The cups runneth o’er — alas, both do!

Those of you who keep up with this blog know that I (like many other women of the current day and age) have more than one hang-up about my body – and that I recently started going to the gym at long last to try and take positive control over it.  I’m learning how to do that through a program at my gym that involves working with both a trainer and a nutritionist to learn how to combine exercise and eating to transform my lifestyle into one of healthy balance.

Having been “the fat one” for the majority of my life, I won’t deny on any terms the fact that up until now, my life has not been a healthy balance of exercise and eating.  I was never really very good at most of the team sports we were forced to play in PE class all throughout school and I also used food as an emotional crutch of sorts to make up for a lot of things that were going on in my life.

My nutritionist is big on the psychology of food – in other words, what makes us so reliant on food for more than just its nutritional value – and talking with her has illuminated a lot of interesting points in my codependent history with food.  One of the first things I realised was that my negative body image and lack of physical self-confidence is, in fact, directly related to the way I use food.

Funnily enough, it’s all down to my boobs.

Nowadays, I speak of my hefty cup size with flippant and blunt humor, but it has taken a long time for me to learn how to love my boobs.  I know it’s hard to imagine somebody not loving the fact that they have an awesome rack, but try these personal facts on for size:

  • My current cup size is not sold in regular lingerie shops
  • I didn’t reach my final cup size until a few years ago
  • I skipped the whole “training bra” stage, simply because I went from flat chest to a C-cup within a year
  • And, oh yeah, I got that first C-cup bra when I was ten

From the beginning of my school days, I was always aware that I was different.  For the first couple of years at my public elementary school, my brothers and I were among the very few dark-haired non-Caucasians in the student body.  I myself was, at the time, tall for my age (I’m five-none, which is pretty short, but when you’re that height at age nine you’re bound to stick out more than just a little), and while I wasn’t always grossly fat I was pretty sturdily-built.

When mine became literally the only pair of boobs in the third grade, the horrendous trial-by-fire known as gym class became even more of a nightmare.  From hearing the whispers from my “normal” female classmates in the girls’ changing room to the heavy dismay that settled whenever ball sports were announced (because on those days, the boys used to throw all manner of spherical athletic equipment at my chest before the teacher got mad), my boobs stuck out so much that I stuck out even more than I already did with my height and non-Caucasian face.

I had always been a big eater, but not having many friends anymore at school meant that an early childhood of energetic playing with the neighbor-kids was quickly replaced by the more solitary life brought by books, music, and art.  I was also eating more and more out of boredom and comfort than out of hunger and necessity.  Not surprisingly, it was around this time that I started gaining weight quickly.

At first, I was pretty upset about it because suddenly I was actually fat and the meaner ones in my class were pointing that out, too, in addition to everything else.  But all of a sudden I was just “the fat girl,” simply because the sudden growth underneath my C-cups had rendered my breasts entirely irrelevant.  And any woman out there with a big chest will agree with me when I say that having anything render a large cup size irrelevant has to be pretty staggeringly huge indeed.

It seemed easier to me to deal with being larger than everyone else all over than simply just in one specific area, and hiding behind food and my weight became normal for me.  It wasn’t until my long—term health became an actual issue that I actually started facing up to my responsibilities towards myself concerning food and exercise, but even with all of this new and amazing help and all of this strong motivation I have to be perfectly honest.  I have to say that those childhood experiences at school made my psychological reliance on food a lot worse than it would’ve been had I grown up with an age-appropriate body, and that it’s going to be the hardest part of this journey.

Last week, though, I think I was able to get over the first hurdle on that particular stretch.  I was attempting to use the battle ropes in the way my trainer had demonstrated to me and five other women during a group training circuit, and found doing it a hell of a lot more difficult than it looked.  Noticing my struggle, my trainer came up to me and, with a firm but gentle hand, guided my upper body into the correct position.

“Your back has to be straight,” she said.  “Straight, like the way you stand when you’re proud!  And you should be proud – proud of yourself and proud of your body.”

Later on my way out, I found that walking with anything slightly less than a ramrod-straight back made everything hurt even more than it did already, and as I stiffly walked by reception she stopped me and made me look at my faint reflection in the glass doors.

“Stay proud,” she said, “because it looks even better when you’re in normal clothes.”

Neither Here nor There: Being a Woman in the Middle Ground

You hear a lot of things about the whole “women who don’t want families” debate.  You also hear a lot of things from the “women who are rather young when they settle down and start families” debate.  But what about those of us ladies who fall in between those two extremes – the women who are in their mid- to late-twenties, have career-path jobs, and want to have children?

I am a twenty-something young woman who is gainfully employed, highly educated, and quite independent on several counts, but who also wants to get married and start a family.  Speaking from experience, then, I can tell you that those of us who fall into this middle category tend to have somewhat of a hard time.  We’re on neither one side nor the other of the “modern women and marriage” divide, which means we get flak from both sides of it.

Just because a woman is able to serve a husband and a family doesn’t mean she is unable to be her own person and live her own life.  And just because a woman is able to be herself and make her own life choices doesn’t make her ability to love and nurture a disadvantage or weakness in the real world.

A woman is not demeaning or belittling herself if she gets married and starts a family, but neither is she selfish and cold if she chooses to remain single and works to support herself.

There is more to a woman than her biological capacity to become a mother and raise a family – but there is also more to a woman than her social capacity to be independent and successful.

Those of us females in the mid-ground see these things and understand these things – so why do members of our own sex on both sides of the chasm call us out for being in the middle?  Why are we made to feel like we’re letting down our gender by wanting to compromise and have the best of both worlds that are offered to modern women?

Yes, I want to get married – but I want to have a set of memories and life experiences as an adult that are entirely my own.  Yes, when I start a family I would like to be stay-at-home mother – but that doesn’t mean I can’t contribute to that family’s finances now.  Yes, I am aware of that so-called biological clock ticking away inside me – but just because my body is able to bear children doesn’t mean I have to before the rest of me is ready to have and raise them.  Yes, I want to be the kind of wife my husband is proud to have on his arm and show off – but I want him to be proud because I have made something of myself in this world before deciding to be his wife.

There are many women who choose to be on one side, and one side only, of twenty-first century womanhood and as long as they find fulfilment and happiness in their choices I can respect and admire them for it.  They are doing what they want and what they think is right for them, and taking action for their happiness is what’s commendable.  What isn’t commendable is expecting every woman to fall neatly onto one side or another, because most of us don’t entirely fit the bill for just one side.

I myself would not be entirely fulfilled or happy if I was to choose one side without having been on the other.  I am neither any less feminine nor any less of a feminist for wanting what I think is the best pieces of both worlds.  I think that occupying the middle ground of modern womanhood allows me to be strong, independent, and assertive in feminine ways, while simultaneously being a feminist in ways that are non-abrasive, non-aggressive, and non-misandrist.  I don’t think I would be living my life well if I rushed into marriage without first having been able to become the best individual I can be – because my future family deserves to be given the best of me.  And living in the middle is where I can find that best possible version of myself.

Throwback Thursday: Growing Up through the Girlish Frivolity of Makeup

At first, I was going to continue the Heartstomping Series…but then I figured that’d be nice to do that after Valentine’s Day because that’s simply poetic justice in its own way.

Then I was going to post a bit of a deeper-thoughts rant about girls these days, but…nothing came.

Then I realised – hey, it’s Thursday.

In the world of the interwebs, Thursdays are the day of the Throwback.  The day when you dig something out of the dusty photo albums from the days when those were actually books…and you post it, in all its embarrassing nostalgic glory, for the world to see.  And since it’s 100% authentic vintage, you don’t need a fancy filter for it.  (Though some people seem to think even an actual old photograph needs a filter to look even more like an old photograph…)

This actually does have a point, but for now I’m going to ask you to hold that thought while I go back in time to a story of sisterhood.  (Don’t worry – it’ll all come together.)

Anyone who knows me will know that I am something of a makeup junkie.  In total disclosure, I’ve been fooling around with makeup since before I can actually remember.  No joke.  My first encounter with beauty products was at the tender age of two.  My oldest sister was supposed to be watching me at the time but was evidently not, as I managed to get into our mother’s bathroom and smear an entire tub of some very expensive night cream all over the walls and mirror.  Literally.  Now, my oldest sister doesn’t have a mean bone in her body, but she does have a mind that remembers the best and worst of what the rest of the brood has made her go through.  Let’s just say she still hasn’t entirely forgiven me for that.

Fast forward many years and here I am today – still playing with makeup, but in a less…abstract way.  Some of you who met me within the last five years or so will know me as somebody who takes pride in the fact that she can put on her entire everyday face in seven minutes.  And that usually ends up looking something like this:

06Jan-04

Most of you who know me from my wayward adolescent years can join me in a moment of nostalgic chagrin.  Adolescence is a time of self-discovery.  We don’t really know who we are (and anyone who claims to is either lying or really weird) and we’re trying to figure that out in the midst of teenage angst and growing pains.  And since we don’t know at that age how to deal with it, we rebel when things don’t go the way we want.  Now, I don’t know what your rebellions were like, but mine involved heavy metal.

From listening to the music to playing it to dressing like I was already a rock star, I went all-out when it came to being a metalhead.  I listened to just about everything out there in the genre as a whole, but I will admit that I had a particular propensity towards Scandinavian (especially death/black/thrash/symphonic/progressive) metal.  And with looking like a Scandinavian shredder came…doing my makeup like one.

I’m pretty sure my mother’s blood pressure got a little higher when she saw me in thick black eyeliner and goopy mascara for the first time, and I’m pretty sure I managed to add more than a few grey hairs to my dad’s head that morning as well.  Though, come to think of it, perhaps the “Piece of Mind” Iron Maiden t-shirt I’d gotten from my brother for Christmas that year didn’t really help.  Neither did the Children of Bodom grim reaper tees that followed, come to think of it…

Whatever their initial reaction was, not much was said about my preferred look, even as it progressed towards urban-bohemian-grungecore (lots of black lacy peasant blouses with torn denims and Cleopatra-esque eyeliner, topped off by tons of studded, clunky hardware and a stormy countenance).  In retrospect, I appreciate the fact that my parents let me stage my insurrection with little comment so far as looks were concerned.  We fought about a lot of other things, of course, but at least we had an uneasy peace about how I dressed (most days, anyway).

As it is with most phases, I eventually outgrew it, but not before I had figured out a lot of things about myself while in the thick of it.  The abridged version is that I learned how to be myself and express myself creatively, and eventually didn’t see the need to use my face as the canvas to do so.

In all honesty, I don’t have any pictures left of that particular phase, so for the whole photographic element of this particular throwback I had re-create it.  And even then, it’s not the way it used to be.  But that’s just because I’ve grown up a bit since then.  Just remember, though – you asked for it, and I did what I could to deliver…

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