Archive for the 'DIY' Category

Learning to Hate Our Bodies, Part One: The Media

girlreadingmagazineThis is the first part in a series of personal stories about how I learned to hate my body, little by little, from as far back as I can remember. I’m seriously now just beginning to not pick on myself throughout the day. I am 35. Thirty five!

It’s not just me. I have friends of all shapes and sizes and ages who are still dealing with this, too. What we have in common is that we are all women who essentially came of age in the ’80s and ’90s in suburban America with its white girl mall culture and expectation of flawlessness. Ads, the media, peers, relatives, teachers, boys – their message has always been clear to us: You are imperfect and you need to be fixed.

How does this relate to my blog? Well, if I do nothing else as a person, I want to raise children with positive body images who respect their own bodies and other peoples’. I want confident kids. And that starts with being comfortable in your own body despite the mixed messages that are sent all day long. And that starts at home. So yeah. Totally relevant stuff here.

So here goes.

The media and its advertisers are EVER SO EAGER to help you be the image of feminine perfection. It’s a business model. There is money to be made off of your intrinsic desire to not be disgusting. I have been a member of the media since senior year in high school when I got my first newspaper clip. Despite my passion for journalism and fierce support for the First Amendment, pop media largely grosses me out. It editorializes stories like Angelina Jolie’s mastectomies, the “chunky” cheerleader and that pathetic Abercrombie & Fitch CEO who hates fat girls. At the same time, I’m so guilty of watching, reading and reposting.

The relentlessness of the media when it comes to telling you about your crappy body is alarming. You think it’s going to get better when you get older, wiser, get married, get a job, have kids. But, oh no. IT NEVER GOES AWAY. It just changes a little. When you become a mom, for example, suddenly you’re being marketed to as a new demographic: the ideal mother. Wholesome, nurturing and impossibly SKINNY with flawless skin. This same illusion of a mother always does the right thing when it comes to child-rearing, but that’s another post.

When exactly does the media begin digging in? For me, who knows, maybe it was the first time I saw a Barbie commercial. The first time I remember it really resonating was when I was a teenager pouring over Delia’s catalogs and YM and Seventeen magazines. Trust me, I hold all those teen glossies near and dear to my heart because they are synonymous with the best parts of adolescence: Sitting around in my friend’s bedroom, gossiping and prank calling randoms while listening to Weezer, Green Day, Mazzy Star and Milla Jovovich CDs on repeat. Outside of that otherwise joyful context, though, teen magazines are toxic.

They were and continue to be a huge contributor to our very specific self loathing be it our faces, hair, bodies,  odor, biology, clothes, friendships, boyfriends – pretty much EVERY aspect of our lives and specifically those that make us uniquely women. You know, stuff we should embrace, but were taught to HATE till they go away or are fixed. That’s why we starve. That’s why we cover up our bodies. They’re why we are still chasing some ghost of an ideal woman. At 30, 40, 50 …

Through being bombarded by self-help, diet, exercise, dating, beauty and fashion advice in teen mags, we’re basically led to think we are physically inferior, un-dateable and need improvement. And we by no means can do ANY of this by ourselves. We need help.

Teen mags are chock-full of pictures of pretty, skinny girls with good clothes and TONS of advice on how to fix your ugly self.

And forget about when we graduated to Cosmo (basically within the same year – we could not wait to check out this scandalous women’s magazine! It was our version of Playboy!).

Cosmo had fashion spreads of unachievable womanliness, Victoria’s Secret ads and hordes of graphic information about how to do sex right FOR YOUR MAN. I will never forget the how-to B.J. story that had us giggling for an hour. My friend read it out loud in a haughty professor voice. It was hilarious. But you know what? It essentially informed us how to be an object of pleasure for someone else.

My older sister had Sassy around the house – for skinny, alternative girls of all colors. It was a start. I didn’t see BUST till I flipped through it at a comic store in Chicago. It wasn’t love at first sight. BUST was so boldly sex-positive it scared me off at first. Not because I’m a prude, but because it went against everything I thought I knew about being a woman. The beauty tips featured normal-looking people. Normal people can’t be pretty! The sex guides were for, um, the reader (What? What a concept). It was only really when I bought my first issue of BUST that things began changing for me. Christ, I was in my 20s. Riot Grrrl and women’s studies classes were another big part of the change. I guess that sounds like a cliché feminist coming-of-age story, but it’s true, and studying women’s sociology, reading women’s lit and listening to angry lyrics about social injustices still happening IN OUR COUNTRY, IN 1998 certainly improved upon how I looked at myself and other women.

Then in my 30s, I began discovering intelligent and funny bloggers like Emily McCombs who writes through her body and addiction issues. The Internet has allowed me to totally hone in on writing that I care about by smart writers who are not interested in cashing in on making people feel bad all the time. Pretty sure Rookie, an incredible e-zine by Chicago teenager Tavi Gevinson, would have been my jam if we had the Internet as we know it in 1995.

I still subscribe to BUST – now in its 20th year and still writing intelligently for women (I even had the pleasure of interviewing its owners for a story and freelancing for them for a while). BUST is still helping all of us women like our bodies, right now, not in some fake future when we lose all the weight and buy all of the designer cosmetics. They’re still publishing awesome DIY guides and sharing information that actually matters.

Still, not a day goes by that most of TV, magazines, the Internet and all those ads in-between slam us with images of skinny, pretty, clean, smart, nice-smelling, unachievable womanhood.

I LOVE Pinterest, but between pictures of unreachable beauty standards, and “inspirational” quotes about what you’re doing wrong and how to do it right, plus endless tips and tricks to “live your best life,” sometimes I feel like I’m flipping through the absolute worst of those teen magazines.

True, I should really get off the Internet.

So tell me, did you grow up with teen magazines? Do you think they impacted how you feel about yourself today or were they just a girl’s rite-of-passage/get over it? 

If you’ve ever felt like the media’s influence has harmed your body image, do you still feel that way or are you moving past it? What’s helped? 

How are you ensuring your kids aren’t being beat over the head with the media’s seemingly never-ending Perfect Body Image Campaign? 

Illustration: pamf.org

Advertisements

Milestones and Musings

The cousins Christmas portrait was a bust. Nothing a meme can't fix!

The cousins Christmas portrait was a bust. Nothing a meme can’t save, though, amiright? Totally showing this to Delilah’s first love interest, BTW. “Hey Delilah, memba when you were a drooly old man? Lol!” Click for the gif.

Fair warning: This is another one of those looong, all-over-the-place posts. It’s not too late to resume facebooking (or whatever you were doing).

And They All Went the F to Sleep … 31 Days Later

I use the term “milestone” loosely when discussing a one-month old, but last night I got decent sleep (which I consider a milestone) because Delilah slept like a champ – up only twice to eat and went down without a bunch of drama and noisemaking. But it took some planning. J stayed up till after midnight with her forcing her to stay awake so she’d be tired once they went upstairs. I don’t remember us having to work this hard to get sleep with Ollie, but I am certain I have baby amnesia because I forgot like 75 percent of what it’s like to have a newborn and am continuously like, “Really, dude?!”

Mostly, though, I’m super-duper smitten with this child. Even when she is up for a three-hour stretch in the middle of the night griping about nothing, I’m like, damn. We’re lucky. Not to mention, I know it could be worse. I don’t even wanna know about colic.

Speaking of sleep, she’s also been napping in her big girl crib in her room. That makes me happy seeing her among her forrest creature friends in the nursery. And a little sad because that means, yup, another milestone.

What else? She also hit the 10-pound mark (and 23 inches), and is hella strong holding up that noggin and flexing those stems. Hercules! Hercules! Hercules!

Here, Feel Like a Superhero for a Few Days. Then Imma Take it Away Like *Poof*! You’re Welcome. Signed, Hormones

You might recall in my previous post boasting about having super-human energy (especially for a new mom on zero sleep recovering from a c-section), plus weight loss like wut. Yeah, that is over, folks. I’m tired. Requiring my morning coffee again. Some of that weight that magically disappeared, magically returned. Not much, but enough that I’m on notice. Which also kind of sucks because I’m nursing and not supposed to be calorie counting. Oh, the paradox!

Which brings me to the fact that I was totally warned about all of this (although not by my OBGYN or all the Dr. Google’ing I’ve been doing about EVERYTHING under the natal sun). No, it was another mom who enlightened me.

So before we had Delilah, I reached out to a friend who, like me, has two kids and writes for a living. She’s a freelancer working from home and I wanted to see how she pulled it off because that’s my goal. She emailed me some amazing advice – down to earth and honest with a dose of funny, just what I needed, but I put off reading it because I got distracted by, um, being a new mom. There was one part in particular I regret not reading sooner. She warned me about the adrenaline/hormone boost you get right after birth and how even though it’s tempting, don’t’ give in. SLEEP. SLEEP, damn it! But I didn’t. And here I am. But it’s getting better.

Silver lining: that little boost came in handy when I was putting out a magazine FOUR days earlier than our normal deadline – just weeks after I was home from the hospital. If you call me supermom or wonderwoman or whatever, I promise not to be all modest about it. I summoned some gritty, primitive part of myself to make this happen, but that’s what you do when you want something bad enough. Or multiple things, in my case. And I’ll do it again. And every time I do it, it, too will get better.

I’m Sorry to Every Mom I’ve Judged for LHIP (Looking Haggard in Public)

Moms can be mean. Harsh. Judgey. Sometimes I’ll see a mom that just looks, um, beat. I think, man, just put some lipstain on or something. Comb yo hair. Lose the sweats. Put on some jeans, lady. But you know what? It’s not always that simple. Life goes on despite your desire to look and feel human.

Sometimes you have to go to the pediatrician looking like you just rolled out of bed (because you did. Because you were up half the night). Sometimes you go to family functions in a button-up flannel instead of that cute, new sweater because it’s easier to nurse with a button-up. Not that you’re doing it in front of everyone (because that’s taboo!), but still. It’s about function.

Sometimes you put off getting your hair did because there’s no time, or let’s face it, no money. It’s not that you don’t care. It’s not that you are oblivious that you have 2-inch roots. It’s not that you’ve given up. You haven’t given up, but there are greater needs and there’s a bigger picture and you know someday you will be your bad bitch self again, skinny jeans and all. Or you tell yourself that, anyway, to get through another day of sweats and spitup.

Seriously, though, being a parent is rough and we have to be easier on moms and dads. From now on, when I see a haggard mom (or look in the mirror), I’ll remember we’re doing the toughest job on the planet (no joke. Oprah knows what’s up) and we’re getting important shit done.

Time for My Guys

I know I can’t give Ollie equal time these days, but you better believe when we’re one on one, I make it count. Like last night during his bedtime, J was at band practice and Delilah was snoozing, so it was just the two of us. I loved curling up with him in his bed and, get this, reading WITH him, not to him. When did THIS happen?!

I remind him how proud I am of him. How big he is. How he’s my “sunshine” and my “best guy.” I indulge his goofy 4-year-old questions (they are endless), I applaud his sometimes hapless efforts to be independent,  but I also keep him in check if he’s pushing his luck. Because you can’t slack on the discipline as difficult as it can be to dish out to a preschooler when an infant needs you.

I thought it would be impossible to share love, attention, pride, joy, etc., between kids. I could not fathom it, right up until the day Delilah arrived. The good news is, you relish both kiddos for different reasons, at different times – sometimes together all at once. And there are moments when both are crying bloody murder and you’re just like fuckthisshit! And that passes.

You might be wondering how my relationship is going with the guy who got me into all of this trouble: J. I don’t know what to say other than, correction: Single moms, you have the toughest job on the planet. And to the people who help single moms – you are soooo awesome.

Having a partner keeps me sane at 3 a.m. when the baby is on her third hour of utter neediness and I want to sleep in the car; makes me laugh despite all the chaos and drama even though my face is too tired to smile; relieves me even if it means he has to stay up WAY late on a work night to entertain/wear out the baby; and takes Ollie pretty much everywhere with him and does his bedtime routine almost every night so I can care for the baby. In addition to all of this (and more), this past weekend, he managed to deck out the house – inside and out – with Christmas, pretty much all by himself (with Ollie’s supervision). I never think I care about Christmas decorations, but they instantly make me all fuzzy and gah when I see them. 

As for how J’s taking to fathering a baby girl, let’s just say a) he’s head over heels in love (naturally) and b) Delilah, you’re going to need ninja skillz if you ever want to hang out with boys before you’re 30. Sorry, but also, you’re welcome.

Rockin’ Gift Guide Part 5: All the Rest …

Okideoke Sing-Along Mic: Psychobabyonline.com

Yellow Owl Workshop City Stamp Set: Buyolympia.com

Retro Pedal Cars: Myretrobaby.com

Wind-up and Pull-back toys: Zwindups.com

Melissa & Doug Band in a Box: Psychobabyonline.com

Portable Electric Guitar: Firstactdiscovery.com

My First Music Science Kit: Shopwonder.com

Baby Corn: Etsy.com/shop/SteffBomb

Teddy Bear Parade: Holgatetoy.com

Chalkboard Matryoshkas: Spoonsisters.com

DIY Recorder: Uncommongoods.com

Fun for All, CONSTRUCTOR-Style – Craftaholics, Cupcakes, Tunes and More!

The annual CONSTRUCTOR Craft Fair Saturday promises DIY goodness.

Saturday!!! Saturday!!! Saturday!!! Prepare to get CONSTRUCTOR-ated!

It’s the “bad-ass” 4th Annual CONSTRUCTOR Craft Fair, an all-ages, free admission gathering in beautiful Berwyn, Ill., with something for everyone – homemade goods, grub, music, booze and CUPCAKES!

Organizers Norah Utley,  Fly Bird’s Julia Nash and 45 like-minded crafters gather to share their wears and eats with fellow craftaholics. The first 50 folks who show up receive a free swag bag full of goodies. The event is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at FitzGerald’s Nightclub.

Find jewelry, soap, house wares, clothes and accessories, plushies, earth-friendly creations and baby goods made from crafters nationwide – plus food trucks  stocked with fresh, locally made yums, including everyone’s favorite – CUPCAKES! Check out the vendor list.

No fair is complete without some jams (would you expect any less from Utley, Ms. Shit Sandwich Records herself?). Show goers enjoy performances by Girls Rock! Chicago (GR!C) campers (Woot! Our April Charity of the Month!). Indoors, the grads of GR!C June DJ camp spinning records (on the very same stage graced by Elisabeth Shue in “Adventures in Babysitting,” as a matter of fact). The outdoor stage will feature performances by camper band C4 at 3:30 p.m., and GR!C solo superstar Alex Lund at 4 p.m. GR!C’s booth will be selling posters, drink coozies, tote bags and more! Don’t miss it!

Record Store Day and Waxing Nostalgic

Crows Nest Music, Crest Hill., Ill. (closed)

It’s Record Store Day! I hope you’re taking your little noisemakers to the local record store today, even if you’re like us and the closest is a little hole-in-the-wall in a plaza two towns away.

When we were kids (memory lane, here we go!) there was a big warehousey record store called Crow’s Nest Music in Crest Hill, Ill., on the top of the hill on Route 30, decked out in bright, hand-painted wooden cutouts of Prince, David Lee Roth, Madonna and other ’80s music icons. The shrink-wrapped records were neatly organized by genre in handmade lacquered wooden bins. It was like a Shangri-La for music lovers. I thought it was the coolest place ever when I was little and it was always a treat when my folks took us – usually around Chrsitmas to find that coveted, must-have album that the mall sold out of (“Thriller,” anyone?!).

When we were in high school in the ’90s, a few of my best friends ended up working there, rocking those sweet VIP lanyard/name tags – and they always reaped coolest swag from the labels. The work force was kind of culty, there were your token music snobs. If you’ve seen “Empire Records’ or “High Fidelity” you know what I’m talking about.

But that was sort of the beauty of the experience. Many of us visited largely to be schooled about why the CD we were looking for sucked and “Why don’t you instead check out this obscure, influential XYZ band/artist?” It was an education. It was also a gathering place to hear advanced albums piped through the store; listen to the rock gospel according to the local record store clerk; learn who’s touring, where and when; score a promo sampler or zine; and find out who’s looking for a new drummer, etc. Some of the stores hosted live shows, special events, giveaways and tent sales.

When I started college and began writing music reviews and band features – and eventually peddling my own music zine – I found myself working closely with Chicago’s fine record stores from Reckless Records to Laurie’s Planet of Sound. I was a little more grown up. My tastes improved. I finally had something to give back.

These days, I continue to obsess over music (ya think?). With the widespread decrease of music retailers, particularly mom-and-pops, Record Store Day is that much more special to share with my family.

Don’t get me wrong, love the availability and convenience of digital music. I love the instant accessibility to all things music online from band bios to lyrics, from Internet radio to fan forums. I’d never accuse Steve Jobs of killing the music industry. But I love record stores and I just hope there will always be bricks and mortar for this important experience – and preferably not in the context of a museum.

Mommy’s Alright – Holiday 2010 Gift Guide!

Unique gifts for cool kiddies and their hip ‘rents (links below).

Click link to go directly to the product:

Riot Grrrl Weekend

Sara Marcus reading from her book "Girls to the Front" at Qumby's, Chicago.

I had a really amazing Saturday doing much-needed catching up/girl hang-time in Wicker Park with my ladies, which included feeling the riot grrrl love at the Chicago book tour stop of “Girls to the Front”. Author Sara Marcus (her new book is the definitive history of Riot Grrrl) read from the first chapter, and did a Q&A with music journo Jessica Hopper, then the attendees. Sunday kicked off grubbing at the local family restaurant with my boys and BFF followed by serious pumpkin carving, acorn squash roasting and pizza making.

“Girls to the Front”

Being in that room full of riot grrrls pushing 40, a few teens and 20-somethings carrying the torch and even one proud riot grrrl mom who looked to be about my mom’s age – it was comforting to know riot grrrl did not just fizzle out when the zines ceased or Bikini Kill broke up. As long as we’re alive, it’s alive. And I’m glad someone – particularly someone who remembers it, cares about it and spent five years doing it right – documented it in this way. Being in the company of these women had me realizing, too, that at least some of those women are also moms now. And that is rad as hell.

This whole idea of teenagers and 20-somethings fed up with the patriarchal punk scene where they’re just decoration at the shows; politicians telling them what they can and can’t do with their OWN bodies; and the ominous feeling of alienation at school/home and then doing something grass-roots/creative/peaceful (albeit often loud) about it – it’s MIND-BLOWING to me. Girls with NO resources who have NO networks and NO Internet,  found each other based on a mutual need to make life better for themselves and their friends – and it spread underground like wildfire.

My sailor tattoo-inspired swallow jack-o-lantern.

Gay Teens – the New Riot Grrrls?

All of this reminiscing led me to draw a parallel to the current gay rights movement, particularly in the teen community. Gay rights has SO much in common with riot grrl (and RG has always been nothing if not LGBT-friendly and outspoken about gender/queer equality issues to boot). You have a bunch of people who are largely being treated like shit by their peers, misunderstood by their families and churches and being completely infringed upon by the government. It’s like everyone is against them, but there is so much power, strength and ambition in their numbers and their allies – it’s just a matter of finding them. I know there’s always been a strong gay scene for artists, musicians and zinesters – I’d love to see them organize more on the gay rights platform like riot grrrl organized on the feminist platform. I’d like to see it start with young gay people who are tired of feeling alone and defeated. I think the timing is great. Gay teens NEED this right now. It could save lives.

“2011: The Revenge of Print”

The whole riot grrrl discussion and zine-lined walls/ambiance at the bookstore got me super amped to participate in this zine challenge in 2011 where former zinesters cut, paste and photocopy “the next issue” they never got to make for whatever reason. If it works out, the third issue of my college zine “Hush Kitty” will have been 13 years in the  making. Ha! The best part of this project will be reconnecting with my contributors – all who have gone on to do great things from pursuing a Ph.D. in France to coming out and moving to Portland. I can’t wait to see what everybody submits!

Acorn squash, halved, rubbed and ready to bake. Or "flowers" as Ollie called them.

Fall Flavas!

On a lighter note, I found a good recipe for what has always been a super-easy/delicious fall dish: Acorn Squash with brown sugar and butter. My only note to this recipe is that I was running out of maple syrup, so I substituted one of the two tablespoons with honey, which turned out great.


Advertisements

Enter your email addy to subscribe.

Join 21 other followers

Bettie Page Kids Clothing

140-Character Musings

Archives