Something a Little Radical

I did something last night that I’ve never done in my almost 10 years on Facebook (or in my years on MySpace before that). Here’s a hint:


Here’s another hint: it’s not about what you see as much as it’s about what you don’t see. 

In the grand scheme of things, particularly in a post-Trump world, makeup is a pretty trivial thing. I get that. But in its own way, makeup can be political.

I started wearing makeup in public in 6th grade. Every morning I got up extra early so I could do my hair and apply makeup before school. As an adult, I often go makeup-free, but never for events and ABSOLUTELY NEVER for pictures. 

And I know I’m not the only one. There was actually a thread in a hair group I belong to on Facebook discussing how almost all of us ended up posting apologies or disclaimers whenever we weren’t wearing makeup in a hair pic. As if our actual bare faces were somehow not good enough or offensive. 

Makeup is often a double-edged sword for women. Wear too much and you’re hiding behind a mask or you’re fake and superficial. Wear too little, and you’re messy or unfeminine or an angry man-hating feminist. 

In this respect, makeup (or a lack thereof) is just another side of dichotomy that women are so often forced into. The specific dichotomy shifts–girly vs. butch, good vs. bad, virgin vs. whore–but the idea that we must fall neatly into one category or the other remains the same. And as much as most of us fight it, the truth is that it’s really challenging to move past it. 

I like to consider my first ever entirely makeup-free profile picture to be a step in the right direction. And PS, it’s also filter-free. As much as I loved how I looked with some of the filters I tried, I thought it felt most appropriate that my first bare-faced profile picture was as honest as possible. 

 The Body Politic

I made two phone calls on the morning of November 9th. The first call was to my boyfriend. The second call was to my gynecologist’s office to make an appointment to discuss sterilization. 

Recently, I underwent a laparoscopic salpingectomy, the removal of both of my Fallopian tubes. Having children has officially been taken off the table for me. 

I was never the type of person who dreamed of having children. Back in high school, I explicitly said I didn’t want kids. Looking back now, I can say that the only time I wavered on this was when someone else insisted that I should. I could use the excuse of never meeting the right man, but I would be lying–not lying about meeting more than my fair share of losers, but lying about that being the reason I didn’t have kids. 

So in fairness, Donald Trump is not the sole reason I pursued sterilization. But his election was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It circled back to the world I see around me not being the type of world I could bring a child into in good conscience. It circled back to the day I had to explain to my nephew, only about 10 at the time, that douchebag isn’t an appropriate word for him to use, after he saw it on a bumper sticker on my conservative cousin’s car. It circled back to the idea that people like my own father had no qualms voting for a man who bragged about sexual assault (and explicitly tried to convince others to do the same). If even the so-called Christians think that Trump’s behavior on the campaign trail and since the election is worthy of their vote, then what does that say about us as a nation? And how am I supposed to explain that to an innocent child? 

And of course, that doesn’t even touch on the most important issue, and the ultimate reason that I called my gynecologist on November 9th: the environment. In 2008, John McCain believed that we needed to tackle climate change–it was even in the Republican platform. But in the years since, it has become a litmus test of sorts for Republicans to denounce climate change, regardless of scientific consensus or increasingly strange weather patterns that even an idiot can’t help but notice. Republican control of D.C. was a guarantee that even the minimal progress we’ve made would be undone. 

The fact is that I will be dead by the time the worst of the impact is felt. But there’s a good chance that a child or a grandchild of mine would still be alive and forced to deal with the consequences. Once again, how do you explain to an innocent child that all of the extreme weather, the heat waves, the floods, the resulting famines, were because voters wanted to make sure the oil companies were happy? Or that climate change became a partisan issue because of the unprecedented hatred of our 44th President? 

Someday, we will all have to account for the mess we’ve created. But my conscience is clean. 

Loving Yourself When You’re Fat

After the election, I found myself with an extra 3000 friends on Facebook. While I’ve never met any of them in person, our shared beliefs have brightened my newsfeed exponentially. And then every so often, I see a side of a new friend that makes me shudder (and ultimately remove that person from my friend list). Last night someone posted a picture of a couple on an airplane, showing that they were larger than their seats and a caption about how glad she is that she works out, with the implication that the couple seated in front of her obviously did not.

Most of us wouldn’t even consider a Facebook post that makes fun of other religions or ethnicities. We wouldn’t write a post to make fun of a blind person or a person in a wheelchair. But too many people don’t think twice about commenting on body size. Body-shaming, and fat-shaming in particular, is alive and well. Ironically, studies have shown that fat-shaming not only doesn’t help people lose weight, but often has the opposite effect, despite the fact that fat-shaming is often disguised as “health concerns.”

My body has seen both sides of the scale over the course of my life. Growing up, I was that girl who could eat anything and remain thin. A doctor I worked with once told me I actually looked too thin in the pictures I showed her from college. Back then, my body didn’t show the struggles I already had with food. My episodes of alternately binging and starving myself in 8th grade went unnoticed. My lack of control around food wasn’t manifested on the outside, so it was never a “problem.” 

My weight ballooned after I was raped in college. Over the course of the next year and a half, I gained 60 pounds. This marked the beginning of my new identity- “fat person.” The first time I dieted, I managed to lose about 40 pounds, and it took about 5 or 6 years for it to all creep back on my body (with an extra 10 pounds for good measure). My next attempt at weight loss resulted in 30 pounds dropped, but replaced within the year. And so it continued, each diet a little less successful, each rebound a little worse. But this was who I was now- I was “fat person” trying to lose weight. 

It’s hard to love a fat body in this day and age. There are very few escapes from your body. For a long time, karaoke was one of those escapes. When I started to sing, I was just the girl with the really good voice, not just “fat person.” There were even times when I felt proud of my body, not for how it looked, but for what it could do. I weighed well over 200 pounds when I earned my black belt. I knew I was physically in the best shape of my life, despite the scale. But that pride was short-lived, especially once martial arts got derailed due to multiple back surgeries. 

I’m lucky in the sense that my body distributes my extra weight fairly evenly. It helps to camouflage the “fat person.” I’ve become a master of camera angles and lighting, learning how to not actually show the parts of my body I don’t like. I wear my tops a little low cut, in the hopes of drawing attention to my ample cleavage rather than my ample hips. I cringe at having my picture taken by others, even my boyfriend, because I know that no one else will make the same effort to hide my body. More often than not, I hate looking in the mirror. I hate shopping for clothing. I hate being out in public, because I wonder if this is the day that some stranger will post a picture of me on Facebook to comment on my weight. 

I recently made the decision to stop dieting. My relationship with food has become unhealthy. My relationship with my body is broken. I’m at my heaviest weight ever, but I decided that maybe, just maybe, I need to learn to love myself again. I don’t ask that people find me attractive or beautiful. I simply ask to be left alone and allowed to make peace with my body. 

Little Earthquakes

I recently shared an article on Facebook where Justin Timberlake said that Tori Amos’ album, Little Earthquakes, changed his life. Sometimes I agree with this thought—other times I feel like it doesn’t go far enough. Little Earthquakes was to my life what Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was to second-wave feminists: it didn’t just change my life, it gave voice to a part of me that had previously been silent. It put into words all of my conflicted emotions and helped me feel like maybe I wasn’t as lost as I felt.
There have been times when I wished I could say that I discovered Little Earthquakes entirely on my own. But I have to confess that it was a bit of an accident. During my sophomore year of high school, I briefly dated a guy who offered to make me a mix tape (his music collection was vastly superior to my own and he was older and therefore much cooler than me). He asked if there were any songs I especially wanted on it, and I told him that I loved “Silent Lucidity” by Queensryche. Well, that was the one song that wasn’t on the tape, at least not entirely. Instead, the tape was filled with songs I’d never heard before. The first one of those songs to really catch my attention was one called “Silent All These Years.” And that was the moment that everything changed. 
I remember times when I cranked up the volume on my stereo and lay down on my bed with my eyes closed, allowing myself, no, willing myself to become fully immersed in the music and lyrics (at least until my father interrupted because he was having a hissy fit over the volume). I would ride on this roller coaster of emotions and just for a moment I could feel like it all made sense. I would choose my start and stop point based on where I wanted to be when I ended, sometimes starting at the beginning, but just as often starting in the middle and circling back around.

That was almost 25 years ago, but Little Earthquakes continues to speak to me and for me. I don’t think there was ever a consequential moment in my life that wasn’t set to a soundtrack of snippets of these songs.

“She’s been everybody else’s girl, maybe one day she’ll be her own.”

“All the world is all I am.”

“Give me life, give me pain, give me myself again.”

“Sometimes I hear my voice and it’s been here, silent all these years… I’ve been here, silent all these years.”

It’s the last quote that lives in me right now, as I still struggle to process my post-election thoughts. While having a blog has theoretically allowed me more freedom to expand on my thoughts than Facebook, I find that the new format does not really alleviate the biggest hurdle: my concern about hurting feelings. I still censor myself, sometimes intentionally, but it’s often an automatic reflex at this point.

What drives this need to polish my thoughts for public consumption? And, more importantly, how do I break the habit? After all, it’s not like polished and censored really prevented any sort of fallout. I spent a full day watching an argument ensue in the comments of the following post:

While I’ve shared plenty of other people’s words, I’ve been generally hesitant to add my own, but I think it’s time to change that.

For those of you who missed my post a few years ago, I am a rape survivor. What most people do not know is that I was also sexually assaulted when I was 16.

Let me be very clear- I’m not offended by the fact that Trump used the word “pussy.” I don’t care if he’s caught on tape using the work “fuck” or any other obscenity. What does offend me is the context in which the word was used. Make no mistakes, what this man was describing was sexual assault. Whether it’s walking up to a woman and kissing her (which he said that he did), or grabbing her by the pussy (based on transcript this was more of a hypothetical), this is unwanted contact of a sexual nature and it is a crime. And if this is truly what all locker room talk is like (which I already know is not the case), all that does is explain why we have this ridiculous ingrained rape culture where men like Donald Trump or Brock Turner believe that they have a God-given right to take what they want from a woman, regardless of her own wants.

Do you really still think that this is okay? Because I don’t.

I spent close to 30 minutes drafting those words, making sure that I didn’t attack anyone and that I presented something that should have been fairly non-controversial. And yet, not one, but two different pro-Trump acquaintances felt the need to defend his honor and throw in some jabs at Secretary Clinton while they were at it. Another post (that I shared from a friend) resulted in my cousin calling me a bitch and ultimately unfriending me.

Probably the biggest reason for my silence is the sometimes challenging relationship I have with my father. I love my father, but our views couldn’t be more different. As a result, my first thought isn’t “what am I really feeling,” but “what can I say that won’t hurt my father’s feelings if he reads it…” It’s easy to see how giving more weight to an opposing opinion than to your own is nothing but a call to silence.

I’ve been presented an opportunity to write an essay pertaining to my perspective before and after the election. It will be published in the spring. I’ve known for a couple weeks now, but my parents will only find out about it when they read this post. My father has dreamed for years about seeing my writing published, but I feel torn because I know that what I have to say will upset him. My words will be published and I my biggest concern is my father’s feelings, rather than my own.

I suppose this is an age-old problem, and I could go into a short dissertation about women’s voices in the patriarchy, but that’s not totally my point. My point is that I’ve become more and more aware of it and I’m making it a New Year’s resolution to stop it. My voice is just as worthy to be heard, my feelings just as valid, and the gloves are coming off.

The First Words are the Hardest

What do you say after almost a year? If my life were a novel, my last post would have been the end of not just a chapter, but a whole book. I can say this confidently because it’s exactly where I would end the novel in my head. In my mind, last September was the end of Tales from Sick and Twisted, the book I’ve been writing in my head since 2003. After all those years, I wasnt sure how the story would end, but I knew it when it happened. And in retrospect, that was the easy part. 

How do you know where the next story begins? 

I always imagined that a sequel to Tales from Sick and Twisted would have to be called Tales from the Realm of FUBAR, because it always seemed that my life was a near constant experiment in the ironic, outrageous, and unbelievable. But things have been strangely calm, even a bit bland. I tell myself that must be the reason I haven’t written in so long–who could possibly be interested in happy, boring and normal? But even as the thought crosses my mind, I know it’s a lie. 

This afternoon I went to see Florence Foster Jenkins. For anyone not familiar, the movie is based on a woman who lived in NYC back in the 1940s. She absolutely adored music and wanted to sing for people, so she booked Carnegie Hall, and performed in front of a sold out crowd. The sad truth was that she couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but she poured her heart and soul into that performance. And the audience responded. Not just with laughs, but with appreciation as well. 

The truth is, I didn’t start a blog to entertain people; I started writing because I have something to say. I often think back to the guy I met at karaoke a few years ago, who said that he sang not for anyone else’s enjoyment, but strictly for his own entertainment. That was always how I wanted to feel about my writing. But I realized that even though I still have so much to say, I can’t bring myself to put the words out there. 

In many ways, Florence Foster Jenkins is the very embodiment of my greatest fears, not just as a singer (which is its own blog post), but also as a writer. Every piece art carries a small piece of its creator’s soul, and it’s not easy to put those little pieces of your soul out there for everyone to see. 

I still don’t know how my next story begins, but I’ve decided I don’t want to wait anymore. I was talking to Hunter today about it. Tales from Sick and Twisted was the ultimate chick lit novel, my own real life version of Bridget Jones’ Diary. Now my life has gone from movie to sitcom–and not even an exciting sitcom like Bones–life these days is more along the lines of Seinfeld. But then again, Seinfeld did run for 9 seasons, so maybe there’s still some hope for Tales from Suburbia, even if it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it…

Postlude

“And everything could change like that, and all these years go by so fast. But nothing lasts forever…” Halestorm, Here’s to Us

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while, but never really knew where to begin. It’s been a year since my best friend moved away, and to say that everything has changed in that time is the ultimate understatement. 

It’s a strange feeling when someone leaves your life after 10 years. For 10 years Dave was my best friend. For 10 years my life revolved around my commitment to the choir. Saying goodbye to all of it left me feeling a little lost–like a piece of my identity had disappeared, leaving a huge void. 

But little by little, the void was filled with a new identity. And I feel like life is better in every way. There have been growing pains along the way, but I have no doubt that I’m in a better place now than I was a year ago. 

Dave told me he loved me, even encouraged me to relocate to his new town.  And it was easy to get caught up in his promises. But as 2014 rolled into 2015, it became apparent that his promises were nothing but words, and I chose to start the new year with a clean slate. After four months of trying to recapture the past, I decided it was time to move towards my future. A few months later, I met Hunter. I’m still feeling pretty selfish with these memories, so I won’t divulge too much, but where Dave was all empty promises, Hunter walks the walk. Not to mention the times when he looks at me like no one has ever looked at me before. It’s all pretty incredible. 

Dave actively discouraged me from continuing with the choir. He had nothing but negative things to say about the new director, and a year ago I had no reason not to trust him. It was easy to walk away at first–I was waiting for a repeat lumbar discectomy and was in excruciating pain. I had no desire to drive to rehearsals or Mass. 

After my surgery, I began to attend a different church, and after I decided to move forward with my life one of the first things I did was to get involved with their music ministry. It wasn’t the same, but that’s okay. I’ve met new people, I’ve learned new music, and I was even introduced to a new voice instructor, which has given me the chance to further grow. 

Then in June I was contacted by a woman from the old choir. She asked me if I would visit them for Mass one weekend. When I showed up she dragged me up to the choir loft and I sang both Masses that day with the groups I had left. It wasn’t the same, but it wasn’t better or worse–it was just different. And even after I walked away, I felt welcomed back by both old and new faces. A year ago, I swore I would never go back, but there I was. I’m not going to lie, it’s still hard sometimes not to feel wary after all of the things Dave told me, but the more time I spend with the new group, the less I’m able to reconcile David’s words with my experience. 

So it is that one year later life has taken me to new places, while returning me to a few old places as well. It’s still strange sometimes to revisit pieces of my past life through the lens of the present. But I suppose that’s what growth is about. 

Right before Dave told me he might leave, I told him I was thinking about walking away. I was growing tired of the drama and his inability to get out of his own way. Apparently that was the right choice, even if it did take me some time to get there. 

“I am the fire. I am burning brighter, roaring like a storm, and I am the one I’ve been waiting for. Screaming like a siren, alive and burning brighter. I am the fire…” Halestorm, I am the Fire


Another Cliche Carpe Diem Post

In Julius Ceasar, Shakepeare wrote the words, “Beware the Ides of March.” For the better part of the last two decades, it has not just been the Ides, but the entire month of March that keeps me on my toes. Because the month also coincides with Lent, I typically use the time for self-reflection and personal growth, in lieu of the traditional practice of giving something up. It’s a reminder of the years when just getting through the month was a struggle. Although I no longer feel like I battle through the entire month, I find that every year I am presented with something that challenges my thinking, especially how I think about myself and my past. 

Last year was about anniversaries. This year has been about beginnings and endings. One of my best friends is no longer a part of my life (refer to previous post “I Think I Heard the Fat Lady Sing”). After about three months of silence, I heard from him a few weeks ago. The email began, “Hi Corrina, Well it’s been months. I won’t begin to apologize because I don’t think it would help, but I am sorry…” and ended, “I hope you are well and I do miss you.” I realized it was too little and too late and unceremoniously closed that chapter of my life for good. 

Then there was the news yesterday. I learned that someone I knew from high school passed away unexpectedly (how in the world did we survive before Facebook?). We dated briefly when I was a sophomore. We reconnected via Facebook less than a year ago. I was supposed to drive up to see him for lunch one day; I cancelled. We spoke again a little bit after that, but hadn’t spoken since September. After hearing of his passing I scrolled through our texts back and forth, and saw the text that is haunting me right now. We had been talking just about music (we were in choir together in school) and out of the blue he said, “It’s nice to have someone to talk to….”  

I’m not the sort to believe that death suddenly gives someone amazing qualities that just happened to be overlooked in life. The truth is that we all have good and bad qualities and, even more importantly, the person that we are at any one point in time isn’t necessarily the same person we ultimately become. The problem is that death provides the ultimate opportunity to reflect on someone’s life as a whole, which isn’t an easy thing to do when we’re in the middle of life as it’s happening. I say this because not all of my memories of “Doug” are warm and fuzzy and happy. And I think it’s wrong to pretend otherwise. This was the guy who dumped me (twice), started seeing a college girl who called me and threatened to kick my ass for speaking for him, and after all of this tried to convince me that I should sleep with him. When we dated he made snide comments about my friends and tried to dictate what I wore to school. In my long line of failed relationships with Scorpios, he was the very first. But he was also the guy who first asked me out (via a mutual friend) on my birthday, the guy who first introduced me to Tori Amos’ music, and the guy who told me last summer that he still remembered the sound of my voice from when we sang in choir together twenty years ago. He wanted to get together at an open mic night one time to try a duet together, and I really wish that we had that chance. Instead, I just have a few old text messages. 

And yet, despite the loss, the last few weeks have also brought me great joy. After feeling lost without the choir, I found a new one. This past Saturday night was the first time that I really felt like I was where I belonged (ironically, the new organist knows David- as I’ve said before, sometimes it feels like what’s supposed to be six degrees of separation is really morphed into some weird borderline incestuous soup). I’ve also recently started seeing a great guy (sorry, but I’m still feeling a little selfish about those particular memories). So the scales have balanced out- no need for pity. 

But I have been reminded of just how short and how precious life is, and reflect on how many other times I’ve cancelled on my friends. When I was too tired, or busy or just wanted to be alone. When I figured I would just catch up with them next time. And that is my biggest regret and the real lesson I’ve taken to heart. Because let’s face it, sometimes that next time never comes.