Pay No Attention to the Muffin Behind the Curtain

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I need to lose weight.

Oh, bludgeoning badgers. Did I actually type that? Here I am, a body positive sewing blogger and ardent feminist, talking about changing my body. Any moment, my office door will burst open, with members of the Cool Modern Women’s League demanding my membership card returned.

However, the jiggling fact remains true. In the last year, I have gained ten unwanted pounds, all of which are currently dancing around my stomach and thighs. Between getting married, stress eating my way through a dissertation, moving to blue collar city whose local delicacy is–I shit you not–jalapeno-and-cheese stuffed chicken nuggets, wrapped in bacon, then fried, my skinny jeans are now compression jeans. I don’t feel bad about myself, or even notice that often, but the scale doesn’t lie. One more ice cream bar and I’m going to need a new wardrobe.

It’s really not that big of deal. I’m going to do more yoga, moderate my potato intake, and walk the dog more often. In a couple of months, I’ll be back in my golden window. My real problem isn’t the losing of the weight, it’s talking about it. In America, we can’t just leave well enough alone, when it comes to women’s bodies. A woman loses weight and people come out of the woodwork, complimenting her “new body” and telling her how great she looks, without those shed pounds. People intimate that she’s a beautiful skinny butterfly, previously trapped inside a horrid, fatty cocoon. Successful weight loss, especially on a grand scale, is treated with more reverence than a presidential motorcade.

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If there’s one thing that binds America together, it’s the knowledge that skinny is always better. The closer a woman can come to a size 0, the happier she must be. It’s a foregone conclusion. When we tell someone she looks super skinny today, or that her Sexy Bob Dole costume makes her waist look tiny, it’s a compliment. Who would argue with looking skinnier? After all, nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.

Wrong. Cake is actually really fucking tasty, y’all. Especially Black Forest Cake, with all that whipped cream and kirsch. I’m firmly in Julia Child’s camp on this one: “A party without cake is just a meeting.” People who love to eat really are the best people. Food, especially delicious, decadent food, gives life beauty and texture. I look forward to dinner; I love trying new recipes. I’d rather eat really great food for the rest of my life than ever fit into size 2 jeans. Skinny is not my goal.

I’m losing a modicum of weight, because I’m not a moron. It’s a slippery slope from ten pounds in a year to fifty pounds in five years. I would like to keep eating cake for many, many years to come, so a bit of moderation and care is required. It’s not that I think I’ll look better as a size 10 or that I am inherently happier or better at a smaller size. I just know the numbers and my body, so I’d prefer to shed a few pounds. What’s more, I don’t want to discuss this. I don’t want compliments about how great I look or about how such an endeavor must have been so hard. You know what’s hard? Writing a novel. Let’s talk about that instead.

When other people lose weight and revel in the compliments, that’s fantastic. I’m all for doing what makes you happiest. If you want to dance a jig in the street, next to a life-size cut-out of your “before” body, that’s fine with me. Hell, I’ll make a t-shirt and cheer you on. However, that’s not the only option. Losing weight does not define my life. It will not be the pinnacle achievement of my twenty-nine years. I just want to keep eating cake, without worrying about long term health, okay? There’s nothing intrinsically noble about that. I’m only a woman, eating less potatoes. I’m neither a before nor an after.

Thank you, in advance, for the compliments. You are correct, I have lost weight. It is not a magic trick I’ve performed to awe the public, but a basic tenant of the human body: we can grow and shrink in size. This is me graciously accepting your support.

It’s just, let’s be honest, I’d rather have a piece of cake.

The Things We Do For Pretty.

You guys. Have you ever thought about the thing you do to achieve that seemingly elusive “pretty”? I had never really given my “pretty” routine a good thinking on until recently – but then I did – and now….now I just can’t believe all the things I do for “pretty”.

I eat at least an ounce of walnuts every morning. I don’t particularly like walnuts. But I eat them because I read that they make your skin “pretty”.

I drink a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of water as soon as I wake up every morning. It’s not horrible, but I don’t love it. Again, I read this will make both your skin and hair “pretty”.

I spend hours upon hours researching tips/tricks/advice on how to be “pretty”.

I can not honestly remember the last time I wasn’t on a diet. Because it is so ingrained in my psyche that skinny is “pretty”.

I constantly fuss with my hair because I want it to look “pretty”.

I spend a disgusting amount of money on products that will make me “pretty”.

I spend hours hating myself because despite all of the above, in my eyes, I’m failing at being “pretty”.

FUCK PRETTY. Seriously, fuck it. What about healthy? What about confident? What about intelligent, and funny, and thoughtful, and caring, and compassionate, and kind, and loving? What am I doing to on a daily basis to achieve those things?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to start neglecting my hygiene and do nothing but sit around watching old episodes of Veronica Mars. Ok, so yes, I do plan on watching a lot of Veronica Mars, but I’m also going to do other things. Things that fulfill my desire to be healthy, confident, intelligent, funny, thoughtful, caring, compassionate, kind, and loving. Because fuck pretty y’all. There are so many better things than pretty.

– Mae

You Are Not A Before

lucky-ad-2Are you a woman over the age of twelve? You should definitely be on a diet. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or a size 20, there is always weight to lose or maintenance to be done. How will you ever find love and succeed in the world, if you don’t know your daily caloric intake? It’s not just about beauty, of course, it’s also about health. Everyone knows that health is a number on a scale. Today is the first step in a journey! You are a before now, but soon you will be an after!

We’ve all heard this message. As women, society expects us to be on a never-ending quest for perfection. If it’s not fat to vanquish, it’s wrinkles or cellulite. This message, this unyielding refrain of “Be prettier, already!”, makes me want to find the nearest dried up lake, fill it with full fat chocolate pudding, then wallow in its sugary goodness until I seize and/or drown. I am, it seems, alone in that. Lately, my Facebook feed has been overrun with women in their late twenties on a “journey.” Friends, of all shapes and sizes, are posting caloric counts and exercise logs and—worst of all—before and after photos.

You’ve all seen these pictures. On the left, there is a somewhat/slightly/vaguely chubby woman glowering into a mirror, while on the right is that same woman turned into a glowing, smiling health angel. The caption is, always, thus:

“I never thought I’d share this photo, friends, but it’s time for me to be brave. This was me three years ago: fat, depressed, and deeply out of touch with my health. Through hard work and hours of dedication, I’ve taken control of my life. If that girl can do it, so can you!”

Just last week, one of my old school friends posted an eerily similar photo-and-caption combination. When we were younger, she was always one of the chubbier girls in our class—not morbidly obese or anything, just somewhat out of the norm—which all changed when she went to college. She became a nutrition major, an avid runner, and is currently getting her physical training licence. That is all fantastic! She found her raison d’être and is super happy in life! What’s not fantastic, however, is that she completely disavowed the person she was before. By calling herself an after and raising up a picture of her teenage self as proof of what she had overcome, it turned that girl I loved into a negative. She’s now an after, not a before. 

girlancientprejudiceremovedLThere, right there! That’s my problem with before-and-after photos and the sensationalism of weight loss in this era. Losing weight doesn’t and shouldn’t make you a different person. More over, being overweight does not make you a before. A woman is not a butterfly, waiting to emerge from a cocoon of shame, with just a little diet and exercise. You are a real person, have always been a real person, and will continue to be a real person until you die…no matter what you weigh.

While I completely understand and support people wanting to lose weight, because of either happiness or health issues, a scale number shouldn’t be what defines someone as worthy. By framing our body image in terms of before-and-after shots, I worry that we internalize the narrative that after is always better. Weight loss doesn’t make you a better person and it certainly doesn’t make you a different one. You may be more confident, able to shrug off negativity more easily, or happier in your own skin, but you are still Odette. Losing weight is not a woman’s one great accomplishment. If we look at it as such, we are encouraging women who are not in perfect shape to hide away from the world, because conventional beauty is the sole characteristic of a successful woman. The message does not become one of inspiration, but one of shame.

I think it’s wonderful to share accomplishments, especially ones you’ve worked so hard for, but maybe we need to check which ones we’re assigning highest value to . It’s okay to be unhappy at a size 18, but it’s also alright to be happy as one. There are more important things to you than skinny or chubby or gaunt or fat. Are you kind to other people? Are you pursuing a long held dream? Do you make really awesome apple pie? All of these things make you more worthy than fitting into tiny pants. I wish there were more people posting before-and-after shots of academic success or pie baking attempts. If I’m going to be an after someday, I want to be the after of literary success and dressmaking skills.

In the end, however, I don’t want to be an after. I want to be Grace, living her life. I am not Before-Grace, just as you are not Before-Odette. This day, this person you are right now, is just as important as the one you will become. Neither one should be judged by the size of her pants.

-Grace

Selling Sludge to Friends and Strangers: A Guide

beauty-avon-cropswscan10219Hello there, Turboganic Wondergoo partner! We at the Turboganic Wondergoo Alliance of Toronto have heard your pleas. TWAT, you said to us, I know how awesome Wondergoo is, but selling it to lesser mortals is so hard. People just don’t recognize quality sludge when it’s advertised to them! How can I make them listen?

We know, plumpkin. It’s a battle! But you didn’t get in the Wondergoo business, because you liked the easy road, did you? No, you got into it because you are passionate. Wondergoo has made you a better mom, sister, dog walker, and human. You sell it, because you care. And since we care about you, we’ve come up with this handy sales pitch template. Simply fill in the details of your intended victim customer, and—voila!—a practically guaranteed Wondergoo sale. Send it to all of your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and random e-mail contacts! Spread the goo gospel, partner!

Dear [Facebook friend you haven’t seen in 10 years],

Hey girl! How are you doing up in [horrid locale]? I was so excited to see that you [got engaged/had a tiny person/finally got those growths removed]. It’s so awesome that you [landed a man despite your tics/were allowed to procreate/don’t have to wear turtlenecks anymore]. I’ve really missed your smile!

6a0105356c398f970c0115700781f6970c-piIt occurred to me that someone at your stage in life could use a hand, however. It can be hard to [please a man/raise a child/monitor new growths] and maintain expected female beauty standards. Looking at pictures, it seems like you are having just as much trouble as the average woman! Never fear, though. I have just the solution for you. Have you ever heard of Turboganic Wondergoo?

It may be hard to believe, given my shiny locks and perfect chin, but I too once struggled with such things. Not to your extent, of course, but my feet did smell sometimes. That was before I discovered Turboganic Wondergoo, of course. A substance—some call it, affectionately, a sludge—made from the waste byproduct of rare undersea cave snails, Wondergoo is truly a miraculous cure-all. It can clear up blotchy skin, melt unwanted pounds, erase butterfly tramp stamps, beautifully curl nipple hair, and even attract men with its pleasant musk. Why, in your tough case, I bet it would even do all five!

Nevermore do you have to be embarrassed about your, let’s be honest, troll-like self. Slather a little Turboganic Wondergoo on your problem areas and you’ll be transformed! The naturally occurring nutrients in undersea cave snail waste byproduct will leach into your poor, ravaged cells and completely redecorate. The USDA has been slow to approve Turboganic Wondergoo, just because a few people’s lady bits fell off, so the only way to get this miracle product is through licensed sellers like myself. If you’re interested, send me a quick e-mail, and I’ll set up a personal Turboganic Wondergoo consultation for you.

arts-graphics-2005_1159686aOnce you discover the joys of Wondergoo, you’ll want to spread the gospel, trust me. Luckily for you, I also do Wondergoo dinner events and bachelorette parties. Nothing says [ready for marriage/moderately adequate parent/goiter-free] like a goo party! Even better, if you decide to host a party, you’ll get a one month supply of goo and a battery-operated internal goo spreader absolutely free. Such a deal, right?

I have open phone appointments all next week, but they’re going fast. Don’t be the only [bride/mom/creature] on your block without Wondergoo!

With goo and love,

[Becca]

That’s it, Wondergoo Gal! Take this easy template, send it to every person you’ve ever met, and you’re all set. Don’t forget, the top three sellers from our region will win an all expenses paid trip to the 2013 Turboganic Wondergoo Sales Conference in sunny Orlando! Don’t you want to meet the other up-and-coming goo businesswomen? Then, get selling, darling!

– TWAT Team

(Written by Grace, who has received one too many Advocare/Rodan-Fields/Herbalife emails lately.)

I’m A Pussy & So Are You

105You’re a pussy.

Wow, it just got super hostile up in here. I can feel the rage boiling over, kittens. Did Grace just call me weak? Is she using female genitalia slang as an insult? My mason jar of whoop ass, it beckons! That anger is legit. The use of female genitalia, or the feminine in general, as an insult is both pervasive and shitty. Hands down, the worst thing a teenage boy can be called is something feminine. “Pussy” and “douchebag” flow as easily from the lips of youths as “Of course, I wasn’t drinking, Ma.” Being designated as feminine is to be weak and small—a nightmare in an adolescent world that values athleticism and aggression above all else.

Except, here’s the thing…pussies are badass. Vaginas are the physical embodiment of strength and resilience. Just think about it! An opening no wider than a couple of fingers is expected to push a living, squalling, life form out of itself. Hell, forget babies. Those cats get all the vaginal concern. Did you know that a penis needs two pounds of force to push into a vagina? That’s the same required to push through a swinging door.* Y’all, male members have engorge themselves with blood and become hard as steel, just to attempt breaching our forces. Your vagina is a baller, shot caller.

Perhaps you should examine your insults a bit closer, society. The next time someone calls their friend a “pussy” in my presence, they’re going to get an extremely vivid lecture about vaginal resilience. Being a “pussy” in the true sense of the word is something to be celebrated. This is what should be going down on basketball courts across America:

Youth 1: Don’t be such a pussy, Bryce! Get up!

Youth 2: Did you just call me a pussy, Aiden?

Youth 1: Yeah. What are you going to do about it?

Youth 2: Dude, I’m going to hug the shit out of you. Thanks so much! Did you know that your mom’s vagina expanded to ten times its normal width just to push your big head out of it? I didn’t realize you thought I was such a baller. That’s really sweet, man.

Dear reader, you’re a pussy and a cunt and a twat, but only in the very best sense of the words. You are strong, capable, and resemble an orchid in full bloom. If you wanted to, you could totally push a metaphorical baby out of your heart. Go pussies!

– Grace

Note: Special thanks to my friend and very favorite sailor, Admiral Nelson, for his insights into male humans and the awesomeness of vaginas.

*Source: Bonk by Mary Roach, which you should read immediately.

Hello, Big Boy: Pornography and Feminism

On Saturdays, We Talk About Sex is a new series in which the Spinsters talk about sex, sexual politics, and sexy things. On Saturdays. If you’re related to one of the Spinsters, or would prefer to never think of Grace/Kate/Mae mid-bedsport, this may not be the series for you. We recommend watching This ABBA video, instead of reading ahead. Everyone else, let’s talk about sex (on a Saturday).

04eMen watch pornography. It’s a bit of an expected thing, in this day and age. Teenage boys, given thirty seconds and relaxed Google settings, will find some people doing it. Boys will be boys, you know. Teenage girls, on the other hand, are expected to be horrified by porn, pretend it doesn’t exist, and spend all their time on Pinterest instead. This socially expected discrepancy will eventually play out in the following scenario:

A party of guys/girls. The first winter break of college.

Guys: We’re so free and adult now! We can talk about sex in front of girls!
Girls: We shall hint about our newfound sexual adventures, because it’s college and we’re no longer automatically slutty, if we’ve seen a penis!
Guys: Oh my god. The girls are ALSO talking about sex.
Girls: Sex, sex, sex! We are so empowered!
Guys: You know would be awesome, group of friends we’re really excited to be talking about real things with? Watching porn.
Girls: But no! We’ve never seen such a thing! Our eyes, our eyes!
Guys: Porn it is!
Girls: Oh My GOD! PEOPLE ARE HAVING THE SEX AND BEING NAKED! BRING US OUR PEARLS, FOR WE MUST CLUTCH THEM!

I know this scenario happens, because I’ve been there. An eighteen year-old Grace quite vocally insisted that she had never, not ever, seen pornography and why would anyone want to watch such a thing and, also, gross! Of course, I had seen porn. I was a teenager with an internet connection. It was “off limits”, so I’d switched off my safe settings and gone traversing the great, wide world of people doing it on camera. Being a virgin at the time, it was also super enlightening to have visuals of acts that seemed somewhat mechanically questionable. They weren’t my regular internet haunts, by any means, but I’d seen some P put into some V quite a few times.

So, why the feelings of shame? The guys weren’t embarrassed, but I would have bathed in warm garlic mayonnaise, before admitting to any virtual voyeurism. It was, of course, fear. If I’d spoken up and asked what the big deal was, my friends might have thought me—terror of terrors!—slutty. Good girls don’t watch porn. Good girls can be in touch with their sexuality, but only to the extent that they sometimes have monogamous heterosexual sex without hurling. To not only enjoy it, but actively seek it out? Unthinkable. Boys were the ones super interested in sex, while girls simply gave into it. As porn served chiefly to aid self-arousal, porn was off limits.

Now, here’s the thing—I am not pro-pornography. I think there are a lot of problems, for women specifically, when it comes to modern internet porn. In many ways, it has radically changed the way my generation looks at normal sex and sexuality. The most tangible example is in our grooming habits: well over 80% of women under thirty completely wax their pubic regions. While we say it’s for our own hygiene or for the guys we love, it has roots in a trend started in 80’s pornography, with the goal of better camera shots. That a standard beauty practice for young women has direct roots in pornography and the resulting look of pre-pubescence should cause anyone to pause. As a feminist, such pervasive and quick changes to the expectations of womanhood make me uncomfortable. Moreover, it’s just the beginning. We’re only just now starting to understand all the ways porn has changed the bedroom politics of America.

Vol-4 erotism-lingerie  (12)I’m not here to make value judgment on porn, but instead on the way we deal with it. Anytime something is a labeled a “man thing,” my hackles start twitching upwards. What exactly makes porn an exclusively male domain, World? Well, Grace darling, it’s because men are base creatures driven by their sexual desires and they’re going to masturbate themselves blind anyway, so we should let them have an outlet. Women, on the other hand, are delicate flowers who aren’t as in to sex and certainly don’t want the kind of dirty, lewd things featured in internet pornography. Unless they’re slutty, of course. That’s where porn really comes from: sluts.

Yeah, okay, see that’s all reeks-of-sexism bullshit. Women are told, subtlety and constantly every day, that we shouldn’t like sex. When we make jokes about wives having headaches or thinking of England, we’re reinforcing the notion of appropriate, gendered sexuality standards. Bullshit! Some dudes don’t have super excitable sex drives, while some women want it all the damn time. What’s more, how many women enjoy sex a whole bunch, but don’t feel comfortable voicing that enjoyment? How many men are made uncomfortable by the impersonal nature of porn, but must pretend otherwise to their buddies?

We’re doing everyone a disservice with these Victorian notions of what’s appropriate for whom. How will we ever talk about actual problems pornography may foster, if we can’t openly discuss who’s watching it and what’s happening in it? World, teenage boys are not the only young people watching pornography. Your daughters are seeing it too. What’s more, it’s quickly becoming the way all teenagers truly learn about sex. We need to address what that means for us as a society and we need to do it honestly. Let’s stop pretending men are all hypersexual semen monsters and that women are all innocence and light. Neither gender is that simple.

Men are watching porn. Women are watching porn. Instead of treating it as the flesh-colored elephant in the bedroom, let’s treat it like what it is: our modern sexual reality. How you choose to deal with that is the next question.

– Grace

The Pill & I

pillsI love birth control.

I also hate birth control.

Stay with me on this one. Hormonal birth control is, obviously, one of the most important medical innovations ever. Margaret Sanger, contraception advocacy pioneer, is one of my personal heroines. I love that women can plan their families and have more control over their bodies. I love that people can have sex, without worrying about creating tiny humans they’re not ready to take care of. I love that girls with irregular cycles can get their hormones under control.

However, sometimes, the whole thing makes me mad. When I take my pill at four-o-clock every afternoon, it’s a reminder that the only thing standing between me and an unexpected bundle of poo joy is a little blue tablet. My future plans rest on my phone staying charged, so that a “Take your pill, harlot!” alarm goes off. Such irrational bitterness comes down to two things: pregnancy terrifies me and guys don’t have to deal with this.

Babies are scary. Y’all are probably tired of me saying this, but they are! No amount of squishyness or tiny toes can currently outweigh my terror. I don’t want to be responsible for another human life. When I first got Remy le Super Dog, my amount of love for her just barely outpaced my resentment. There was this adorable ball of white fluff who needed things all the time. Not an hour went by that she wasn’t wanting to play or walk or go outside or eat something. Rationally, I knew that’s how puppyhood worked, but the reality of it had me strung way, way out. Just be quiet for five minutes, so I can nap, you stupid/adorable puppy! Of course, if I wanted a nap, I could put Remy in her ex-pen and ignore the whimpering. With a baby? THERE WILL BE NO NAPS. Bienvenue, Grace’s personal hell.

What’s really annoying, however, is that it’s all on me. If I accidentally get knocked up, it was some error with my pill. Perhaps I forgot to take it one day, or I just fell into that totally-not-as-exciting-as-the-other-more-famous 1%. Either way, the blame lies with my uterus. What the fuck, science? Isn’t there some way we can throw a little responsibility toward the guys? Condoms are all well and good, but they do break. So, where is the pill men have to obsessively take at the same time everyday? Where is the pill that costs $40/month, isn’t completely covered by insurance, and causes anxiety about blood clots? Hormonal birth control is more complicated for guys, but—Come the fuck on, Bridget!— if we can make a pill that lets old dudes have more sex, surely we can create one that mitigates the consequences of said sex.

If I were a billionaire, this would be my cause célèbre. Let Angelina have the starving orphans and Sarah Machlachlan have the sad puppies. My great ambition is to rid the fornicating world of blame inequality! With our powers combined, my uterus will be inhospitable and your swimmers will drunkenly backstroke downstream. We’d all be so much calmer. Of course, biology isn’t fair and women have been stuck with the blame and the baby for only eleventy billion eons now. So, suck it up, Grace! Science is going to keep making boner pills, because that’s what society wants. Babies are still for you women to prevent.

Feel free to roll your eyes at my tirade. It’s just that sometimes, having lady parts is a legitimate hindrance. At least once a day, I have the thought “Oh, geez. Please don’t get pregnant yet.” What’s more, I know I’m not alone. Being a woman is complicated and messy and, thanks to the genetic lottery of matching chromosomes, often all too unfair. Grumble, grumble, grumble

I would rant on a bit more, but my phone just imitated a Russian submarine sonar. Slave that I am to my nap love, I need to go take that damned little pill. Stop the ride! It’s the most important ten seconds of my day! Does anybody have a tequila shot that can help wash the bitterness down?

– Grace