Thursday, August 22, 2013

The constant pressure, and the constant heartbreak

I was hanging out with a friend not so long ago and she had told me about how she was seeing someone off and on. I did get permission from this friend to write this post, but I am not at liberty to say who it is, or how I know her. Basically, they get together, they spend time together, they may be even sleep together on occasion, however there's the rub... he has made it clear they fall into the "Friends With Benefits" category, and not at all inclined to really move past that, for various reasons (he may be moving, he isn't really in the market for a serious relationship, etc). Not to mention, there is  the fact that my friend has not had the most stellar relationship history, so this has caused her self-esteem to go down. She feels, as she puts it, "I'm good enough to sleep with/ have fun with, but not good enough to have a relationship with." 

I can understand what this person is going through, and frankly, I put it a different way -- "Good enough for fun, but not good enough to keep." Unfortunately, this seems to be a growing trend, and rather than feeling like we as women can embrace this sexual freedom and this singles lifestyle we are constantly pressured into this mindset of coupledom. So... we can't just "have fun" and enjoy being single with no stings attached. The intimate moments have to mean something, or lead up to something, or have a label. The constant pressure of being a woman nearly in her 30s and the "biological imperative" to become part of a couple, get married and have babies, is as inherent and as ingrained as worrying about our hair and if our butt looks big in this or that.  Personally, I feel this constant pressure not only from the media, but also culturally, and (unintentionally) from married/coupled friends. I've literally gotten the message of "Now that you've gotten your master's and you have a job and you're settled into your new apartment, your next mission is to find a man and finally join the rest of us/the world/etc in the realm of relationships and family-making." 

I have to tell you that message sucks, and here's why... 

I love my friends, I'm happy they are in happy, successful marriages and families, but that's not a lifestyle that may work for everyone. I am a loner by nature. Some of us are meant to be the teachers/hermits/crones in our society, providing a reflection and an outside persepctive. I joke around that I want to be the single friend my friends are all jealous of because I have no such commitments to another person, but it's hard when the message is constantly coming at you that "You are Nobody til Somebody Loves You." 

What about those of us who have trouble finding someone? Maybe we're shy, or awkward, or not as attractive as others. What about those of us who are constantly bombarded with the message that we are good enough to have fun with but not good enough to keep? What then? It's a double stigma because we are convinced that we are not worth having in a relationship and we feel we are defective in some way because we can't manage to get into one. 

To be honest, I wish that people would just let it be, and not make a fuss. If we could be happy with our single lives, then we could find more meaning in our work, and maybe even stop with all the heartbreak and the negativity of "Not good enough". 

Just my food for thought....

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Emphasizing loss while reinforcing what, exactly?

I realize that this post might lead people to be upset, angry, or offended. The disclaimer is that this is my opinion, and my feelings on this particular subject. Everyone is entitled to do what s/he wants with his/her life, just as everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. If you, as a reader, have a comment, let's keep it clean and respectful, please. I know this is a sensitive topic. Now... on to the post!

So what is the things I mostly notice about summer is the fact that people are feeling the need to lose weight. Not that this isn't something that is a year-round thing, but it seems especially prevalent during the summer months, perhaps because of the emphasis on "bikini" bodies or "beach" bodies. 

Recently I have had a few friends posting on Facebook about their weight loss thanks to this diet, or that eating style, this exercise, or that motivation/negative reinforcement from a loved one, or whatever. As a woman I find it sad and disconcerting that we place so much emphasis weight loss rather than just overall health. I personally know that I have to lose 40 to 50 pounds and I know that I have a bit of an issue with body image thanks to perpetually being on the larger side and being teased and/or constantly reminded and insulted because of my girth/weight. However when I consider weight loss I'm not extremely about it. I know that I have to lose weight to be healthy, but I also know that I am always going to be Rubenesque, and that doesn't bother me. I have come to terms with the fact that my body will always be "bigger". It is just how I am framed, and how I carry myself. I will never be less than a size 10 (in American sizes), or, hell, even a size 12 (much more feasible). 

When I think of weight loss for myself, I think more in terms of being healthy and active. I want to be able to walk and play with my dog without getting winded, and I want to dance flamenco and hip hop without getting a stitch in my side, and red-faced because I can't breathe. In order to achieve the abilities for all this I will need to change my eating habits and my activity habits. I would effectively have to "go on a diet" until it becomes an inherent part of my lifestyle change. If I lose weight along the way all the better, but I refuse to body-shame and self-shame, despite the well-intentions of those who in no uncertain terms tell me that I am "fat" and proceed to point out all the health risks related to obesity, especially those that are genetically imprinted into my DNA such as a propensity for heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. In essence, being full-figured doesn't bother me. The negative reinforcement, does, and that is what causes self-loathing and self-hatred (for me, anyway).

The true reason why my size does sometimes bother me doesn't have anything to do with my actual physical appearance but rather on the availability of clothing. I'm big-framed, but short in terms of height. Clothes for bigger women tends to look like bad drapery or sacks on my body, and pants are often too long or bunchy at the waist or ankles. It makes dressing nicely and dressing for my body shape difficult, because clothes are not made to fit both of my personal criteria (big-frame/short height). For the longest time this was such a problem for me that I hated shopping (still do) and I would get despaired of finding anything that fit or looked nice on me. Then I learned to dress both for my height and my body shape, and, believe me, that opened up worlds!! Not only was I finding clothes and styles that fit my style, my size, and my figure, but I wasn't as prone to body-shaming because I didn't look "ugly" or "disgusting" in my clothes. And I didn't feel disgusting either, which was a HUGE plus for me. 

As an additional and related note, I feel the need to comment on food and consumption thereof. I am not afraid to eat, and I don't think any woman should be afraid of eating!! If I feel like it I will enjoy a pizza, or chicken wings, or Chinese Food, or a cheeseburger with bacon! I won't penalize myself for eating these things, and I can't believe that so many women would do so! Having spent the majority of my time working in an all-female environment in a female-dominated field constantly has constantly reinforced the "ugh, I can't eat {insert 'bad' food here}" or "now I will have to run/walk/exercise/hate myself for eating this". I just look at women  who ascribe to this mindset and take a bite of my bacon cheeseburger with a smile while they force themselves to subsist less-than-enthusiastically on their lunch of salad/whatever healthy food fad of the season. The worst is when they look at me pointedly (which has happened before to me) and then at my lunch. I merely raise a brow and shrug. "I'm not afraid to eat." is my usual response. What they think of me and my lunch is irrelevant. What /I/ think of my lunch and my health is the most important factor. I do eat healthy as a general rule, and I don't like fried foods for the most part. If I can bake/poach/saute/ or guisar something, then I will do it over the frying any day. I eat rice maybe once or twice a week, and I try to balance my plate when I eat. That's my personal choice, and based on good nutrition advice from friends who are actually nutritionists and are actually certified to tell me what might be good options for my body. 

My point is, ultimately, do not condemn yourself or others because of this societal obsession with weight loss. As a woman, I want to encourage my fellow chromosome XX'ers to eat what makes you happy, but do it in proportion. Most of all, love yourself, stretch marks, flab, and imperfections and all. Be healthy, not obsessive. Be mindful, not critical. Enjoy your favorite ice cream and your favorite pizza, and don't worry about counting calories. We come in all shapes and sizes, colors, and heights, and it's glorious!

Peace, love, and acceptance!