Touch. Our bodies loved to be touched. Not only does consensual touching feel great, it does great things for our physical, emotional and psychological well-being.  Unfortunately, our society doesn’t encourage a whole lot of touchy feel-y outside of sex, which is ironic since non-sexual touching can create the sort of intimacy many people need to feel authentically sexual with a partner.

Massage techniques are a great way to expand your tactile repertoire. It’s lovely, generous way to connect with a partner or even explore your own body. Massage may spark something sexual and that’s totally okay. But it’s also good to remember that we can bestow physical pleasure on others or ourselves without it necessarily leading to sex.

A scented massage oil adds another sensual dimension to the experience. You can purchase pre made oils in various locations but I prefer to make my own. My do-it-yourself skills are a step below basic, but this recipe is, as The Bean would say, easy-peasy lemon-squeezy.

Check out me out in all my just-rolled-out-of-bed glory as I demonstrate below:

 

Time to get my head on straight!

Time to get my head on straight!

After twenty-three years of chemical straightening I’ve returned to my natural hair texture. HUZZAH!

If you have the time and the patience, bear with me. Those of you who’ve read my previous post on the subject, know that I’ve got some major feelings tied up in this hair bid’ness. My shrink already has her hands full with all my other neuroses so this long, rambling blog post serves as stand-in therapy on this issue.

After years of ambivalence, I was motivated to make the change once and for all, when The Man of Mans and I began planning our move to California. One of the first things we had to figure out was we how would afford life in a pricey state on a single income while carrying the cost of my return to school.  We had some major trimming to do budget-wise,  so we began by making a spreadsheet of all our current expenses. When we added up the cost of all of my salon appointments, including taxes and tips, I was spending close to $1500 per year to relax my hair!

DAAAAAG!

Fifteen hundred dollars could cover our moving expenses. It would pay for my books. Fifteen hundred dollars would take of all my long-distance bills to friends and family. For fifteen hundred dollars, I could attend three national conference. I could buy the family a new computer. I could take my son to a major league baseball game every weekend,  enroll him in an amazing summer camp or we could take a family trip together. There were so many other uses for the money I was spending on relaxers.

It wasn’t worth it.

I’m happy to spend money on my personal care and grooming. But having straight hair hadn’t felt like an investment for quite sometime. It didn’t make me feel good, figuratively or literally. The terrible sting of chemicals on my scalp left me feeling ashamed and resentful. I was straightening my hair, not because I because it made me feel beautiful but because it made me feel safe, inconspicuous. Relaxers made my head uncontroversial. Appeasing others at my own expense is not the person I want to be. But the memory of hurtful things people used to say about my natural hair still loomed large. I was scared.

I realized that this was probably one of those situations where I’d have to face my fears in order to get past them. It was time to invest my money and my energy into better things. I cancelled my next standing appointment at the salon. I was going natural! I felt strong and empowered…for almost ten whole minutes.

Then I panicked.

It had been so long! I didn’t really remember my natural texture. I didn’t know what to do!  Did I just let it grow? Did I need a weave or wigs? Special products? New shampoo? OMG, what?!

I took a deep breath and reminded myself that my head wasn’t going to break out in nappy curls that second. With the exception of some faint kinking at the roots, my hair was still straight. I literally had to grow into this change, which meant I had time to figure stuff out.

I went to the Internet and Googled something like “RELAXED TO NATURAL OMGHAIRFLAIL!”  Bam!  A myriad of websites, blogs and vlogs about the wonderful world of natural black-people hair.

I knew of women who went natural by doing what’s know as The Big Chop. Essentially it means cutting off all your relaxed hair at once and re-growing it from scratch. That scared the crap out of me. My hair wasn’t spectacular…but I needed it. Otherwise, I’d just be a head and face which…ACK and…I couldn’t and…NO!

A second Google search revealed that going natural without a Big Chop is totally a thing. I could let the natural texture grow in while doing “mini-chops” every few weeks to gradually remove my relaxed hair. It would take a long time – a year, maybe two – to rid myself of all the processed hair. It would also be far more challenging to maintain the health of two radically different hair textures. But the alternative was super-short and that was NOT EVER HAPPENING. So I got myself a pair of trimming scissors and settled in for the long transition.

It took about ten weeks before I really started to notice a substantial change in my hair. My new growth was dense, extremely curly and kind of coarse. Managing my naps while the rest of my hair was straight was tough. My hair started snapping off at the place where the two textures met (typical during transition). I started styling my hair in flat twists and up dos. The styles keep my fragile hair reasonably protected and help conceal some of the transitional awkwardness.

Something I heard time and again from women in the natural hair community was that changing my hair was an emotional journey and I might be surprised by what came out of the experience. That was totally true. I would vacillate from one emotional state to another: fear, excitement, fear, joy, fear, fear, pride, fear, absolute terror, fear, wonderment, fear.

One day, I was in the shower, washing my emerging coils and I thought ‘I like these.’ It was nice and very new not to feel at odds with the kink. Suddenly I was overcome by curiosity. I really wanted to see what that hair would looked like all on it’s own. I got out of the shower, found my scissors and cut the relaxer off a discreet lock of hair near the nape of my neck. Once they were free, my natural strands popped back toward my scalp like a tightly wound spring. ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘that’s my hair.’

I wanted that hair and only that hair. But I was still terrified of The Big Chop. It was too drastic. Yes, it would grow out eventually but it would take months, years even to regain any significant length. What if I looked awful in the meantime?

Yet every time I put my hands in my hair my curiosity grew. What was going on up there? The darn relaxer was in my way, distorting my texture and altering my curl pattern. I began trimming more aggressively. I cut off more near my neck. I went back to YouTube and watched videos of other women who had big chopped. Many had been afraid going into it, but they all seemed so happy once it was done. I began to think maybe, just maybe I could do it too.

Of course I’d have to find someone to do the chopping. It was one thing to self-cut small sections of my hair but no way could I shear the my entire head without making a hash of it. I didn’t want to see my old stylist for fear they would try to talk me out of my natural plans. After careful consideration, I asked my mom if she would do it during my next visit to her place. She instantly agreed to help, because my mom is lovely that way.

But even after I made the decision, I still had a great deal of anxiety about having super-short hair. (This is where I get a little heavy. I appreciate that you’ve stayed with me this long. Hang in a little longer, ‘kay?)

I was worried about what others would think. But when I told people my plans, I received an outpouring of enthusiastic support. My partner was uber-excited for me. My friends sent me pictures of women rocking short, stylish afros. I certainly didn’t have to worry about being shunned by my loved ones.

I was very concerned about the fact I didn’t know what I’d look like. A super-short style would change the dynamics of my face, even my body and who knew what the results would be. I might be less attractive. And then it struck me, in a super-clear moment of disempowering shame that thought of being unattractive, scares the crap out of me.

I legit love clothes and make-up and all that look-y look dress up stuff. I adored styling my dolls as a little girl and now that I’m grown, I’m like my own doll, except way better because I’m not plastic. I’m a real person with thoughts, a heart, a soul and a life. Score!

But even though I enjoy clothing and grooming myself (in ways that are very much line with conventional notions of femininity) I also feel I’m expected, if not to attain, to at least strive toward certain beauty standards. I should want to be pretty and if I can’t be, I should feel badly about it. There are times when I really do feel that my right to be seen, to be heard and to take up space in a room is proportional to my perceived level of attractiveness.

I know I’m not the only person who feels this way. I constantly hear people, especially women apologize and castigate themselves because they’re the “wrong” size/shape, because they lack the expected adornments or because they’ve committed some other perceived offense, which basically amounts to “I Had The Audacity To Be Out In The World Looking Like What I Actually Look Like”. I want to tell them to stop saying those things. Sometimes I do. Which might be helpful but I realize it’s also hypocritical. The truth is I struggle with those same feelings and I know I’ve buckled under the weight of those expectations more than once. I do feel, at times, that beauty is my obligation and making myself attractive is a major clause in my contract with the rest of society. I feel like I’m always expected to care about how I look or that being pretty is something I’m supposed to want.

Except it isn’t true. It’s pervasive and I feel it, but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a big pile of toxic bullshit crapping all over my self worth. It gives me feelings; feelings that are very strong and very real. But the truth is, I can choose to take beauty off my list of priorities and that is totally okay.

I was thinking about this a couple of weeks ago and sat down to have a serious talk with myself. I said to myself, Self…

That is some toxic nonsense! Don’t make choices based on toxic nonsense. You know you have value, no matter what you look like. This is your body and your hair and you’re allowed to do whatever you want to do with it. If you don’t love the way short hair looks on you, that’s okay. You can still love who you are. So get over yourself, Nadine. It’s just hair.’

My real self-talk wasn’t nearly that Hallmark-ish,  but the gist was there. I felt more courageous about The Big Chop. And even though I’m kind of embarrassed that I needed courage to get a haircut, that’s honestly what it took. Don’t judge me too harshly, okay?

It took two decades of hair trauma and six month of transition but I’m finally learning embrace my hair, as is. I’m becoming reacquainted with my kinky, nappy head and you know what? I really am happy I did this! I’m newly minted naturalista and I’m happy to report that so far life post-relaxer is great and not so scary.

Not so scary at all.

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This is a reboot of a entry I wrote for my old blog back in September of 2010. It’s not about sex but it is very personal. I’m reposting it here as it’s directly related to a new entry coming later in the week.

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Yesterday…I got my hair did.

I have a standing appointment every eight weeks to have my hair washed, trimmed and relaxed.  If you’re unfamiliar with the intricacies of black people hair, relaxing is a chemical process that breaks down the bonds of my super-kinky, naturally nappy hair, leaving it straight.

If I had a recent picture of myself with my hair au naturel, I would post it.  But such a photo does not exist. I’ve been processing my hair for well over twenty years now.

Left to it’s own devices, not only is my hair intensely curly, it’s impossibly thick, has a coarse texture similar to that of synthetic furniture stuffing and left unbraided, prefers to point up rather than down.

As a child, I hated everything about my hair.  I hated the thickness that could obliterate lesser combs.  I hated the ordeal of having my head scrubbed every Saturday morning with the special “for-black-people” shampoo that smelled terrible, followed by two hours of pain while my mom combed out the extensive net of knots that had formed.

Young and nap-tural!

But most of all, I hated that my head was topped by stiff plaits when my friends had long, soft, easy hair that actually moved as they did.  Back then I would have gladly traded a limb in exchange for a long, swingy ponytail.

Because I’m female, because I’m black and because I live in the part of the world that I do, having healthy hair-esteem is a challenge. When we very little my cousins and I would put yellow blankets on our heads to simulate the free-flowing blondness we saw in commercials and re-runs of Charlie’s Angels. I was in my twenties, before I saw ad for hair products that included a woman of colour shaking her glorious mane with slow-motion vigour.  And even then, her hair was as straight and silken as her Caucasian compatriots.  The marketing mantra of desirable female hair has been basically then same my entire life: Long. Shiny. Bouncy. In it’s natural state, my hair is exactly the opposite of this.

When I was a girl, white people were baffled and fascinated by my hair.  I remember a woman, a stranger,  actually fingering one of my nappy braids and saying, “It doesn’t even feel like hair.”  That sucked.

It also sucked that while white women regarded my hair with insensitive astonishment, black women – primarily members of my own family – perpetuated “good hair” myths with a vengeance.  Once I hit about ten, the pressure to tame my fuzz and do “something” about my hair was ON!

“You can’t run around looking like some African wild-child,” one aunt-admonished me.   (Side note: Try-Not-To-Seem-Too-African was a driving force amongst my grandparents’ generation of Black West Indians).

I also got, “You’d be pretty if you did something with your hair.”  And the most direct criticism from a family friend, “Your hair makes you look ugly.”

My mom tried her best to counter all the hair negativity.  But my mother’s natural hair texture is a lot looser than mine and much more in line with conventional standards of beauty.  So every time she tried to instill me with a sense of pride in my nappy head, I’d look at her wavy, long, bouncy, shiny hair and think, ‘What the hell to you know?’

Fro-licious!

By the time I was eleven, I succumbed.  I began badgering my parents until they conceded to let me have my hair relaxed.  My mom took me to a salon on a Friday after school.   I was so excited when we arrived, I ran inside and practically jumped into the beautician’s chair.

Relaxer is a cream made of standard conditioning agents, fragrance and an assload of sodium hydroxide.  When the stylist  first applied to my head it felt goopy and kind of cold.  After a few minutes it started to tingle.  Then it kind of started itching.  And then…it began to burn.

I didn’t cry that first time, but I came close.  I was chanting the f-word very, very quietly (Mom within in earshot) and contemplating running to the bathroom and putting my head in the toilet. Finally the stylist ushered me over to the sink, hosed my head down with cold water and put me out of my misery.

 

Why would anyone do this to themselves? I wondered.  I decided that had been my first and last relaxer, because only an idiot would willing subject themselves to that type of pain of a regular basis. Then the stylist turned me around to face the mirror.

Holy. Fucking. Shit.  For the first time in my life, I had “normal” hair.  It was loose and straight and shiny and it moved! It was some sort of hair miracle!  I could not stop touching it.  The minute we got home, I tied it back and started shaking my head around like a pony-tailed fool.  The kids at school went crazy for it.  White people left me alone!  Black people nodded approvingly!   Pain? Who cared? What was 20 minutes of scalp torture when compared with unprecedented social acceptance?

Like so many black women before me, I came to fully embrace relaxer or, “the creamy crack”, as it’s wryly referred to.  Relaxer gave me the ability to experience ponytails and approval.  But there were negatives. You can’t really get relaxed hair wet, which meant wearing covering my hair in various plastic caps in the shower, when I swam and on rainy days. I had to go back to the salon every few weeks to get my roots touched up. At best it was a very painful process. Much worse were the few times I sustained chemical burns on my scalp.

I briefly broke my addiction to the creamy crack the summer after eight grade.  I wanted to swim without having to wear my granny-looking bathing cap.  So I had my hair cut short and let my ‘fro return. I was actually kind of okay with the whole thing for about five minutes. Then high school began.

I went into ninth grade full frizzy fro and NO ONE was having that!   Within a week, the popular black kids were calling me “Buckwheat”.  The popular white kids picked it up. By October, I’m pretty sure most people thought that was actually my name.  One day during art, two of my classmates decided to dump an entire tin of blue powder paint on my head.  Another kid cried out, “Hey! Buckwheat’s black and blue!”  Everyone laughed.  Even the teacher kind of chuckled for a second before he remembered that he had to pretend this wasn’t cool. (After sentencing the paint-bombers to detention, he pulled me aside and kindly suggested that perhaps I could avoid such incidences in the future, if I tried harder to fit in and look like the other students).

That was it. I felt isolated and traumatized.  My hair was not my crowning glory.  It was the bane of my existence.  Not long after, I was back on the creamy crack.  I have been ever since.

I lived many, many years, well into adulthood, simply accepting that my

natural hair was bad.  I’m not sure when I began to rethink that.  I do know that it took a long time before I decided  that my hair is just my hair.  It’s not bad.  It’s not good.  It’s just a bunch of dead protein strands coming out of my head.   The marketing, the gawking, the names, the pressure…it’s all just a remnant of a bunch of oppressive, Euro-normative crap.  I know this.

Because I know this, I have to ask myself, “Self, why do you still relax your hair?”  The answer…because generally speaking, that Euro-normative crap is still the basis for our standards of beauty.  And the truth is, I’m afraid of what it means to defy those standards…at least when it comes to my hair. I don’t want people gawking at my head and fondling my strands like I’m one woman petting zoo. I don’t want to constantly defend my tresses to family members. I don’t want to be mocked or painted blue again. There is a part of me that wants to go back to my natural texture, I’m afraid that I can’t do it in a non-provacative way.

My straight hair is a total concession to The Man. It pretty much violates my feminist and anti-oppressive beliefs.  I imagine there are those who see my hair and judge me as lacking the courage of my convictions.   I certainly judge myself that way, at times.  Casting directors have occasionally cited my hair as a barrier to getting film and TV work.  American producers prefer relaxed hair; however they prefer the long, luxurious look of a weave.  Canadian producers, like a little kink; however, it’s typically a longer, looser curl than I can achieve.

The thought of fighting the fight of race and gender on a part of my body I can’t even see unless I look in the mirror is wearying.  I hope someday I’ll find the resolve to ignore the ignorant but I have to admit that I’m not there yet. If relaxed is what it takes for people to relax for the time being I’ll do it and hope that eventually, I’ll it myself straightened out.

Before I get into stuff, I want to apologize to y’all for my unannounced extended absence. I won’t bore you with the dull details, but sufficed to say life stuff got in the way of blog stuff.

I also apologize, because I’m about to go on a rant. I know it’s kind of shitty when you haven’t seen someone in awhile and then the first thing they do is start complaining. But I’ve got some thoughts that are making my brain itch, so please indulge me while I purge them. I promise to hit you with some fun stuff (and new developments!) super soon, ‘kay?

Let’s get down to brass tacks…

This morning I read an article by Yummy Mummy Club contributor Kat Armstrong. She writes about Jessica Alba’s recent admission that she wore a corset for three months in order to regain her pre-pregnancy figure after her second child was born. In the wake of this revelation, apparel companies are now developing post-partum corsets so that women everywhere can pretend they never gave birth.

Kat’s take is that this is some straight up bullshit. And Yummy Mummy Club founder/editor/all around cool person Erica Ehm agrees.

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I get it. It pissed me off when I read about it too.  The idea that women’s bodies should quickly – or in many cases – ever return to a pre-pregnancy state is awful, body-shaming nonsense. Companies are taking advantage of Alba’s statement to hawk their postpartum corset thingies,  makes me seethe! But it also makes me sad. I tweeted that to Erica Ehm, which led to a brief but interesting discussion:

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I gotta pause for sec here ’cause my inner 12-year-old is having a moment.

 

OMG ERICA EHM TOTALLY TALKED TO ME ON TWITTER!!!

 

As I was saying…

I couldn’t adequately express my thoughts in 140 characters, so I’ll expand on them here. I understand and largely agree with Erica and Kat. As a Hollywood celebrity Jessica Alba is a high-profile woman with a great deal of influence and ultimately she does bear responsibility for her message and her choices. I also wish that Jessica Alba and her privileged Hollywood cohorts would use their power to promote kinder, gentler image standards for their fellow women. But also feel like that’s a lot to expect because despite their wealth and sky-high profiles I suspect that   body-positivity is especially difficult for celebrity women.

I worked as an actor for a good part of my life, including a wee bit of film and television work when I was growing up in Toronto. Even with limited exposure, it became very obvious very quickly that what I looked like mattered as much as – if not more so – than my ability. I was told that in order to work I’d have to “fix” things. My hair was too wild and frizzy. My skin had spots. I once had a casting director tell me that I should lost ten pounds because I was a bit too chunky. “Not for real life. Just for television,” was how she qualified it.

That was my experience as a super, small-time actor and it did a little damage. So I can only imagine the messages someone like Jessica Alba has been receiving about her body as a high-stakes player in billion-dollar image industry.  According to Wikipedia Jessica Alba began working in film and television at thirteen. Imagine that.

 

Like really imagine it.

Imagine being a thirteen-year-old girl going to auditions and being told by casting people, agents, directors and other influential adults that being thin and pretty is part of your job.

Imagine being a teenage girl observing the fucked up reality that in Hollywood getting fat is grounds for being fired.

Imagine being twenty years old and working your ass off as the lead of a television series, but instead of talking about your acting everyone is focused on how hot you look in your costume.

Imagine being a very young woman who’s suddenly very successful, with an agent, a manger and probably a host of other people who are personally invested in keeping you looking a certain way, because their livelihood depends on your ability to get work.

Imagine that every acting job you get come with a big side of mandatory promotional work that is largely about being “hot” and skinny on the cover of various magazines.

Imagine living with the knowledge that if your body changes in any significant way, it will be broadcast worldwide in magazines and on entertainment news shows. Especially if you gain weight.

Imagine feeling that all your money and power is conditional on your ability to look a certain way. And that if you don’t look like that, it would probably get taken away.

Imagine you’ve just had a baby and knowing that the media will be monitoring your “post-baby body”. If you get thin again, you’ll be congratulated. If you don’t, you’ll be crucified. But either way your body is matter of public record and discussion.

So yes, I am angry about Alba’s admission. But the mere fact that she felt this was necessary also makes me feel sad for her. She’s spent more than half of her young life working in an industry that has some pretty fucked up attitudes people’s bodies. It’s not entirely surprising that she places such a high value on regaining a thin figure so soon after having a baby.

Many of us have felt the negative influence of Hollywood and mainstream media standards of beauty. But the people we see in those images have are also being subjected to the same standards, often from a young impressionable age and on a very intense level. It’s no wonder women like Alba resort to extremes in these matter. So while I do share  the rage, I can’t help but feel some bit of compassion as well.

“I do multiple intrinsically non- and/or anti-feminist things a day. It doesn’t change who I am or what I stand for – but those things also don’t become feminist just because I’m the one doing them.”

The following is a quote by feminist author and body image activist extrodinaire, Kate Harding. I’ve been a long time fan of Ms. Harding. She frequently writes things that blow my mind and alter my thinking on issues regarding women, bodies and general life stuff. Now she’s done it again.

This particular statement was taken from a recent article entitled ‘Why I Lose My Mind Every Time We Have The Name Conversation’. The piece is about women’s who take their husband’s names at marriage. Kate fully acknowledges that:

a) becoming Ms. HisLastName is a choice that women have a right to make.

b) it can be thoughtful, meaningful, positive option for many women.

c) you can be Ms. HisLastName and a feminist and that’s totally cool.

Harding explains that women who take their husband’s names are still awesome, feminist gals making a valid life choice. But the fact that it’s a choice doesn’t magically separate the convention from it’s roots in patriarchal ownership. And being a feminist does not negate the fact that, generally speaking, our society tends to regard men’s identities as fixed and women’s as fluid.

Harding’s specific thoughts on married names were all kinds of interesting. But it’s the passage I quoted that resonated. I identify strongly as feminist, sex-positive, a queer-ally and bunch of other things. While reading the article, I realized that part of me does feel like everything I do, should fall in line with my belief that social oppression is for suck and it needs to go away now. And I will try to rationalize all of my actions within the context of those beliefs.

Case in point. I recently wrote a piece for Already Pretty about burlesque. I wrote my own experiences doing burlesque and tied that to a larger point about performers using the art form to challenge conventional perceptions of what sexy body looks like. Body image politics + personal experience = Instant Awesome Blogpost.

I thought it would be an easy assignment. Instead it was a frustrating struggling that went on for days. Eventually I finished the article and even though I wasn’t entirely satisfied, I submitted it. I figured this was just one of those crappy, writer’s block kind of weeks, nothing more.

But after reading Kate Harding’s piece I can see why I had a hard time. I was writing about burlesque subverting body image norms and I was trying to say that my participation was part of that subversion. But it’s not.

I’ve done burlesque with all sorts of people who fall outside the young, thin, able-bodied, cis-gendered, heteronormative ideal our society tends to uphold as “sexy”. I think how awesomely cool it is to see people broadening the standards of beauty and sexuality, while being hella hot and talented. I support the shit out of that kind of thing. But here’s things:

I am a younger-looking, slender, able-bodied, cis-gendered, heterosexual woman. Pretty much everything about the way I look and the way I present myself  falls in line with conventional ideas about what sexy is supposed to look like. Some might say that being as a person of colour takes me a bit outside the “norms” of sexiness. But even then I find that there’s a trend toward glamourizing/idealizing POCs – especially if they have European-esque features, which I pretty much do.

I love performing. I love dressing up and wearing costumes and being a big, exhibitionist show-off with my body. I also believe, passtionately that we need to make more room in this world for the many, may types of sexy that are out there. But that’s not what I’m doing when I do burlesque. I can’t do that when I do burlesque because our society has already made lots of room for my type of sexy and it has done so at the expense of other people.

None of this means that I shouldn’t be doing burlesque or that I can’t derive joy from the experience. And it doesn’t mean that I don’t support or believe that we need more sexy diversity (and maybe a better term).

I’m going to change over time. I will get older. The shape and likely the size of my body will change. There’s no guarantee that I will remain able-bodied throughout my life. If I still choose to twirll my tassles while rockin’ the wrinkles and low boobs, I WILL be sticking to the patriarchy and ageism and bunch of other sex-negative, body-negative bullshit. But I’m not now, so I probably shouldn’t pretend that I am.

Like everyone else, I make choices. Many are informed by desire to work towards a less oppressive, more inclusive society. But they’re also about what’s right for me and sometimes that’s the status quo. Instead of trying to rationalize those choices, it feels I can say, “This system/convetion/idea unfairly penalizes or excludes others. I don’t like that, but I am choosing to work within this system because there are still benefits for me as an individual.”

To put it another way, not everything I do is about fighting a social battle. And I realize after reading Kate Harding’s words, that I don’t have to rationalize it or get defensive. I’m a person, a part of this society. There’s some messed up shit happening but that doesn’t change the fact that sometimes it works for me.

I’ve had a few questions recently about how to help a partner who’s struggling with body image issues and what to do if those issues affect their desire for sex.

I decided give my fingers a break from typing and do a video response instead. Remember viewers, I’m not a therapist or a counsellor – just a gal with some opinions and a video camera.

I’m also a gal who should tidy her bedroom. Hello, wayward sock in the background!

All right, enough with the disclaimers. Time for the video. Roll it!

 

 

Every Friday I ask you a question of the week. You can answer often, occasionally or not at all. If you have something to say but you’re feeling shy, you’re always welcome to comment anonymously.

 

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your younger self about sex?

There are three things I’d say to Twenty Years Ago Nadine if only I could:

1. Don’t waste your energy wishing for bigger boobs. Just enjoy wearing halter tops…while you still can.

2. Here’s the thing. You’re getting a lot of ideas about sexuality from movies, television, magazines and romance novels. And from your friends, who are getting a lot of their ideas about sexuality from movies, television, magazines and romance novels. Media is fun and entertaining…but it’s rarely the truth.

Sexuality is varied and diverse. It’s a smorgasbord of identities, desires, expressions, ideas and ethics. You don’t know a lot about real life sexuality. People have a hard time talking about sex open. When they do talk about it, they tend to be cautious and pretty guarded, especially around teenagers, so you’re not hearing a lot of man-on-the-street, truths about sex. What you are getting is a lot of sexualized media. It’s shiny and kind of cool looking, but it’s basically the same three ideas over and over again. So don’t stress because you don’t feel like a Seventeen magazine, Harlequin heroine. That’s never going to feel right for you. It’s not supposed to because that’s not who you are.

3. Take a picture of your ass. Trust me. Twenty years from you’re gonna want to look back on the glory days!

While I’m taking it easy over here, I thought I’d share some of the fun, funny, thought-provoking and sexy things I’ve been enjoying on the intarbets!

Thanks to some inventive fundraising, Cards Against Humanity raised dough to purchase oodles of condoms and buckets of boar sperm. (They didn’t, though.)

Cliff says “…it’s easy– especially in areas as private and emotionally loaded as sex–to have a totally skewed idea of what everyone else is doing, and to try to conform to that skewed idea,”  and other stuff that makes a whole lot of sense to me.

I’d love to be a sex educator for parents and kids. Like The Mama Sutra!

I hear tell that some folks think we’re all going to die in a fiery inferno this weekend. That’s probably not true, but if Armageddon does come to pass, 25% of men will regret that they didn’t have more sex.

This spoken word piece on fatherhood is super dope!

I have a new Internet/blog friend! Annie is a wise, witty wordsmith and her blog, The Belle Jar is a treasure trove of feminist musings.

A mega-sized coffee table book of photography and graphic art from The Golden Age Of Porn? YES, PLEASE!

This article about perceptions of black sexuality in the U.S. fascinates me.

Hands up if you love The Lingerie Addict as much as I do!

Before I jet, I just want to say thank you everyone who commented, Tweeted or e-mailed with well-wishes after last week’s post. I’ve read all of them several times over and I feel very blessed to be part of  such a supportive community of friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

 

 

I’ve been losing weight.

Not deliberately and it hasn’t been much but I am a petite gal. It only takes a few pounds to make a noticeable difference. My clothes are starting to get baggy and a bit sloppy feeling, which is bothersome. Like many women, I’m susceptible to getting overly focused on my body. Not to mention all the nonsense about weight and self-worth. Ideally I’d like to let my body do her thing, accept the changes and get on with my life. But it’s hard not to feel self-conscious when I’m constantly aware of my clothes not fitting.

If my body decides to settle around this size, I’ll invest in some alternations. Meanwhile, I’ve found that tunic tops are a comfortable option while my figure is in flux. A garment that’s designed to be loose and flowing, feels much sexier than a body-hugging garment that’s gaping all over.

Tunic: Calvin Klein. Earrings and necklace: Forever 21. Jacket: Old Navy. Leggings: Lululemon. Shoes: Chinese Laundry

As always, vivid colours are a guaranteed cure for any body blues I might be experiencing. I am so smitten with this jacket and the vivid cobalt of the tunic is such a powerful, happy blue, I can’t help but feel happy when I’m wearing it!

 

Tunic: Smart Set. Earrings and Necklace: Forever 21. Leggings: Dynamite. Shoes: Payless

Another pro for tunics is that they emphasize the lower half.  So do leggings. So this outfit is works well for me since a) I quite like showing off my legs and b) my leggings still fit.

 

Tunic: Jedzebel Hat: San Diego Hat Co. Bracelet: Agora Jewelry. Boots: Dr. Scholls.

Oof…sorry about the blur.

Another great feature of tunics is that the longer ones can be belted and converted into mini-dresses. Hats are also a nice stable aspect of my wardrobe. My head size has remained consistent through all of my weight fluctuations…and several concussions!

Are there pieces in your wardrobe that help you dress through body changes? Is there a colour, pattern or style that makes you feel fabulous no matter what? How many concussions have you had? I always love reading your perspective, so feel free to chat away in the comments!

I’ve raved about Sally McGraw before…and I’ll do it again, damnit! Sally’s philosophies about style and body image are eminently worthy of repeat praise. And thanks to social media Sally has become one of my new Internet pals!*

Sally’s blog, Already Pretty is a daily favourite of mine. When I learned she’d written a book of the same name, you best believe I got my order in right quick.

The book!

Sally’s philosophy is all about self-acceptance and celebrating the body you have exactly the way it is. Her book helps the reader identify and craft a style all their own. I’m not looking to do a complete wardrobe overhaul – though the book would be tremendously helpful if I were – but I do feel due for a style tune-up. I’m also in for some fun. The Already Pretty process means thinking about my clothes, writing about my clothes, talking photos of my clothes, dressing up and playing with my clothes!  It may not sound like fun to some of you but for me that’s a balls-out barrel of monkeys!

The first phase of the process is about defining my current style. It involves activities such as assembling photos of recent outfits and pondering questions about which clothing brands I favour  and what motivates me to shop.

Fashion Friday: A retrospective in collage.

I also had to come up with a list of at  least ten words to describing my style. I went into this task all hubris-like. Hel-LO?! I’m a writer!  Plus I own Schoolhouse Rock on DVD and I’ve seen the one about adjectives about a million times now. I was gonna rock this out!

Immediately I wrote “colourful”, followed by “feminine”. Next was…um….

Um….

The whole assignment ground to a near-halt as I tried to convince myself that “houndstoothy” IS TOO AN ADJECTIVE and that surely there’s a word describing “clothes that aren’t slacks”.**

What I lack in ability I make up for in FONTS!

Eventually, I found ten, non-made up adjectives…but it took some doing. The last word I came up with was unfocused. This exercise made me realize while I definitely know what I like, I don’t always understand the why. My style isn’t entirely cohesive, which is fine but I’m curious to see what common elements emerge as I continue Sally’s process.

All this pondering and adjectifying*** is being documented in my style journal/iPad.  I got myself a simple notebook app and bam! I can type, handwrite, sketch and paste photos into one neat, tidy, paperless place. Plus it will be super easy to take with my when I go shopping.

And I will be shopping….

Duly noted!

 

You can read Already Pretty, the blog, here.! You can buy Already Pretty, the book here!

 

 

*In real life friendship pending. Alls I need’s airfare to Minneapolis, yo!

** There may be but the word is definitely not “skirty”. I know because I looked it up.

*** Just let me have that one, okay?