seemed a good round number to shoot for.

Since then, there have been more robust studies about step count. Indeed, taking 10,000 steps versus 5,000 per day is correlated with a decreased risk of heart disease amongst other morbidities. But what about 6,000 steps? Most studies to date only compare 5,000 versus 10,000.  Maybe 6,000 steps would be enough to improve some people’s health. This is important because telling people who are basically sedentary they have to take 10,000 a day or die of heart failure trying is intimidating. Why try? ‘Might as well fire up Game of Thrones and order pizza. More realistic goals might be more successful.

Another thing these step studies don’t take into account is intensity. A running stride is generally longer than a walking stride and takes more energy per stride. This means 10,000 running steps takes more energy than 10,000 walking steps, but you didn’t need science to tell you that; your burning lungs give you all the info you need on that one. What if your steps are uphill versus on a flat surface? That takes more energy too. The 10,000 steps target is more about marketing gadgets than a useful application of hard science.

Speaking of hard science, a recent Scientific American article referenced a study of our early human ancestors which found they (and we) need exercise to stay healthy, unlike our ape predecessors. They estimated how far early hominins traveled in an average day, and guess what they came up with? At least 10,000 steps or approximately five miles per day. This is largely based on observations of modern, hunter-gatherer societies in Tanzania.

Modern innovation has allowed us humans to be lazier. And it’s in our nature to rest when we are able. It’s part of what got us this far — the ability to rest when we could and conserve energy for the next hunting or gathering session. Now that we aren’t motivated to work hard by the sheer need to survive, we sit around a lot more.  Our bodies have evolved to need exercise, however, so in modern times, we are healthier when we make a concerted effort to get it. Ten thousand steps, however, which may be an admirable goal in some situations, is a gross oversimplification and overgeneralization of what our bodies need. In those hunter-gatherer groups in Tanzania, there are lessons for us beyond mileage and steps:

Beyond the copious amounts of exercise and whole-food diets, daily life for these cultures is full of fresh air, friendships and families. Egalitarianism is the rule, and economic inequality is low. We do not know exactly how these factors affect the health of hunter-gatherers, but we know their absence contributes to chronic stress in the developed world, which promotes…disease. (Pontzer, 2019).

It’s not useful to develop specific requirements (10,000 steps) and then apply them to every human on the planet. We are more variable as individuals than that, but we can make some generalizations that apply to most people. As a whole, we feel better when we move more, connect with friends and family in quality ways and go outside some. If counting steps helps you do those things and you don’t get obsessive like I do, go ahead and count. But remember, you don’t HAVE to. Your body, by and large, knows what it needs. If you listen to it, it will tell you when it’s time to get up from your desk and walk around. You’ve got a built-in step counter right there in your body. It’s free and won’t coerce you into the latest upgrade.


  1. Cox, David. “Watch Your Step: why the 10,000 daily goal is built on bad science.” The Guardian September 2018. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/sep/03/watch-your-step-why-the-10000-daily-goal-is-built-on-bad-science.
  2. Pontzer, Herman. “Evolved to Exercise.” Scientific American January 2019: 23-29. Print. 
  3. Williams, PT. “Greater weight loss from running than walking during a 6.2-yr prospective follow-up.” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health April 2013. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23190592.

Cold Turkey


5880410 - bronze turkeys feeding in snowy field
Copyright: rekemp

This comes directly from my journal, so it’s personal and raw. Ha! And you thought I was already bearing the depths of my soul! Just wait…

Circumstance and idea have just aligned; I’m off Zoloft cold turkey. I didn’t plan on doing it this way, but my prescription ran out, and my doctor wanted to see me before renewing it. I was feeling stubborn and thought “fuck it,” I’m going for it.

It is ill-advised, I know. I’ve been off it five days, and I can tell. It’s five days til my period — also not ideal. I feel sad on and off, apropos of nothing, or because of a mildly poignant book or TV show. I have a strong need to be alone. That’s the standard PMDD stuff. I even got so agitated yesterday, I went for a run which started out as a sprint and ended with hiking and sitting by the creek with the moss and the ferns.

There are some unusual symptoms — maybe meds withdrawal. There’s a weird, persistent backache and an odd spaciness like I’m a little high. It’s particularly noticeable when I turn my head and my vision seems to wobble.

My immediate goal is to get through the next five or six days, take care of myself, and not lose it completely. My hope is, over the next few months, things will even out, and my coping skills will be enough that PMDD is manageable.

My core motivation for going off meds (aside from the stubborn, “you’re not the boss of me” reason for the cold-turkey approach) is…a lot of things:

  • I don’t like being dependent on them.
  • Maybe I would have more energy.
  • Maybe my memory would be better.
  • Maybe I’d stop gaining weight and having to buy new clothes.

I kinda hate to admit that last one, but it’s there if I’m being completely honest.

One of my mantras, when I start to get all bogged down in PMDD thoughts about the world being no more than a confusing mess of meaningless drivel, is, “This isn’t real; this too shall pass.” But I’m not sure I believe it, even on my good days. Even then I wonder if we’re all not just zombies who drank the capitalist Koolaid. It just doesn’t bother me as much then. I need the mantra, true or not, to get me through the hard times. Otherwise, I might implode.

Sometimes the best you can get is, as Allie Brosh says,

Maybe everything isn’t hopeless bullshit.


screen shot 2019-01-22 at 9.00.41 am
Image credit: Allie Brosh


Grumpy Old Friends


Two Senior Women Relaxing at the Outdoor Table
Photo by Bela Hoche

God, I’m tired. I woke up in a pissy mood. I got dressed up today because I had a meeting at school, I’m getting my hair cut, and I hate looking at myself all drab in the mirror at the salon.


I’m getting older. My body is changing. My face is a little droopy. I have a belly where I never had one before. My boobs are a cup size bigger than they were three years ago. Most of the time, I’m okay with it. Today, though, I just feel shitty — unattractive and lumpy. It’s partly society’s expectation we all stay young and beautiful. We lie about our ages and spend endless amounts of money on botox and tummy tucks. We’ll try the latest fast, the latest supplement, the latest whatever in an impossible quest to stop time.

Not that I’d go back to my 20’s. I am much wiser than I used to be. I am a better, more giving person. I wouldn’t trade all I’ve learned over the past two decades for anything, but it’s still hard to watch my body change. Change is inevitable; it’s a normal part of this world, and it is always happening. On a good day, this makes me smile and I can embrace it. On a bad day, it pisses me off. It’s like puberty only more depressing. It irritates me that I can’t operate on six hours of sleep the way I used to. It vexes me I don’t have the energy to accomplish what I once did. It makes me feel insecure that my memory isn’t quite as good as it once was. 

I’ve tried a lot of things to “optimize my life,” to fight these subtle yet distressing signs of aging.  I’ve changed my diet, I’ve fasted, I’ve cut carbs, taken supplements, engaged in high-intensity exercise to the point of folly and sampled enumerable therapies. There are a lot of them these days — cryotherapy, halotherapy, alphabiotics, chiropractic adjustment, essential oils, massage therapy…It is a long, long list.

I know people who have been helped by alternative therapies; I’m just not one of them. I mean sure, I come out of the halotherapy room feeling relaxed, I leave cryotherapy feeling invigorated, and every time I get a massage I think Why don’t I do this more often? It’s just at some point, it becomes one more thing I have to do, one more thing I have to pay for, regardless of how much I love the people there.

Here’s my theory: Any therapy might be a godsend for a particular individual, especially if they have an acute or significant chronic problem. If you’re a high-performance athlete, you might really need some of these to help you recover. If you’re injured, you can take advantage of them to get back to one hundred percent. If you are affected by something like arthritis or osteopenia, you might benefit from some of the new discoveries in therapy.

But what if you’re me? I don’t want to win marathons. I don’t have any physical injuries or significant pain. I am not afflicted by any degenerative or chronic illness (yet). Is it really worth my time and money to avail myself of the dizzying array of therapies now available? Because whatever their benefits, no therapy is going to stop me from getting older.

What I mostly love about therapy is the people. The proprietors, the ones I’ve visited anyway, truly want to help you. They are friendly, engaging and honest. They are not hardcore salespeople; they want to help you feel better. What I need is friends therapy — something I can get for free and something I would have the time and energy to cultivate if I weren’t so busy investigating new therapies and playing Wordscapes.

I’m not telling you not to try stuff. If you have significant ongoing pain, looking into alternative ways to treat it is a good idea. But if you don’t, or if you’ve tried and the therapy itself didn’t make a significant difference, let it go. Consider that maybe what you need instead of ice or heat or salt or your chakras aligned is better social interactions — real friends with whom you can relax and be your true self.

I have a friend who lives in a retirement community nearby. She’s ninety years old and recently told me of a 97-year-old man who began taking her art class. He was depressed, having lost his wife recently. Slowly he realized, at 97, he likes to paint. Now he sits in the common room, painting, while others around him read or play games. They comment on his work, and sometimes he asks for opinions. Sure the painting itself is probably therapy, but would he have found it if he hadn’t lived in a tight-knit community that makes it easy to be social and seek out new hobbies?

That community has social gatherings all the time, and if you attend one, you’ll find the residents drinking a few glasses of wine and good-naturedly harassing each other — being weird, grumpy, silly, friendly. Being themselves. Yes, they are old; there is no denying it. The inevitable march of time is apparent in the herd of walkers parked outside the door of every event. But they have easy access to an important thing: quality social interaction — not just superficial gatherings of bodies but real, comfortable relationships in which they can relax. The shared component of most therapy is relaxation and a little bit of quality social interaction. What if that’s all we need? 

UNLEARN: Forgetting the Concept of Fat Bias

66715281 - adipose tissue, fat cells, adipocytes - vector illustration
Adipose tissue, a.k.a., fat cells — We need them in order to live.

Your legs are big, and they have a lot of fat on them.

My ten year old said this to me, conversationally, as we were lazing on my bed, along with his brother, one evening. He noted it as a scientific observation, completely devoid of judgment….and then, of course, I felt insecure for three days.

I got over it, and I didn’t get nearly as upset about it as I would have, say, ten years ago. He was actually doing what my goal is for myself and humanity in general — not equating “big” or “fat” with bad, not equating them with anything, in fact, except what the words literally mean.

My adult brain, of course, had to feel bad about itself for letting the legs get big and fat. Then it had to rationalize it with my age and eighty-seven other aspects of myself and life. And it had to work REALLY hard at getting back to the place where “big” and “fat” are not judgments.

Then I had a proverbial “Ah ha” moment. I realized that all this association we have with fat as negative is completely learned from societal cues. So learning not to assign self-worth to the constitution of one’s body isn’t so much about learning as it is unlearning.

My kids didn’t have to learn that fat’s not bad. They were born observing things, not judging them. We all know the story of the little kid (maybe it was yours) who loudly points to someone in a store and says “Look how fat that person is!” It’s super embarrassing for all the adults.

The child is not being judgmental; she is simply noticing something that is outside her average experience. She may be amazed, but she’s not assigning worth (or lack thereof) to this person who happens to be bigger than anyone she’s ever seen.

I’m not suggesting you encourage your kiddos to point and yell when they see a person who is bigger or fatter than most. We as a society aren’t there (yet), and it’s unkind to throw people’s probable insecurities in their faces in public. But do understand that it’s the adults who are doing the judging and being embarrassed in this situation. The child is simply giving voice to an observation (most of the time, unless she’s already picked up on the damaging and mistaken message that fat is inherently a negative thing.)

The bottom line is this: fat is not bad. Fat is just fat, like skin or hair or eyeballs. And it is not a learning process to get there. We have learned wrongly, and as adults, we need to do two things:

  1. Prevent our children from learning the self-esteem crushing concept that fatness somehow reflects on a person’s character, work ethic or worth.
  2. This is asking a lot, but it is vital and it is a journey; you’re not going to do it right now, but you can start working on it. Start reflecting on your own deeply-seated beliefs surrounding fatness: UNLEARN.

Want to read some real talk about fat and how society insists upon shaping a false, negative and demeaning narrative around it? Go here. Virgie Tovar knows.

Oh, and P.S.: Do NOT comment on this post with anything like “You’re legs aren’t fat!” or “You look amazing!” Because that is completely not the point, and it would diminish the point I am trying to make. This is not about me and my self-esteem; it’s about incorrect and practically universal damaging social concepts.


Photo credit: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_inbevel13′>inbevel13 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

I Haven’t Written Lately Because Listicles

Celebrity Affair CollageIt’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post. My paying work picked up its pace over the past several months and the kids are out of school. Something had to give, so I intentionally put blogging on the back burner, as much as it pained me to do it.

I love writing here, because I can write whatever I want, in whatever format I want and with whatever whimsical made-up words I favor. The only problem is, no one pays me to write my weird personal stuff.

I recently started writing for a parenting website that is committed to listicles (an article in list format – Jason says “listicle” sounds like male genitalia). The website has very specific requirements for word count, amongst other rules for achieving ideal SEO (search engine optimization.)

When I started, I found the restrictions…well, restricting, but now, I’ve come to enjoy the challenge of creating an engaging list within the site’s parameters. And I like that I can create these articles with internet research alone and don’t have to talk to any real people or rely on them to send me information. (Introverts unite!…separately, in our own homes)

The real challenge, though, is choosing a topic. I get paid based on the number of times my listicles get clicked on, so it’s in my best interest to pick popular topics. Some of the most-read ones involve shaming celebrities and ideas that have no other value than to shock the reader and allow them to judge people. They’re the train wrecks of the internet. You know the type: Ten Shocking Celebrity Parents Who Don’t Raise Their Kids Right. Yeah, Homey don’t play that. And by “Homey,” I mean me. But…

I found I can dress up the meatloaf – meatloaf being my own preferred topics: women’s reproductive rights, body and fat positivity, and judge not, lest ye be judged. (Yes, the atheist just quoted the Bible.) I can take a topic like Eight Times Celebrities Messed Up Their Marriages – a potential train-wreck article – and give it value. I can turn it into a lesson on not judging others, even celebrities who are always, always in the public eye. I can use the shocking title to grab you and, now that I’ve got your attention, give you something that does more than entertain. I can feed you something that really makes you think and reflect. Example: I wrote this article, 12 Shocking Stories of Women Who Performed Their Own Abortions, and made it into an analysis of why they did it and how restrictive abortion laws can force a woman’s hand. (One of the things I love about the site is they don’t mind if I get political.)

So, in the vein of not judging, I have stopped judging listicle-type articles for their titles. I’m not the only writer out there trying to make people think instead of just gawking at disasters. Some listicles actually have substance. But, once I’ve read the content, make no mistake; I will be judging.

Too Big For My Britches

Anyone want a cute pair of size 4’s?

Literally. I was going to a gift exchange party yesterday evening and decided to see if I could fit into a pair of burgundy corduroys I bought a couple of years ago. I knew I was bigger than I’d been when I bought them, but I love the fabric and vibrant color, so I deluded myself into…maybe? 

I told myself going in, I was not going to be upset or denigrating about my body if they didn’t fit. I’ve come a long way from attaching my self-worth to thinness. But old habits die hard, slow deaths and often require extra wacking with a shoe until their parts are disembodied all over the hardwood floor, much the same as those giant, flying Texas roaches.

In my closet, I pulled those soft, beautiful pants from their hanger and stepped into them. I couldn’t get them up over my hips/ass – not even close. I couldn’t even wrangle them up, pull the zipper up with a pair of pliers and pretend they fit. Getting those things up to my waist would have ended in second-degree corduroy skin burns and splitting seams. That’s cool; no big deal. I knew this might happen.

I hung the corduroys back up and opted for boring black leggings, but topped them with my favorite red velour top and colorful beads. The velour top was tighter around my hips and belly than I’d remembered. It’s all good. This is my body, and it is great, no matter it’s size fluctuations.

I felt droopy. I felt deflated and defeated and a little like crying. My body-positive messages were failing against other much less useful ones, like gaining weight is a failure and thin equals success. Here is where I habitually compound the negative messages by feeling guilty for letting them get in my head. So, then, on top of feeling a drop in self-worth, I also feel guilt, anger and confusion.

This time, I let the negative messages be. I told myself, Of course they’re there. They’ve been everywhere your whole life, and you wouldn’t be human if they didn’t get to you now and then. I acknowledged those thoughts, let them sit there and by this morning, they’ve gone away. Huh. How about that?

In retrospect, this wasn’t the best time of month to challenge my body positivity foundations. You have to know when you’re up for a challenge and when it’s better to lie low. This particular trying on of pants was an error in judgement on my part. But I learned something from it anyway. I learned the negative thoughts won’t kill me, and they’ll go away much quicker if I don’t layer shit on top of them. I learned I need to keep working toward improving my view of bodies, and I learned to leave challenges to another day when I’m not up to them. But, most of all, I learned…buy new pants.

My Body – Positively

When I was about fourteen, I read Seventeen Magazine on a regular basis. This was the late eighties, so the pages were covered in tall, lithe, gorgeously-dressed models who had legs that went on for miles. I liked the bright-colored fashion and reading the articles, but one day I noticed every time I finished flipping through the magazine, I felt bad about myself. I felt unselfconscious beforehand, but after, I felt like I didn’t measure up. My body didn’t look like those girls’ bodies, and I’d feel depressed, unattractive and “less than.” It was then I made what I see now was an incredibly mature decision: I quit reading the magazine and told my mom to cancel my subscription. Problem solved; self-esteem restored. That was the beginning of my body positivity journey, though the term “body positivity” hadn’t been invented yet.

Unfortunately, eschewing Seventeen didn’t protect my teenage self from media influences that insinuated or outright told me my body wasn’t good enough. All the successful people on TV shows, in music videos (back when MTV showed them), and in commercials were not just not fat, they were REALLY thin. It didn’t matter whether an actor was playing a bikini model, a vampire slayer or a lawyer, she always fit the stereotypical idea of beauty: thin with big boobs. The rare fat woman on TV was almost always doing comedy and often the butt of the joke. It was also about this time I started seeing ads for weight-loss products: SlimFast, Dexatrim, Weight-Watchers, Jenny Craig. There was actually a product targeted at little girls (not boys) called “Get in Shape, Girl,” which included a jump rope and some pink dumbbells. The ubiquity of weight-loss talk and uber-thin models told me, as a woman, being thin was the most important thing. Enter fat phobia.

My senior year in high school, I gained 25 pounds. I’m not sure why, because I wasn’t really paying attention, but I had broken up with a boyfriend who never ate and started hanging out with my skinny friends who devoured pizza and chocolate muffins at midnight. Or maybe my adult metabolism just kicked in early. But, here’s the thing: I freaked out. One day, I couldn’t get my jeans over my hips and I fell apart, as if I had a terminal illness. I then threw out all my candy and embarked on a series of misguided attempts to lose weight, which mostly amounted to fasting all day, then bingeing because I was hungry and couldn’t stand it anymore. I was focused on the weight instead of my lack of confidence.

Eventually, I lost that weight. And I kept it off, but the question is WHY? What motivated me to restrict my diet and keep that weight off? Fear. I was afraid… no, mortified I’d gain weight, like that was the worst of all possible scenarios. I was very strict about what I ate, and if I caved and had a few pieces of pizza, I berated myself for days. Everyone said, “you look great!” and I fed on that (no pun intended), but my attitude was anything but healthy.

Years later, I had another  couple of body-positive experiences. After fearing weight gain for over a decade, I got pregnant. I didn’t worry one bit about gaining weight with the pregnancy; that’s what was supposed to happen. When my doctor, seeing my scale numbers, suggested I watch what I ate, I smiled and mentally told him to go fuck himself (because I am too non-confrontational to actually say it.) Then, I went home and ate a cupcake, guilt-free.

Six weeks after Jack was born, I set about “losing the baby weight.” I put that in quotes, because it’s trite. It’s on the cover of every pregnancy magazine in the doctor’s office. People have an awful lot of concern about new mothers losing weight, but fewer seem interested in her actual healing from birthing a whole human. Anyway, I started running, put a chart on the wall, and weighed myself once a week. I made progress fairly quickly, but with five pounds to go, I got stuck. The scale wouldn’t budge, and I was frustrated. I didn’t want to exercise more often or harder; I didn’t have the time or energy for that, so I made peace with it. My beautiful Jack was certainly worth five pounds, so to celebrate, I ordered myself an expensive pair of black corduroy pants in my new size.

Since then, I’ve had my moments. I pitched a fit several years ago when I gained ten pounds. Then, I worked my ass off to take those pounds off. I’ve discovered new ways of eating and tried many, many different kinds of exercise. I’ve posted before and after photos and even had something close to six-pack abs for about a minute.  By the way, I apologize to anyone who had to endure my before/after photo phase; that was totally obnoxious. I learned a lot from all the food experimentation, and I enjoy having knowledge of weight-lifing, HIIT and yoga at my disposal, so I can keep it interesting, but I’ve let go of the number on the scale.

Several weeks ago, I went to the doctor and got weighed. I was up about ten pounds over what I’ve weighed most of my adult life. And for the first time, that didn’t send me running for the treadmill. That number has nothing to do with how healthy I am or how happy I am. Bottom line, I have to work way too hard and restrict myself from eating and drinking way too many wonderful things to have six-pack abs. I feel much more secure now than I ever have, because I finally don’t give a shit what the scale says or what I look like compared to society’s ideal. I try to listen to my body about what it needs and exercise and eat what and when I feel I need to. I say, “try,” because I am a human being who still wrestles with her habits and still struggles with body image sometimes, but I have made decided progress as of late. And, I have way more to offer, and you do too, than outside appearances.