Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

My exclusive secrets to self-confidence!

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

 

This post is inspired by the copy of The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman that was sent to me by their publisher’s PR department. It was released today and you can get it on Amazon or wherever. I haven’t finished it.

But! I had an experience recently in which my own usually dismal self-esteem got a major boost. I did it in a series of steps that I am thrilled to share with my readers, all two of you, EXCLUSIVELY! Do as I do and be prepared to be the most self-assured person in the room.

 

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First of all, get a column for a newspaper or magazine.  Spend several years building a relationship with your audience. Discuss feminism, death, marriage, Madonna, food–all the really important stuff.  Then hit ‘em with a confession that they weren’t expecting:

I have to know: Am I appealing to you? Do you think I’m doing the right thing? Do you think I’m good enough? 
Do you like me? 

Continue with stories from childhood, careful not to blame lack of self-esteem on either parents or kindly old kindergarten teachers. Be sure to consult your thesaurus so you sound more like a professor than a cowering wimp when you write things like:

Without your approval, I am bereft. When I have it, I am momentarily delighted, yet always aware of how deeply in its thrall I remain – and how much it is my master. 

I know what you’re thinking: the idea of writing these words for public consumption is mortifying. It’s embarrassing enough to FEEL this way, but to confess it?! Trust me. I know what I’m doing here.

You, dear reader, wield extraordinary power, though most of you don’t know it. Hell, most of you reading this don’t even know me.(Would you like to? Please say yes.) 

Send the piece to your editor, with a joking tagline of “hope you like it!” Lol, rofl, lmfao, etc.

When the essay appears in print and online, read it, then cringe. What is worse: displaying your underpants or your emotional vulnerability in public? You think you know the answer until the messages start popping up in your inbox.

Me too.

I totally relate!

Thank you for writing this. I’m a big fan.

!!!

Imagine all of that stuff happening to you. It feels pretty great, doesn’t it? The feeling will last until you are pitched a book about why women have no self-confidence, it occurs to you to write a blog about it, and then you find yourself wasting hours taking and deleting selfies with the book because your frizzy hair looks like crap today.

It takes Kay and Shipman until page 141 to get to the meat of their book, which is the advice: “when in doubt, act.”

So I’m publishing this blog and the least awful picture of me, the book, and my hair.

I’m going to quote from my column again:

….give me a little feedback on this [piece]. Did it delight you? Excite you? Flatter you? 

I’m not going anywhere. I’ll wait to hear from you. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To linger at the bus stop

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

 

I can usually be counted on to announce when one of my columns appears in the Minnesota Women’s Press.  I like the gig, I want to keep it, and I’m proud of the work that I’ve done for the magazine.  But the column that appeared in last October’s issue was different.  It felt too raw, too emotional, too vulnerable to link to on Twitter with the usual “HEY EVERYBODY CHECK THIS OUT!”

How could I be happy to publicize a column I wrote about a loved one who is dead?

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My friend and neighbor Pam Taylor was diagnosed with an aggressive and virtually untreatable brain tumor in November 2011.  In one week Pam went from being just another mama at the school bus stop to a semi-paralyzed terminally ill hospital patient.

This was nothing at all like other times cancer has touched my life.  My friend Liz’s colon cancer treatment, though eventually futile, allowed her at least some time with mobility, hair, and most importantly, hope.  A family member with lung cancer has been trucking along for six and a half years, switching out medications in search of whatever works.  Not Pam.  Once her cancer was diagnosed it was too late for anything but goodbye.

 

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A new mother I know told me recently that she was surprised to see the parents in her neighborhood linger at the bus stop long after the children had been whisked away to school.  It seemed odd to her that busy people, commuter mugs in hand, would yak at the corner for up to a half hour in the mornings, longer on warm afternoons.  I told her that I might have thought that was silly, too, if I hadn’t lingered at my own bus stop and gotten to know some incredibly funny, thoughtful and supportive parents who I’m happy to say became dear friends.  Including Pam.

 

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Pam’s diagnosis was shattering for me.  In late 2011 I was already in a pretty crappy headspace, dealing with professional rejection, interpersonal drama, and a long-festering depression that required more attention than I cared to give it.  I used to write a couple blogs a week, but in 2012 and 2013, I wrote a couple blogs a month.  I say this just to be honest, not to make you think that my own pain in any way compares to the suffering endured by Pam and her family.  And what a family!  Pam loved her two daughters so fiercely that she defied the odds and lived 14 months after her diagnosis, more than a year than any fancypants oncologist expected.  She was stubborn like that.

Pam passed away on January 30, 2013, in the house just up the street from where I type one year later.  I still miss her.  As I wrote in that October 2013 column:

I could pretend, in my worst days, that Pam was merely behind schedule and was seconds away from opening the kitchen window to ask me if I’d seen the school bus cresting the top of the hill. All of that pretending failed to make her materialize; on my very worst days, I blamed myself for not trying harder. 

The bus is scheduled to drop my daughter and Pam’s youngest off in ten minutes, but will likely be delayed due to last night’s heavy snow that has yet to be fully plowed.  With the windchill factored in, it feels like three above zero, not the ideal conditions for hanging out on a street corner, gabbing.

But I’ll do it anyway, and if you have the opportunity, I hope you can too.  Who knows?  Taking the time to linger at the bus stop could change your life.

It changed mine, for the better.

 

 

 

 

Mothering performance anxiety

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

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The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality is NOW AVAILABLE.  I am simultaneously thrilled and terrified by this.

Thrilled because the talent in the book is staggering, including feminist writers both famous (Jennifer Baumgardner, Jessica Valenti) and really-should-be-famous (the blogging brains behind blue milk, Black Girl in Maine, The Feminist Breeder, and Raising My Boychick to name a few).

Terrified because my essay in the book contains some of the most vulnerable writing I’ve ever shared in public, and I fear that when you read it, you will judge me a BAD MOTHER.

I’m not kidding.

 

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Oh Philosoraptor!  DON’T GO THERE.

Luckily I have a dear friend who is also a mother-writer, and she thought the essay was good.  Another dear friend, a mother who is more the mathy-sciencey type, thought the essay was good too.  But as Paul Westerberg once sang, “the ones who love us least are the ones we’ll die to please.”  It’s not enough for my FRIENDS to like it: I want EVERYONE to like it.

I want everyone to like me.  To tell me that what I unloaded in the essay doesn’t make me a freak, or gawd forbid, a bad mother.

All of this anxiety from something I wrote in a book that breaks down the myth of the good mother??

Dammit!

Help a mom out, won’t you?  Pick up a copy of the book and tell me what you think.  Great reviews of it are in Literary Mama, Brain Child, Parents magazine and elsewhere: click on this link to read more.

Look at me trying to convince you that the book is actually good.  DAMMIT!  When will I ever learn?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good mothers, bad mothers

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013

 

 

This fall, my son, an eighth grader, enrolled in an advanced math course for gifted kids at the University of Minnesota.

I AM A GOOD MOTHER.

He has spent more than a few nights cussing me out for “forcing” him to do something that is so hard.

I AM A BAD MOTHER.

One reason this math is so hard is that, for the previous thirteen years of his life, the math has been so goddamn easy.  For once he is receiving instruction appropriate for his intellect.

I AM A GOOD MOTHER.

His intellect may be highly developed, but many of his other skills are not.  He did most of his first assignment in ballpoint pen because it did not occur to him to walk downstairs to get a pencil.  Unfortunately, many of the problems written in pen were wrong.  Did I neglect to tell him that you can’t erase pen?

I AM A BAD MOTHER.

When he forgot his math book and supplies at home, I brought them to school for him.

I AM A GOOD MOTHER.

When I dropped them off, I chewed him out royally–this was the fourth time in two weeks that the math stuff had been left one place or another.  He sobbed that he was a stupid idiot and I obviously hated him and believed he would be a loser all his life and he might as well quit the human race.

I AM A BAD MOTHER.

….well?

Which is it?

 

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If you’re like me, you ask yourself this question a thousand times an hour, a million times a day–despite knowing that it is unanswerable.  When I thrash myself against the good/bad binary, I am wasting energy that would be better used to care for myself and for the kids who are counting me.

So why do it?  Whose interest does it serve?  Offhand, I could name a few: the Bugaboo company, Phyllis Schlafly, Us Weekly magazine, patriarchal capitalism, the usual axis of evil.

Avital Norman Nathman knows that The Good Mother Myth won’t be shattered by the anthology of the same name that’s being released by Seal Press in January 2014–but like I tell my math student, sometimes it’s worth it to put yourself out there and TRY instead of just shaking your fist at the universe.  Or something to that effect.

Speaking of putting yourself out there, The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality features an essay I wrote last summer that is some of the most vulnerable stuff I’ve ever had the nerve to share with the reading public.  I’m scared that you’ll hate it and think I’m a loser and/or stupid idiot and I might as well quit the human race, because only BAD mothers admit to frailty…or was it GOOD mothers?  I can’t remember anymore…

I hope you’ll pre-order it anyway, either from Amazon or from the indie bookseller of your choice.  To sign up for a newsletter about the book and its fab editor and contributors, put your info in the handy widget on the upper right hand corner of your screen.

And if any of you are algebra experts, say so in the comments.

 

 

 

Away from the numbers

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

 

(If you don’t know the song the above title refers to, allow me to introduce you to the Jam.  You can thank me later.)

 

It’s back to school time, dear readers, so you get a quiz: what is the gender of the child in the 44 shirt below?

 

 

The August 2013 issue of the Minnesota Women’s Press featured the theme “What She Wore,” which is your big clue that the child in the photograph is yours truly in 1972.

I write about my “Free to Be…You and Me”  childhood a lot, not so much to idealize it as to wonder what the hell happened to that period in American culture when gender neutrality was a viable fashion option for people of all ages.  I’m not saying that gender neutrality is perfect, but hell, it’s got to be better than today’s compulsory superhero vs. princess gender binary coding–as well as its opposite, the mad ping-ponging from one end of the spectrum to the other.  Mommy blogger Katie Vyktoriah knew she would get mileage out of a story called “What Happened When My Son Wore a Pink Headband to Walmart,” including a coveted repost on HuffPo and the sympathy of millions when the story when viral.

Too bad it was fake.

 

When my first child was born in 2000, I searched high and low for number shirts, naively expecting that such things would be available at Target and other fine purveyors of children’s wear.  Instead I found aisles of blue Thomas the Tank Engine onesies and pink Cinderella tops and nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, in between.

It’s hard out here for a mama.  Just imagine how hard it is for kids!  And when it’s hard for kids, mamas do things they ordinarily wouldn’t.  As I write in my column for the aformentioned MWP issue, my own mother shocked the hell out of me when she dragged me (and I mean that literally) into the Southdale Dayton’s in 1984.

My mother steered me toward the juniors department, where she yanked Guess tops off the racks. “These shoulder pads will make you look fantastic,” she announced happily.  They didn’t. My mother howled with frustration every time she fished a pair of puffy ovals out of the trash. I didn’t want to disappoint her (or my junior high friends; we were a heavily padded bunch), but the sudden insistence on feminine performance didn’t sit well with me. I was a girl, but I didn’t want to be girly, for girly style was not only fussy and impractical, it was weak. It was wimpy. It was dumb. 

 

 

Fortunately, as I write in the piece, a li’l book called Whipping Girl helped to straighten (pun very much intended) me out, as did parenting, a job that is too complicated and messy to fit in an either/or box.  I remained resentful of my mother for those horrific Dayton’s trips for years until I realized a disturbing truth:

If I knew of a product that would armor my children against social condemnation, I would put it on my Visa card in a hurry. 

 

 

 

Speaking of numbers, this time of year always shocks me into realizing that my kids are really and truly growing up.  As the saying goes, the years are short but the days are soooooooo looooooong.  Every year I snap first day pictures of the dynamic duo on the front stoop, and after the bus pulls away, I load the pictures up and compare them to years past.

Damn.  Remember when they were six and one?  Eight and three?  Twelve and seven?  I do.

Parents are routinely cautioned about sleepless nights and dirty diapers, but they aren’t warned about how much crazier things get when we realize that OUR BABIES are going to be vulnerable in the stupidest, most meaningless ways.

And that we will do stupid things as we attempt to protect them.

Elliott and Miriam of the future, if you are reading these words in a Google cache somewhere in the mid-21st century, know this: to me, you are both number one.  I love you no matter what.  Please forgive me.

 

 

 

 

 

Fed by love

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

 

A common theme in my writing about parenting is my overwhelming need to untangle generational parenting styles to figure out what will benefit my own children the most.  In plainer language, I want to do better than my mom, whom I understand wanted to do better than her mom, et cetera.

Rationally, I expect that my own kids will do the same thing, should they decide to become parents.  Emotionally, I wonder how I will react when that time comes.  Will I freak out?  Will I respect their choices?  Will I assume that they are rejecting my way when they strike out on their own?

This month’s Minnesota Women’s Press is food-themed, a loaded subject for women, mothers most of all.  When we feed our children’s bodies, we imagine ourselves filling their hearts and souls.  Which we’re not, but tell that to the Paula Deen, Rachael Ray, and whoever else the Food Network is pushing.

When my maternal grandmother died in 2003, I opened her eulogy with the following words: “my grandmother is the smell of butter.”  When I wrote about her for the Women’s Press in 2009, I declared: “butter was the woman’s natural milieu; I think she probably dabbed it behind her ears.”

She loved butter, and she probably loved us too, but she never said so.  If she declared her love for anything, it was probably for Johnny Carson and the Marlboro Light 100s she chain smoked.  That was much less embarrassing and vulnerable than admitting to loving a person.  Sheesh.

 

 

My current column is titled “When food means ‘I love you.’”  I would very much like for my children to see food as a source of nourishment and/or delight, not as a conduit of my affection for them.  Already, however, I am touchy when my hard work is sniffed at or spat out.  If Elliott dislikes my chicken fried rice then he must not love me.  If my coffee cake is burned I must be a failure.  ALL LESSONS LEARNED AT MY FOREMOTHERS’ KNEES!  That they, in turn, learned from the women before them!  At least they could do it in an age before Pinterest and mothering as an Olympic-level sport.  From the column:

I follow a number of so-called “mom blogs,” and you’d think to read them that not even abortion is as loaded a topic as whether children ought to eat yogurt that contains high-fructose corn syrup. Even though we 21st-century moms aren’t shy about telling our little darlings we love them, our culture compels us to express our care and concern through cookery.

Here I must cop to the fact that the chicken I put in that fried rice recipe was not a free-wheeling hippy-dippy bird that I picked up at Seward Co-op.  Elliott could taste it!   I just hope I can handle the grief when my future grandchildren are organic vegan gourmets who turn up their noses at the kind of nut cheeses I bring for Christmas.

Oh my.

 

 

Right now is a difficult time of year to strive for balance, emotionally or nutritionally, for bizarre schedules and hot weather lead to nights where ice cream is the only thing on the menu, and carrot-spinach ripple it ain’t.  I am trying very hard to let myself off the guilt roller coaster so I can enjoy it.

And I also committed to say “I LOVE YOU” with words and smooches several hundred times a day without fail…but I do that anyway.

 

 

YUMMY!

 

 

Role model musical chairs

Monday, March 11th, 2013

 

While most feminist writers these days are busily taking sides re: Sheryl Sandberg v. Maureen Dowd, I’ve been mulling a completely different front in the ongoing debate over “Who’s More Empowering Than Whom.”*

My Women’s Press editors are putting out an issue in April dedicated to music, and I get to weigh in.  I love pop culture, and I love pop music.  I also love feminism, and most of all I love my daughter, and these latter loves rarely peacefully coexist with the former.

I could have written a PhD thesis on single-monikered popstresses , but my column is too short to take on more than two.

In this corner, Her Royal Madgesty, the Queen of Pop: MADONNA!

 

 

In this corner, the tough young upstart, the Barbadian Babe, and the star whom my children vastly prefer: RIHANNA!

 

 

Who’s More Empowering Than Whom, faithful feminist fans?

I grew up with Madonna, so to me this isn’t a fair fight.  I also stacked the deck for the Queen with a song that’s among the top girl power anthems of all time.  And though I try not to pass judgment on women who remain with their abusers, for myriad reasons, still….eeeruygh.

This is not to say that a Madonna obsession is not problematic.  Would it be nicer if she weren’t prone to ridiculous publicity stunts, many of which involve her crotch & boobs?  Could she have a lighter hand with the plastic surgery and/or upper body weights?  The Malawi “orphans” with living parents?

This would be easier if I liked Ani DiFranco.

 

 

And I’ve tried.  Really tried.  I went to a hippy-dippy liberal arts college that brought her to campus as part of Take Back the Night festivities, but I lasted only a song or two before heading home to play THIS:

 

 

My kids’ reaction to anything remotely Riot Grrrrlish?  ”THIS HURTS MY EARS, MOM! TURN IT OFF!”

Your picks are welcome in the comments.

Have Madonna, RiRi, Ani and/or Kathleen gone on the record about “Lean In”?  Since Madonna and Ani are mothers as well as artists and business owners, it’s probably only a matter of time.

 

 

 

*This is what we do instead of March Madness.  Pass the popcorn & wine!

 

Next big things

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

 

During January in Minnesota, no one feels big.  The excitement and energy of the holiday season has worn off and we’ve awakened to darkness, cold, and existential despair, which has a way of making you feel very small indeed.

 

My street looks just like this every January 1st, darn it!

 

So it is with some shyness and anxiety that I accepted a challenge from my friend Sonya Huber to participate in a little blog-go-round called Next Big Things.  Sonya, herself the author of two great creative nonfiction books (Opa Nobody and Cover Me), completed these questions at the behest of another author, then she tagged me to do the same.  I, in turn, have to tag some up-and-comers who will complete the circle of Next Big Thinginess.  Look for their names at the end of the post.

 

What is the title of your book?

The Radical Housewife: Redefining Family Values for the 21st Century, but you knew that. I’ve officially resolved to have the editing done and the book in your hot little hands by the end of this year, even if it means I have to step over dead bodies in the snow in my haste to deliver edits to my publisher.  Marge would understand.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

One day my husband said, “Why are you driving yourself nuts writing novels when you are already writing really interesting stuff about your life as the anti-Schlafly?  Why not publish all of that?”  I mulled this over and realized that writing fictionalized versions of my life was quite a lot of work–all those pseudonyms to remember, the hair and eye colors to change!  The essays I was writing for the Minnesota Women’s Press and for my old MySpace blog would be my jumping-off point for a full-length book about the adventures of this feminist activist parent.

In hindsight, I probably should have stuck to just changing all my novel’s characters to vampires and been done with it.

What genre does your book fall under?

One that I invented: Political Momoir.  I thought this was very clever, but industry professionals did not.  How well I remember the exasperation of the editors and agents! “Sometimes it reads like a memoir, sometimes like a polemic,” they’d say.  ”BUT I’M A FEMINIST WHO REJECTS THE RIGIDITY OF BINARIES!” I’d splutter in my politely middle-aged Minnesotan way.

In hindsight, I should have already become famous before I attempted to do anything interesting.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Janeane Garafalo, patron saint of bespectacled white nerd girls everywhere, as The Radical Housewife!

 

 

Jemaine Clement as the handsome and heavily-Kiwi-accented Radical Hubby!

 

Bart & Lisa Simpson as the children!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

The Radical Housewife documents ten years in the life of a feminist stay-at-home-mom determined to upend the myth of American “family values” one dirty diaper, clinic picket, and PTA meeting at a time.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Working off a framework provided my blog posts & MWP essays, only about six months for the first bloated draft.  I offered a few chapters up to my friends, who made valuable suggestions, one of which was “you probably shouldn’t curse so much.”  Duly fucking noted.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Remember Matt’s naïve suggestion that I write about my own life for public consumption?  IT’S ALL HIS FAULT.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Ah, the dreaded request for “comp titles.”  From my exhaustive proposal, I came up with PAGES and PAGES of books by  Third Wave feminists, mommybloggers, women’s studies academicians, even jokey lefty books by Al Franken, but no single genre fit me. I saw this as proof beyond a doubt that I am the specialest snowflake in the world and ought to get a contract with a hefty up-front advance.  Didn’t happen.

I think the closest comp titles out there are probably Ariel Gore’s HipMama books: personal, confessional, funny, frustrated, and always aware of how our individual stories and larger political movements are interconnected.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I love the word “pique.” It isn’t used enough.  Neither is “kerfuffle.”

I do think that I present a pretty compelling argument for feminists being more actively concerned with the needs of American families and children than the conservatives who claim to have a monopoly on the subject.  I also have some pretty interesting run-ins with psycho anti-choicers who try to shove fetus photos at my kids, parents at my kids’ school who troll me online because of my political views, and Michele Bachmann BEFORE she became MICHELE BACHMANN!

Who will represent your book?

A wild warrior woman in California with a big heart, a sweet tooth, and snakes where her hair should be: Medusa’s Muse.

In hindsight, signing with her was a great thing to do.  No regrets whatsoever.

Who are your Next Big Things? 

Zoe Ann Nicholson, “The Engaged Heart: An Activist’s Life”

Avital Norman Nathman, “Deconstructing the Myth of the Good Mother”

Robin Marty & Jessica Mason Pieklo, “Crow After Roe”

Erin Matson, who will deny that she is writing a book BUT I KNOW BETTER

 

 

Onward to a Big 2013!

 

 

 

 

I will survive (maybe)

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

Before I dig into this post, can I hear from Audre Lorde again, please?  I know it’s a meme we’ve all seen a few different times, including this post from October, but it’s just too good not to repeat.

 

Thank you, Audre, wherever you are.

So it’s the holidaze again, and in anticipation, my clever editors at the Minnesota Women’s Press organized the November issue around the theme of SURVIVAL.  For those who feel sorry for themselves that they have to grit their teeth through a meal with relatives who, like Karl Rove, still don’t quite believe that Mitt Romney lost the election, there is a great article about a woman born in a federal women’s prison who is now an advocate for prison reform.  That is some serious surviving.

The cover of the issue is also brilliant, featuring a photograph by Nicole Houff of a glamorous but dead-eyed vintage Barbie in her candy-colored kitchen, holding aloft a beautifully trussed turkey:

 

 

Despite great gains for women outside the home, what happens inside the home is another story.  I bet that the record twenty women in the United States Senate are still expected to get a damned turkey on the family table next Thursday.  Whether they cook it themselves or grab it from the deli at Whole Foods, it’s still considered a lady’s business to get that shit taken care of.

In case you’re curious: NO, I am not hosting T-day this year. Let’s leave it at that and move on.

My contribution to the November ish is a column called “My Feminist Survival Kit.”  I bare my soul in this one, folks–that is, if there’s one reader out there who would be surprised by the fact that I prefer Sharon Needles and Snooki to Don Draper and Walter White.

While I declare in the column that “burnout is painful but entirely preventable if we have the courage to make our frustrations known,” I regret that I am still more likely to cook you a fabulous turkey feast than tell you what’s really whirling around in my addled mind.  I remain my own harshest critic, unable to extend to myself the compassionate understanding I so willingly offer others.

But it was ever thus, especially when we approach mid-November.  Here in Minnesota, where the sun dips beyond the horizon at 4:30 in the afternoon, everyone is feeling dark.  One e-mail I opened last week revealed that a woman was leaving her husband, perhaps permanently.  Blogs I follow overflow with spilled secrets, deeply felt pain, suicidal ideation.

Allow myself to quote….myself: “as my Internet speed improves, the cacophony amplifies and multiplies, until it threatens to drown everything else in my head. I’m learning that I can write an angry blog post about Todd Akin tomorrow. Today, however, I can turn the computer off.”

Why, I think I’ll do that.

 

 

 

 

 

We are all made of scars

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

 

One of the great things about working for a feminist media outlet is being assigned stories that are actually a pleasure to research and write.  In fact, I regularly get hipped to people, places, and things that make me kick myself and think “why the hell didn’t I know about this?”  In the last year alone I’ve learned about the fab musical “My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding,” the wildly talented pop-funk singer-songwriter Mayda, and now, the photography project Of Scars.

 

 

You can read my full-length feature for the Minnesota Women’s Press here.  It contains the who, what, where, when, why and how of the project, which in their words “explores all the facets of living with the emotional and physical scars of breast cancer through photography, education, networking and community outreach.”

On my blog, however, I can be as opinionated and decidedly non-newsy as I please.  I can tell you about how I’ve been thinking about Of Scars nearly every day since Kate and Elli allowed me into their studio to take a peek at the pictures.

 

 

I’m a feminist, but I hate my body.  As I’ve written here before, I am a feminist because I hate my body–I recognize that patriarchal capitalism wants me to hate my body, and I’m fighting that shit every time I look in the mirror.  Self-acceptance is a truly radical act, and one I’m striving towards every day.

Most of the time I fail.

In my Women’s Press piece, I make reference to a “smiling model who posed topless in a Wonder Woman costume” (above, she appears in the SFW version from the Of Scars website). Here in my blog I can add that her smile was one of the fiercest, most kickass things I’ve ever seen.  As I held her photograph in my hands, I wondered what it would take for me to feel the same fearlessness about myself.  Here was my genuine, unedited, terrifying thought:

Would my body need to be mutilated for me to appreciate it?  Would it need to be pulled back from the brink of death to be loved unconditionally?  

Several days ago, Lady Gaga responded to criticism about gaining 25 pounds by posting pictures of herself in a bikini on her website.  She looks fabulous, as shapely and delicious as Marilyn Monroe in her prime.  As much as I appreciate the gesture, as well as Gaga’s admission of eating disorders and her hope to “BREED some m$therf*cking COMPASSION” by doing it, I couldn’t help experiencing another genuine, unedited, terrifying thought:

Are you kidding me? This gorgeous young woman is supposed to be the face of “bravery” and “body acceptance”?!  Give me a break.  Where are HER scars?  If she truly was bulimic, she has ‘em–bite marks on the fingers she used to make herself puke.  I want to see THOSE.  

These decidedly NON-compassionate thoughts are my scars on display.  These scars have covered decades of cuts, some big (“outta my way, fat bitch!) and some small (“you need foundation to cover up that splotchy skin of yours”).

Kate told me in her studio that breast cancer magnifies and multiplies everything women feel about their bodies and by extension, themselves.   I think she’s right.  I’m grateful that she and Elli are using their art and their studio to begin this important conversation.  We all have scars to share with each other, and ways we can learn from one another, no matter what the demon we’re battling.

If you’re in the Twin Cities on September 29, you can view Of Scars, the photography exhibition, for yourself.  I’d like to know what you see.

 

 

All photos of non-internationally famous pop stars by Of Scars and are used with permission.