Friday, November 7, 2014

Weight a Minute

This is a hard post for me to write.  Even harder than my depression blog.  This post is about weight.  I've always struggled with my weight--well, no, that's not true.  As a child, I was pretty gangly and really skinny.  My senior year of high school is when I began struggling with my weight.  I've never been a healthy eater, but that year I guess the fast food & french fries caught up with me.  I remember being very depressed and generally unhappy about my weight.  I was still playing soccer, but not as much, and playing with friends after school had turned into extra curricular activities such as drama and mock trial, lending the perfect storm for an expanding waist line.

I was very self-conscious about it.  Looking back at pictures, I was definitely not as fat as I thought I was.  In my head, I was huge. In pictures, I wasn't even really chubby, just slightly heavier than I was comfortable being.  Then came college, and the Freshman 15--I gained that, and probably a little more.  I carried that around for pretty much all of Freshman year & through the summer.  Again, looking back at pictures, I remember feeling much fatter than I actually was (weird how that happens, huh?).

My Sophomore year in college, I decided that enough was enough. I was tired of being overweight, of feeling really self conscious about myself.  I don't know when weight became such a huge defining thing for me, but somehow it had.  I committed myself to losing weight-- I started going to the gym, watching what I ate, and I started losing weight.  Everyone kept telling me how great I looked--and I felt better about myself, but I still kept seeing 'fat!' when I'd look in the mirror.  From my perspective now, I like to say 'it was so much easier back then! all I had to do was go to class, the gym, an easy job at the library, and eat healthy food at the Commons!'

But, there is a different truth than that.  One I gloss over.  One I don't talk about.  Yes, I was going to the gym, and I was watching what I ate, but I was not being healthy.  I had an eating disorder. I would eat a 90 calorie snack, and a half of a sandwich (like the sandwiches you make at home, not subway/quizno's/togo's), and maybe a hard boiled egg.  That's it.  That's all I would eat all day.  On top of that, I would go to the gym 5/6 times a week and run on the treadmill for at least an hour, if not more.  If I couldn't go to the gym, I would freak out.  

I didn't know I had a problem, but there should have been some clues.  For instance, I distinctly remember being at work at the library, and finding a 90 calorie snack in my bag. (Special K made these really good snacks that were only 90 calories a pouch--they don't make them anymore, but they were so good. I called them yogurt chips, but I don't know what they were actually called). Anyway, I found a 90 calorie snack that I hadn't eaten from the day prior or something.  I had already had my 90 calorie snack in my dorm room for the day, and I was still hungry (of course I was, my body was basically starving), and I couldn't resist and ate the extra 90 calorie snack.  I was so mad at myself after I did that--I was doing so well, I chastised myself, then you went and ruined it with an extra 90 calories, you have zero self-control! In reality, it was 90 calories. Not that big of a deal--most diets can spare 90 calories here and there.  But, to me, it was this giant thing--it was terrible, that I couldn't even resist (through my starving, mind you), a 90 calorie snack.  This continued on for a couple of months--I would eat normally in front of my family, but at school, I just wasn't eating, really.

And everyone kept saying how good I looked.  And I still looked in the mirror and saw how fat I was.  

Here is a picture of me shortly before my Sophomore year in college ended, when I still thought I was fat:

I'm in the white shirt-- still thinking I was HUGE.

I didn't realize the error of my ways, I didn't suddenly get the picture, I didn't suddenly discover that I was not, in fact, fat. I think I just went home for the summer, and was forced to basically eat normally again, and ended up being healthy.  The remaining years of college, I still thought I was fat, but I didn't go to extreme measures.  I went to the gym about 3 to 4 times a week, and ate full meals at least twice a day (my junior/senior year I pretty much lived off of grilled cheese sandwiches and white rice for lunch).

I went through grad school, and managed to somehow keep the weight off--though, of course, the lingering thought 'you're so fat' was always at the back of my mind.  At one point, after I moved back in with my parents, I remember getting Chipotle, and thoroughly disgusted with my lack of self-control (fast food, again?!), that I devised a plan.  I would chew the food and spit it out, thus enjoying the taste but not ingesting all the calories.  Yes, this is embarrassing to write, and pretty gross, but it's the truth. And the truth is sometimes both of those things.  I sat on the floor of my room chewing pieces of burrito, and spitting them into a grocery bag, which I threw out after the "meal."  I feel unbelievably sad recalling myself sitting indian style in front of my small TV, doing this incredibly destructive and weird thing, thinking that it was my only option.  I did this for a few meals, but it didn't stick-- believe me, I know how crazy this sounds, but I felt such desperation.  I thought 'this could be a solution to your fatness.' Until now, I'd never told anyone about that.

Meanwhile, this is approximately what I looked like at that time:

I'm on the far right.

I know what Body Dysmorphic  Disorder is (read about it here), and there's no doubt in my mind that, at least on some level, I certainly suffer from it.  I couldn't see it then, but I can see it now. I can see it now, looking back at those pictures where I thought I was fat, I know that something in my brain was not perceiving the image in the mirror correctly.

Which is what makes it so hard about the weight I've gained now. For me, the mirror may not be a reliable source of information, but the scale certainly is.  And I'm a good 30 pounds from where I want to be, and at least 20 pounds from where I should be, medically. And it has made me withdraw.  I don't want to see anyone because I've gotten fat, and of course they'll notice, and I'm embarrassed. I don't want to see anyone until I lose the weight.

I keep trying-- I keep leaving details out in my brain about what I did in college and telling myself 'you did it once before!' And I keep failing, remembering that this time it will be harder--to do it healthy will be harder.

The other day, Tom & I had our engagement shoot.  I have been trying (and kind of failing) to lose weight for a few weeks now. I'll do well, and then fall off the wagon.  The evening before the engagement shoot, I was getting really down and depressed--knowing I wasn't going to like any of the photos that were taken of me. Knowing I was going to look like a 'fat cow' (my brain's nice words to me) in all of them. Knowing that no matter what I wore, I would be hideous. I went to Target to try to find something to wear, and I stopped to get a soda, and somehow ended up with a small cheese pizza.  I wasn't even that hungry-- I was just sad. And mad. And frustrated at myself.  I ate the piping hot pizza (as I type this, I can still feel the burn on the roof of my mouth), and hated myself even more with every bite.  When I was finally finished, I thought for the first time ever, very seriously about throwing it up.  I thought about it the entire time I was walking around Target.  I didn't do it, but I was seriously thinking about it-- and that was scary.  It is scary.  I've had anorexic thoughts, I've had severe restriction thoughts, but I've never had bulimic thoughts. Not real ones, anyway. Growing up, I had a disease called CVS, which basically caused me to throw up a lot--since then (perhaps, apparently, thankfully), bulimia has not been an option for me. So, the fact that it was nearly an option for me is genuinely frightening.

I went home and tried on outfits and felt increasingly hopeless, eventually having a meltdown and throwing on my pajamas, while trying not to cry. Eventually, I settled on some pants, a cardigan, a tank, and snazzy shoes.  But the process was very eye-opening.  I am always saying that I can't be too hard on myself when I make a mistake, but the truth is that I am hard on myself.  Too hard on myself.  And this might be why I so often spiral out of control. Instead of being like 'oh well, I ate three mini kit kats, I'll do better next time,' I turn it into 'of course you ate three mini kit kats, you have zero self-control, no wonder you're fat. You won't do better next time.  In fact, you shouldn't even try to lose weight because obviously you can't do it, you'll just fail, so you might as well just have two mini butterfingers and a bag of microwave popcorn.'  It sounds funny, and I actually laughed just now typing it, but in the moment, it really, really isn't.

So, what do I do?  I want to lose weight-- I need to lose weight in order to be healthy.  But how do I stop this?  How do I stop beating myself up for failing the impossibly high standards I set for myself? I never go with 'baby steps.'  And I think that's what I need to do-- I need to get out of the mentality that it doesn't matter if you walk a mile unless you also starve yourself.  It's not true.  If I can change my thinking, I can lose this thirty pounds, and I can do it the healthy way this time.  

But, only if I can build myself up, instead of tearing myself down. Or, in other words, undo a lifetime of habit.  I'll let you know how that one goes, but I don't really know how to start.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Halloween 2014

Well, Halloween has come and gone this year, yet again.  For the 8 of you that read my Halloween post on this blog last year (here), you know how much I love Halloween.  For the rest of you, you probably have no idea.  I LOVE Halloween.

I always have.  Recently, I haven't done much to celebrate it, and to be quite honest, last year was a bit of a bust.  I prepared myself for trick-or-treaters to come to the door, only to have absolutely ZERO trick-or-treaters stop by for some candy.  I was actually pretty sad about it--I basically spent the night alone in my apartment waiting for something that never came.  I was pretty bummed.

I honestly can't even remember the last time I dressed up for Halloween.  College, probably.  There was a half hearted attempt at dressing up as Rory Gilmore during grad school, but aside from that, I haven't dressed up in many years.

So, being that I live in the same place as last year, I was prepared to not get any trick-or-treaters.  In my attempt to keep my relationship with Halloween alive, I knew I had to do something else.  So, this year, I decided to participate in my work's annual Halloween Costume Contest!  (I actually signed up for the pumpkin carving contest too, but being a procrastinator of the most amazing degree, I only got the costume done.  Oh well).

I dressed up this year as a Guts Winner!  I had elbow pads, mouth guard, helmet--the whole 9 yards.  As we did the little costume parade in front of our work, I fake jogged, and raised my piece of the "aggro crag" in the air, celebrating my victory.  After our second lap was completed, we ended in front of the line of free sandwiches (and chips and cookies), and the costume wearers got first dibs! (which was pretty awesome, I realized, when I saw the ridiculously long line forming).  Some people knew exactly what I was, and were pretty excited about it.  Others? No clue.

Everyone lined up at the table to vote for the best costumes, and I honestly didn't think I'd win.  I was just excited to have finally dressed up, when I had gone so long without doing so.  But, around 3pm, the email came out listing the first, second, and third place for the costume contest-- and I had come in second!  And, it included a prize!  I was beyond floored--and slightly embarrassed that the post had included a picture of me for which I was woefully unprepared. Okay, I was prepared, but I didn't know it was going to be sent out in a company-wide email. 

I will not reproduce that picture here; instead, I will post the picture I posted on Instagram, depicting my outfit (and which was liked by the Nickelodeon TV Instagram!):

Anyway, all in all, this Halloween was a much better time than last Halloween, and it just reaffirmed my love for the day.

For posterity, the day went like this: I wore winter PJs to bed for the first time this fall, I woke up to decidedly fall-like weather (overcast, with a bit of chill in the air), I went to work early, participated (and placed!) in the costume contest, got a free lunch, free treats, free soda, and then came home to watch scary movies with Tom (The Conjuring & Purge 2: Anarchy) & Cash, where we ordered pizza, and overdosed on candy corn and miniature kit kats, butterfingers, and the like (Tom & I did. Cash had a bit of pizza crust, and ate his dog food).  Ended with the first rain of the season, tinkling of rain gutters, and an overall content.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Great Truth of Social Media

Ah, Social Media.  It is quite the fickle friend, isn't it?  Some days, it's really exciting to have all of these ways of keeping in touch with people, of meeting people we wouldn't have met otherwise. Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc.--All of these sites allow people to engage with each other in ways we probably otherwise wouldn't. 

Recently, there has been a stigma concerning social media--those who abstain from social media (yes, these people do exist) lament that just because you have 650 friends on Facebook doesn't mean you have any friends in real life--or that you're well-liked.  All it means, they say, is that you have a large social network on Facebook. You probably don't even know some of these people, they insist.  While these people almost invariably come off as bitter, sure, that is sometimes the case.  For me, I can tell you exactly how I know every single one of my 'friends' on social media, and I can probably tell you an anecdote or two about each of them.  And, yes. I do spend the majority of my Friday nights alone, but even before social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and even MySpace were invented, that was the case. I like alone time. #aintnothinwrongwiththat.  So, maybe they're right, I don't know.  But, maybe they're not.

I've even heard people categorize social media.  You know, the old 'Facebook is for people I know in real life, but don't like, and Twitter is for people I like, but don't know in real life.' And, maybe for some, this is true.  But, no matter how we use social media, most of us are trying to put our best foot forward.  This has been criticized in various places, I'm sure we have all read/heard this before-- 'you only post selfies of you that look good!' To that I say, 'so what?!' Long before social media existed, we wanted to hide pictures of us that weren't so great. The invention of the digital camera was great for that. 'I don't like this photo of myself!' Delete, and retake. Even before the invention of the digital camera, people would hide the photos of them that weren't so great in a photo box, but put the better pictures in an album under the coffee table.  'You only post selfies of you that look good!' is the equivalent of walking into someone's house, looking at the pictures on the wall/on display, and exclaiming with disdain 'you only display the pictures of you that look good!'

Of course people only post pictures of themselves that look good. Why is this a negative thing?  Should we all post pictures of us that look terrible?  That I just don't get.  It was very hard for me to post the picture I posted on my previous entry--no one likes putting pictures of themselves out in the world where they feel they don't look their best.

Beyond just looking our best on social media, many of us choose to try to put our best foot forward in other aspects, too. We only post the positive things that happen to us--positive thoughts, feelings, expressions--#100DaysOfHappiness.  In fact, I began taking part in 100 Days of Happiness on Instagram, but eventually quit because I realized it didn't make me happy.  Most days, I was searching for something that wasn't lame that made me happy.  Most days, cuddling with my dog and drinking an icy cool fountain drink of diet coke makes me happy.  But, I thought, these were too lame for Instagram.  Too lame for my friends posting group pictures of their friends/cool things they did in their day, trips they took.  I wake up, get a diet coke, go to work, come home, watch Netflix, with little variation. Sometimes I go to the gym, sometimes I don't go to work. Participating in the 100 Days of Happiness challenge made me less happy, and more stressed. So, I stopped, and continued posting pictures of my dog or other random things-- basically, the same stuff I post on Facebook.

But, what I don't often post are my sad thoughts--my problems, my fears, my boredom.  Except in this blog-- I kind of think of this blog as a no-holds-barred kind of thing. I talk about whatever I want in here, I talk about unhappiness, depression, things that have happened.  No one wants to read about these things in their news feeds on a day to day basis.  In fact, I have seen more than one person threaten to delete people as friends if they see more than one or two negative things in a relatively small time period.  I understand the sentiment--seeing someone whining constantly isn't fun, it isn't what we are all on social media for, is it? 

But, then, why are we on social media?  To keep in contact? To see how everyone's life is going?  To tell everyone how our own lives are going? To put all the good things that happen to us out for the world to see, while covering up the bad?  Who knows. I guess the reasons are different for everyone.

There was recently a short film depicting this interesting paradox--how some of us lie on social media, paint over the ugly parts in our lives, and how when we stop doing that, if we are honest about things, no one wants to talk to us, see what is going on with us. (You can watch it here).  There's also a short film that implores us to put down our phones, and walk away from social media, because we are missing the human connection part of life. (You can watch that one here).

But, the thing of it is: I don't think we are.  I think that people, whether it's over social media, or in real life/person, don't want to hear about your problems, unless they truly care about you.  I remember this one Mock Trial trip in college--we were in a small hotel room, hashing out some team issues.  One girl, who I always thought of as a friend, looked at me and said "No one cares, Natalie." About the fact that I didn't sleep at all the night before, and had gotten pretty repetitious about that fact (which happens to me when I'm exhausted).  And, that, right there, is the truth

No one cares.  That is why we don't want to see negative things on Facebook. That is why we threaten to delete people if they break our 'no negativity rule.'  If it's our mother, our sister, our brother, our actual friend, we care more.  But, if it's an acquaintance we haven't seen in years, we just don't care.

And, that's kind of sad.  There are studies now saying that social media fuels depression--some posit it's because everyone else's life seems so great in comparison to our own.  Some posit that it's because we post statuses and pictures and don't get enough 'likes.' Maybe it's some combination of both, maybe it's one instead of the other--or maybe it's because we know that people don't care.

For me, I don't try to put my best foot forward--at least, not on this blog.  And, truthfully, it doesn't bother me when people slip and have a negative moment-- life isn't always rainbows and butterflies and donuts--sometimes, life isn't fun.  And there are people I know who live through depression, and post about it, and I don't scroll by and roll my eyes-- I respond.  Because maybe that's what they need. Maybe it isn't... But, maybe it is.

And more than I want to see positivity on my news feed on Facebook, I want to see real life--stress, happiness, sadness, joy, life, with its many ups and downs--you don't need to be afraid of sharing your 'downs' with me, though I sincerely hope that all of my friends have more ups than downs.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Week Without Makeup

I started wearing makeup in 7th grade.  I didn't wear much, but I started wearing "just a little powder" and the occasional lipstick/gloss. This was the same year that I started shaving my legs, despite my mom's protests, and despite having virtually no hair on them. I was grown up--or, at least, I felt that way, in a way I hadn't felt since I used to clop around in those little plastic heels you can find in the toy aisle, always marching on tile, pretending I was my mom, and going to an important meeting.  Now, I don't really wear heels (and I actually don't think I've been to an important meeting, either), but the makeup stuck.

I still don't wear very much--I don't cake it on, and much to the chagrin of every Sephora employee I've encountered, I don't want makeup that "gives me a little color."  Usually, I stick with the old 7th grade standby: "a little powder." Nowadays, I pair that with a bit of blush, maybe some mascara if I'm wearing my contacts (a rarity these days, since I've been having ocular problems when I wear them).  It is an even rarer occasion that I will put eyeshadow/liner on, though I do have various shades tucked under my sink.

But, despite the fact that I really do wear very little makeup, it's come to my attention recently that I feel like I need it.  If I am not wearing makeup, I feel self-conscious about it.  So, after that realization, I decided to go a week without makeup, and post the results on my blog. 

More or less, this was me for the week:
Me, sans makeup, X-Large for all the world/readers of this blog to see.

Sunday: Day One.  This was a lazy day, filled with light cleaning, Netflix marathons, and trimming up Cash to look like a pretty boy. Tom and I went out to dinner, and then we went to a movie.  This wasn't that much of a stretch for me--there are days when I do go without makeup (or use just what is leftover on my brush from the last application), and Sundays are typically pretty good candidates for this.  So, I didn't really experience any problems with this on my lazy Sunday.

Monday: Day Two. I was actually really nervous to go into work for the first time EVER (save the occasional Sunday, when I don't put any on and have to come in to work) without makeup on. Since I wasn't telling anyone what I was doing, I kept waiting for someone to mention it to me--to tell me how tired I looked, or that I looked different, or something like that.  Alas, no one did.  I kept going into the bathroom, however, to gaze at myself--I was really self conscious, and kept trying to stay out of the fluorescent lighting as much as possible.  I also became suddenly obsessed with my oil levels, and kept checking those in the bathroom mirror as well.

Tuesday: Day Three.  I didn't have quite as much anxiety about it as I did on Monday, but I was still super self-conscious, and I was certain people were looking at me and thinking I looked terrible. Several trips to the bathroom were made, and I had to keep myself from putting on a little concealer (unfortunately, even though I am 28 damn years old, I still suffer from breakouts). I held back, though, and made it through.

Wednesday: Day Four. Better known as The Day From Hell. This was one of the worst days I've had in a long time-- Murphy's Law was in full effect.  I still stuck to my word and didn't put a stitch of makeup on my face. Overall, it was relatively easier, although I still found myself thinking irrational thoughts--that things wouldn't have happened to me the way they did on The Day From Hell if I had been wearing makeup, or if I would have been "prettier." I also had a meeting at work and felt really self-conscious, and really thankful that the lighting was dim.

Thursday: Day Five.  I hardly noticed it this day, truly. Occasionally I would notice when washing my hands and looking in the mirror and thinking 'I don't look that bad.'

Friday: Day Six. Again, I hardly noticed-- and Thursday & Friday I really appreciated how little time it took me to get ready in the morning. It doesn't take me too long to put on my makeup, but it was nice to not have to spend the extra few minutes.  Then, it was time to take the picture--and I got freaked out and annoyed all over again, ashamed of the way I look.  Truth be told, I even thought of taking a picture with a little bit of makeup on and lying about it. But, then I just thought 'screw it,' I've come this far--so, there's the picture up there. Me, completely and totally without a stitch of makeup on. That's my 'screw it, I've come this far' face. Enjoy.

Saturday: Day Seven.  I didn't end up doing it on Saturday. I went to look at wedding dresses, and I'm already rather annoyed at my girth lately, so I decided to go ahead and wear makeup. So, not quite a week. Oh well, close enough. (And I went without makeup Sunday to make up for it).

What I learned: I learned a lot, actually.  I learned that I'm pretty dependent on makeup-- I learned that I can be okay without this odd little barrier between my face and the world, even if I have to work at it.  I've learned that I'm braver than I knew--and more self-conscious than I knew (didn't even know that was possible). I learned that people don't really notice, or if they do, they don't say anything, if you're not wearing makeup.  I've learned that everyone is not walking around thinking about how ugly I am and wondering why I don't do something to improve it.

And I learned something totally unexpected: It's okay to wear makeup--it's okay to use makeup to boost your self-confidence every once in awhile.  If a little bit of makeup is what you need to make you feel okay being in the world: go for it! Do I think I want to rely on makeup to feel that way? No.  I want to work on being comfortable in my own, unadulterated skin--I think this week, painful and scary as it was, was a big step toward that goal. Do I want to abandon makeup completely? Absolutely not.  I think I'll stick to makeup free Sundays, with the occasional Saturday thrown in--and I'll try to not be so scared of being seen without makeup by passersby on the street, coworkers, friends, etc.

Letting my face speak for itself (even if I felt it was yelling 'look at me!!!' all the time), was a great exercise for me, and one I think I should practice every now and again.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sidewalk Etiquette

Today, I want to take a moment to talk about sidewalks. Yes, sidewalks. Most of (dare I say all of) us are are familiar with those lovely little [most often] concrete pathways we traverse with our feet that separate us from the danger of moving vehicles and large piles of dog crap often piled in the grass that often lines the space between curb and sidewalk.  

Most communities have some sort of sidewalk in place, and it's what most of us learned to ride a bike on, lest we fall over directly into oncoming traffic--save a few communities (like the one I grew up in, the lack of sidewalks always baffled me; still does to this day).

A bit of history about the sidewalk: it existed in ancient times! In fact, Romans were essentially sidewalk connoisseurs.  During the middle ages, they disappeared for awhile, but by the 18th century they made a comeback, and by the 19th century, they were in widespread use again, and have remained that way ever since. 

So, how is it that we are here in the 21st century, and there are some people that still don't know how to use sidewalks?  It's not just sidewalks in the suburbs that people have issues with--it's walkways in general.

The other day, I was walking my dog on the small sidewalk outside of our apartment, when I happened upon two people who were making their way down to the Chipotle at the end of the block (yes, we live down the street from Chipotle, and yes, it is as amazing as it sounds). Anyway, I watched these two people approaching, walking directly next to each other, as people are apt to do when they're going anywhere together.  

A bit about the sidewalk in front of our place: It is, indeed, small. In fact, it is comprised of two large-ish squares of concrete next to each other and that's pretty much it.  On either side, there is grass. Grass between the curb and the sidewalk, and grass that is classified as someone's lawn.

So, as I am walking along the sidewalk, I see these people approaching and I think 'they'll move out of the way.' After all, Cash and I were taking up one square as we were walking, and they were taking up two squares.  They had to move, right? It's common courtesy to use sidewalks in the same way you use a street when you're driving--one side of the sidewalk is for people going one way, the other side is for people going the other way.  Apparently, that was not what these two individuals--a male and a female--were taught about sidewalks.  They were taught that you can basically take up the entire thing and it's totally fine as long as you have an inflated sense of self or something.  Because they did not move.

No, instead, Cash and I were essentially forced on to the small grassy knoll in between the curb and the sidewalk. Cash was fine with it, he enjoys that spot, particularly the smells.  I, however, was not fine with it--and I sat there for a moment in disbelief, silently fuming, until I called over my shoulder "The sidewalk's a two-way street, you know." I didn't look to see if they heard me.  They probably didn't.

And, I know, the sidewalk is not technically a two-way street, but it is a two-way...sidewalk.  Just because you want to walk next to your partner, that doesn't mean that someone else should be thoroughly inconvenienced.  At least, it shouldn't mean that.

And it's not just sidewalks--people have this crazy notion that they can basically walk next to each other no matter what the circumstance, and you should be the one to get out of their way. I was at Disneyland, walking around Downtown Disney, when this happened to me.  There were a group of about four teenagers (17-ish? I'm bad at that game) walking side by side, coming at me, and the only way for me to get past them was to essentially throw myself into a small planter.  Which I guess is what they expected, or at least the girl on the end did--because she wasn't about to move.  Finally, at the last minute, she slightly moved, causing our shoulders to brush up against one another.

In the past, I have always been the one to get out of the way--the one to step up on to the grass, or completely stop walking to let others pass.  But, you know, it gets kind of tiresome--it gets kind of annoying realizing that most everyone else is less courteous than you are.  So. I've decided.

I'm not going do it anymore.  I think this connects to my last post--my moving out of the way of any and every person is the body language equivalent of saying 'I'm sorry' for my presence.  I'm not sorry for my presence. I exist, and I am just as worthy of a space on the sidewalk as you are, O Rude One.

Of course, there will be times I will move--for Children with parents, for the elderly, when I am the one in the large group taking up space.  But, for the most part, I will stand my ground.  I will be courteous to others, but I will assert my right to take up the [very little, actually] space that I occupy on this planet.

Prepare yourself, ye who don't know how to use sidewalks and walkways, for many shoulder checks from this little part of the planet.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sorry I'm Not Sorry

A few years ago I was on a film set, shooting a short film that I was acting in.  This was long before "Sorry I'm not sorry" was a popular phrase thrown around to express how unapologetic one truly is. It was my very first time on set, and I was really nervous and really excited and kind of scared.  I didn't sleep much the night previous, due to these emotions, and also a tragedy that struck the day before.

I arrived at set on Saturday morning at 6am, costumes in tow, unsure of what to expect, having never been on a set before. It was October, and it was foggy, cold, and my stomach was in knots. I went over to our makeshift craft services section, and busied myself the only way I know how--munching, and making sure that refrigerated items weren't left out of the ice chests. I stuck yogurts and milk into the ice chest with a shaky hand, issuing quiet warnings of 'this stuff can't be left out.'

Overall, it was a great experience--surrounded by friends and fellow actors, it was nice to be on set, to see the cameras, schedule, run lines, and listen to music to get me prepared for my scenes. I felt like a real actress, and it was pretty fabulous.  Then, it was time to shoot my first scene--I stood in a tiny room getting mic'ed by the sound engineer for the project, a stern (but friendly) lady who had been in the industry for many years.

As she was putting the mic on me, my arm was in the way--"I'm sorry." I said, and she kind of looked at me.  A minute later, my very existence being an impediment to how the mic fit, I apologized again, "Oops, sorry." I said, and then she looked at me.

"Stop apologizing." She said, her tone was kind, but firm.
"Sorry." I said, again, by rote--not even kidding around.
"Stop saying you're sorry," She said again, "Are you really sorry?" She inquired.
I thought about it for a moment--"No." I said, simply, realizing I wasn't sorry.
She went on to explain to me that she had encountered this phenomenon for years, mostly from women, apologizing when they weren't really sorry.  Throughout the rest of the mic session, any time I felt like saying sorry, I would try to catch myself.  I failed a couple times, and she and I laughed together.  "It's hard, isn't it?" She asked, and it was.

After I did my scene (which I was really proud of, by the way), I thought more about what she said, about the apologies I offered, and how I wasn't really sorry--I just wanted people to like me, to think I was polite.  Which, I suppose, there is nothing inherently wrong with. But, then I stopped and thought about it more. I was apologizing, in this particular instance, for my body being present. For the appendages, which are of myself, being in the way of someone strapping a foreign object to my body--I was apologizing to them when I moved the wrong way, when I didn't move fast enough.  I thought back to my time in the makeup/hair chair, and noticed the same thing-- I was apologizing for blinking, for moving my head, or scratching my nose.

When I thought about it in those terms--it was ridiculous. I realized that I cared so much about what people thought of me, that I was essentially apologizing for my own existence.  Like, 'oh, sorry my very presence is an annoyance/impediment to your work, I apologize profusely and incessantly in the hopes that you don't think I'm rude or don't appreciate what you're doing for me.'

Kind of crazy, really, when I looked at it like that.  The rest of the time filming, I really concentrated on not apologizing for trivial things.  I tried really hard to not say sorry unless I meant it--If I accidentally hit someone when moving my arm, I am sorry; if someone hits me, I am not.  Before that weekend, I would apologize for either instance.

It was more difficult than I imagined--I learned for the first time how absolutely ingrained 'I'm sorry,' and 'Sorry' were in my every day vocabulary.  And the thing is: I never even noticed.  How many times had I apologized before this, hundreds?  Thousands?  More? 

Most of us--or at least some of us--were brought up to be polite. We were taught that we shouldn't be rude, we should be kind, we should treat others with respect.  I thought maybe that had something to do with why I apologized so much, but that wasn't it, not when I really sat down to think about it.  No, it was more than just manners--please, thank you, you're welcome--it was deeper than that.  When I looked at why I was apologizing, it wasn't because I was sorry, it was because I felt like an inconvenience, because I felt like I needed to make sure the person I was randomly apologizing to knew that I was a nice person, that he or she really liked me.  It was because I felt like an inconvenience--and what I learned that weekend, is that I wasn't--I'm not--an inconvenience. And if I am, well... that's not because of me.

After filming was over, I hugged the woman who taught me this, and told her thank you, and meant it.

For awhile, I kept it up--I wouldn't randomly drop an apology for something I wasn't truly sorry for, for inane things like taking too long to retrieve money from my wallet, to find a card, or enter my PIN number at the checkout line, or being in someone's way on a sidewalk.

Recently, however, when I was at a drive thru retrieving my Diet Coke (I still really need to cut back), I noticed myself apologizing for not speaking loudly enough.  "Oh, a large diet coke, sorry."  I wasn't sorry at all! And yet, there I was apologizing, as if to say pleasedonotbemadatme.

It was then that I realized I had begun walking on eggshells with the rest of the world again--I had forgotten the lesson I learned that weekend in October, which in the short run was: Don't apologize for things you aren't actually sorry for. And in the long run was: You are just as worthy as everyone else.  You deserve things just as much as everyone else.  Your existence is not an inconvenience, and if it is, it is not your problem, it is theirs.

So, you see, I realized that I need to get that back--I need to work on not apologizing at random, to strangers, for things I can't control or are not my fault.  When someone bumps into me on the street, I don't need to apologize, they should.  

It's a tough lesson to learn--it was then, and it certainly will be again. But, it's pretty important--on the surface it isn't a big deal, but at the heart of the issue, it's realizing that I am important. Sorry I'm not sorry.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I'm Engaged!

Okay, so, I know I usually use this blog to talk about larger issues that I think will be of importance or fascination to other people (and maybe sometimes I fail miserably, and no one cares--whatever). The point is that I'm going to deviate from that today, and share something that is entirely personal that only belongs to me:

I'm engaged!

Last Friday, I came home to a scavenger hunt that ended with a proposal, and two promises that will begin a lifetime together. How crazy! So, after celebrations and congratulations are through, it will be time to plan a wedding.

Being a planner by nature (seriously, I'm not good at spontaneity), I already want to have everything planned yesterday, even though we haven't even been engaged for a week yet.  I already know that planning this wedding will pose some struggles for me.  It's going to be really hard to just relax and enjoy the process, though that is what I am, more or less, absolutely determined to do. We'll see how that goes, though.  I can already feel the stress bearing down on me--there are so many things to plan

Also, so many pounds to lose.  I've been "trying" to lose weight for awhile now--on August 4th, I joined a three month weight loss competition at my place of employment, and while I was trying, I wasn't really trying.  Now, aside from the $2,000 cash prize for first place (and not having to give up $100 of my hard earned cash), I have a new incentive: fitting into a wedding dress!

So far this week, I've walked over 6 miles (choosing to walk to work today), and I was sick on Monday.  So, I'm hoping I can stick with it, and shed all the pounds I've been meaning to by the big day... or the last fitting!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Decisions, Decisions...

I have a confession to make.  I think... maybe... I might be... indecisive.

To most who know me, this will come as quite a shock! Normally I am so assertive in what I want to do, where I want to go, etc. (Is the sarcasm font I downloaded working?)

Okay, so, this isn't exactly a new development.  Anyone who has ever asked me where I want to go to lunch has been invariably met with "I don't know, where do you want to go?" or some similar sort of sentiment.  Now, I have come to realize that this is pretty normal. Pretty much any time I ask a friend where he or she wants to dine, or what movie to see, I am met with 'I don't know, what do you want to eat/see/watch/etc.?'  This type of indecisiveness seems to derive from politeness.  When I say 'I don't know, what do you want?' I usually have a secret thing I actually want, but don't want to say I want, in case the other person doesn't want that or has a secret thing that they want that isn't what I suggest... And, I've been met with "That's what I wanted, too!" enough times to know that I'm not the only one who does this.

Sure, there are friends that are more assertive--they will tell you what they want, where they want to go, when they want to go, and often times why.  I'm not saying they're any less polite, they're just more assertive.  And, as my mom and dad always used to remind me: the squeaky wheel gets the oil.  I can't exactly be genuinely mad if someone asked me what I wanted to do, I said I didn't know or care, and then that person selects something I didn't want. I like my assertive friends, and I like my passive friends--though making decisions with assertive friends is always easier.

Anyway, it's become fairly obvious that this sort of indecisiveness is pretty normal, and appears to be socially driven.  We don't want to appear bossy or unwilling to compromise, so we offer the choice to someone else, and they, in turn, offer it to us, and we go round and round until we come to a mutually agreeable decision.

But, I have come to realize that my indecisiveness goes a lot deeper than that.  I came to this realization a long time ago, but recently it's felt more burdensome (or maybe it has gotten worse? I'm not sure).

A week ago yesterday, my boyfriend and I went to the South Los Angeles Animal Shelter because I saw a dog online that I thought I might want to adopt.  We ended up spending 2 hours there, while I tried to decide whether or not we should adopt this little dog.  At one point, he was ready to adopt her--and I held us back.  2 hours later, we eventually decided against it, and went home empty handed.  Yesterday, we were back at the shelter, 30 minutes before it closed, looking at a different dog that we had seen the week prior.  This time, we had her information at the counter, and were getting ready to pay, before I decided I was just too unsure.

I kept thinking about money, about whether our existing pup would have his feelings hurt, about whether they would get along, what if she is mean to Cash when he is having a seizure, in general: what if it didn't work?  The questions were endless, and we ended up walking away empty handed again.

But, that's okay, right?  This is a big decision--a 10 year commitment, at the least.  So, of course I would be indecisive.  So many people would be--fair enough.

For dinner after we got back to the shelter, we ended up trying a burger restaurant around the corner from us called The Counter. They have pre-designed burgers, but they also have a little form where you can choose your own burger! You can choose the bun, meat, sauces, sides, toppings, etc. And, oh! What choices there are! (see photo below).

The myriad of choices at The Counter

It took me a good 10 minutes longer to decide what burger I wanted than it took my boyfriend, and in the end, I was much less adventurous in my burger choice than he was (he chose a burger with feta cheese, apricot sauce and crushed peanuts--while I chose a burger with honey dijon sauce, mozzarella, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, and a side of grilled pineapple).  I've always known I was indecisive--but that perspective, sitting at The Counter, feeling utterly overwhelmed by decisions about a burger, is when I knew that it's probably a little lot more serious than casual indecisiveness.  It's a burger.  And I couldn't decide what I wanted on it.  I could not throw caution to the wind and get ginger sesame dressing with carrots and grilled pineapple.  And you know?  That kind of upset me.  I feel like my indecisiveness has come to a point where it actively interferes with how I live my life.

A few weeks ago, I had to make another decision--and the process left me so completely exhausted that I curled up and slept on the passenger's seat on the way home.  And I ended up changing my mind, and we had to go back and go through everything again.

I know that my indecisiveness is definitely linked to other parts of my personality.  For instance, I can see how it closely relates to my incessant need to plan everything.  I am not spontaneous in the least, and I like to have a plan for everything (including time of departure, arrival, and some general idea of who will be there, what will happen while I am there, etc.).  I can't just randomly go to a friend's house, unless I prepare myself for at least 24 hours (though I would prefer a few days to a week, so I can plan everything around it).  I also know that this need for planning everything, is at least partially related to the fact that I am an Introvert, and being around people for long periods of times depletes my energy, and I need time to recharge.

But, my indecisiveness has gotten to a point where it is frequently exhausting.  Knowing where I got it from doesn't help matters any, either. (Hi, Mom!).  In some ways I feel like it has grown into this nebulous entity that I can't control, and which will continue to affect me in unknown and surprising (usually not good) ways. 

When people consider a decision, they probably consider a few factors--most people, anyway.  I'm sure there are people who just decide and worry about the factors later.  But, when I make a decision--any decision (see Cheeseburger story above for reference)--I think about so many factors that I can't even list or control them all.  And then I think of consequences of that decision.

For instance: Do I want red relish on my burger as a sauce?  What if I don't like it, as I have never tried it before?  What if it is too pickly, or too ketchupy, or just gross in general? If they put it on my burger and I don't like it, then I will have a burger I can't even eat. If I scrape it off of the burger, will I still be able to taste it? I want to have a burger I enjoy, and I don't know how I would like any of these odd toppings on a burger, so I don't know what to do.

Etc., etc., etc. etc., etc., etc.

Nowhere in my thought process do I stop to think that it is just a burger, and if I didn't like it, they'd probably let me get something else (or if that thought did cross my mind, a whole new set of stream-of-consciousness worries/questions would come with it). And, while the burger analogy is just a small sampling of what I deal with (imagine big decisions), I am constantly worried about making the wrong decision, which usually leads me to make a safe decision, or worse, to make no decision at all.

(For decisions not related specifically to things that will only affect me, I have other questions I consider: What will _____ think? (usually family, friends, parents, etc.) How will _____ act if I choose this?  What if _____ doesn't want Mexican food?)

Sometimes, I'm able to make decisions fairly easily--but more often than not, I'm stuck hemming and hawing about what I want to do/eat/see/watch/be/learn/know. 

While certain parts of this are funny--yes, many who know me are shaking their heads and saying 'Oh, Natalie, you're so indecisive,' and sure, it's funny to watch me not be able to decide what flavor ice cream I want... there are other aspects of this that are really scary, and real, and harmful. Sometimes, not just to me.

And, the thing is, I have no idea how to fix it.  How do I, after 27 years of shying away from decisions, do I suddenly learn how to become decisive about little things, about big things, and how do I teach myself to not always make the safe decision?

As with most things, I think I'll try to start small-- I'll choose toppings on a burger, or ice cream, and I'll try to do it without considering the [seemingly endless] consequences.  If I can master that, or at least get better at that, maybe I will try to make unsafe decisions--choose weird toppings, and hope for the best.  Realize that it's just a burger, and just $9, and not the end of the world.

Maybe someday I'll make it to big decisions.  Maybe...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Exercise is Hard

Exercise is hard.  And, of course, I mean that literally--it is literally hard to do the things you are doing for a prolonged period of time when you are exercising.  But, I also mean that mentally--perhaps even more so.

It is so hard to get out of your warm bed when that alarm goes off no matter what you're doing, but it is especially hard when you are losing precious sleep to exercise of all things.  You would think that it would be easier to get out of your warm bed in the summer, when it's 82 degrees outside, your apartment faces the sun, there are no trees in front of your place, and no air conditioning in your bedroom, but somehow, it's not.  It is just as hard to drag myself out of bed, get ready, take Cash for a walk, and then drive my lazy ass to the gym, park, and walk into the gym in summer as it is in fall and winter.

It's rough.  So, I got my gym membership last February.  No, the February before that--February 2013.  And I, like everyone else, when they join a gym, convinced myself that I would totally use it. I would definitely take advantage of all the group fitness classes! Of course I would. Fast forward nearly a year and a half, and let me tell you: that is not the case. While I have been to two fitness classes (read about that here), I have not taken advantage of the multitudinous unique classes my gym offers.

So, why haven't I quit?  Well, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that hope springs eternal.  Also, because of this (if you're on your phone and it won't link it's "I want to quit the gym" from Friends): 

So, I never quit the gym.  Instead, I've been paying my monthly fee, and many nights I go to bed with the thought 'tomorrow' running through my head, promising myself that tomorrow will be the day. The day I use the gym!  Of course, it never is.

This past week, however, I finally started going to some classes that I've always wanted to try.  While I am limited in the ones I can attend (I can't get there at 6:45am, and I can't go at 6:45pm because of work), I have finally started going.

My [gym provided] Yoga Mat for Ashtanga
Saturday, I attended Power Yoga at 12pm.  This is a 90 minute class billed as good for 'all fitness levels.'  I lasted the entire 90 minutes, so I know that must be true.  But, it was hard.  This wasn't just stretching yoga.  This was power yoga, and I was super sweaty and sore by the time the class was over.  But, I also found out that I really love it.  It was basically the antithesis of my Spin Class experience (again, here), where I didn't stare longingly outside of the classroom wishing I was anywhere but where I was.  In fact, I didn't even look at the clock ONCE during the entire 90 minutes. I really enjoyed pushing my body, and even though I am sure I looked ridiculous doing some of the poses, I am so glad that I went. I know I'll definitely be back to a yoga class at my gym.  Maybe I'll even join a yoga studio, who knows! For my first class in Yoga since my Sophomore year in college, I think I did pretty well!

Mat & tools for Barre Assets class
Tuesday, I attended Barre Assets (which several people called 'bare assets,' but it's actually 'Bar'), and this was a nice little mix of aerobic activity and light weight training coupled with bar work (think plea, etc.).  I liked it, and I only looked at the clock once.  I am finding that how many times I look at the clock during a fitness class has a direct correlation with how much I enjoy the class.  After class, I stayed for a little cardio in the Zumba class right after Barre Assets.  I had been to Zumba before, and it's pretty fun.  So, each class was a 60 minute class, so I spent 2 hours at the gym for the first time since I'm guessing college.

Thursday, I went to Barre Assets, with a different instructor who was a sub. It was good, and we did a few different things than we did on Tuesday, but overall I enjoyed the other instructor more. 

Surfset Board
Then, since I was already at the gym, I went ahead and stayed for H2-OM, which is an integrated yoga class where you do some floor work, but then you also do some work on the 'surfset,' which is basically a mock surfboard.  This class was only 45 minutes, but it was such a good mix of floor work and work on the surfboard.  The surfboard (which is basically set up on three balls and strapped down--see below for a picture from the side) is pretty hard to balance on (at least for someone like me who hasn't done yoga since college), so you really had to concentrate on tightening all the muscles in your body in order to stabilize yourself.  The instructor for this class was pretty great, because he kept repeating that we should go at our own paces, and sometimes while people were doing crazy stuff on the board, I was just trying to balance myself (even so, I could feel all of my muscles burning with the effort).  I think this is a class I would definitely like to try again.  I'd like to see myself become fully stabilized on the board and able to stop wobbling.

Surfset from the side.

Now that I've gone to a few classes, a bit of the nervousness and apprehension has worn off, and I will continue to drag myself out of bed to partake in group fitness merriment (or torture?).

Has anyone out there tried any unique fitness classes?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Woman's World

Mansplain: a term used to describe the act of men "teaching women," often about things directly related to women's experiences (like sexism, or abortion) without any recognition of (or interest in) the woman's actual knowledge of the topic. 

Mansplain has many definitions, but this one is my favorite, I think, because it hits all the major points without being extraordinarily broad.  If you look at the Urban Dictionary definitions of 'mansplain,' it becomes clear what, precisely, mansplaining is, as [presumably] men have taken it upon themselves to create their own definitions of 'mansplaining.'  It is, they explain, "stating verifiable facts that are inconvenient to the feminist worldview."  But, that's not what it is.  It is many things, but it is certainly when men tell women how women experience things or the world.  Most women have encountered this phenomenon at one time or another, whether in person or on the internet.

Recently, I had a bit of this happen to me during a discussion, and it was endlessly frustrating. As individuals, we cannot say what it is like to live in the world as someone other than us. We all have our own individual thoughts, experiences, voices, etc. that set us apart--that keep us from experiencing any event, good or bad, the same way.  But, even more than that, we cannot say what it is like to live in the world as a member of an oppressed class, the lower part of a dichotomy equation.  As a white woman, I cannot say what it is like to be a black woman.  And as any man, you cannot tell me what it is like to be a woman.

During the course of this conversation (which was actually fun to have, I don't really partake in face to face debate since leaving college), it became painfully clear to me that a lot of men (I'm not willing to say most, but a lot of men) have actually little to no idea what it is actually like to be a woman in America. Since America is my primary country of residence, that's what I'm choosing to focus on, though it can certainly be said that these problems and fears are felt by varying degrees by women around the world in both developed and undeveloped countries.

There is, of course, the larger picture of sexism--of being passed over for a position because you are a female--a thing which you have often suspected but actually can't confirm.  There's the staggering statistic that over the course of her lifetime, women make approximately $450,000 less than male counterparts presumably in the same position.

Mansplainers across the internet and indeed in real life (as I am told everyone on the internet actually exists in real life, though I am often reluctant to believe it because how sad) will say that this pay gap discrepancy is because women choose different careers--instead of choosing to be a doctor, they choose to be a nurse.  Instead of choosing to be a school administrator, they choose to teach.  However, let me be clear that when you make this argument (and ones like it), you are completely and totally ignoring the underpinning of the actual issue--you are simply saying that women choose these careers, and you are ignoring the why.  The why do women choose these careers? is actually the most significant part.  And many say because women are nurturing, and these same people ignore the fact that women are taught by society from a very, very early age that these are the careers they should aspire to.

Only recently has this started to shift--before, women were nurses, men were doctors. And if you think that this history, and the way that society engenders women from the moment they are born has nothing to do with this, you are dead wrong.

Anyway--yes, there are these large things that I could write about all day that men will never understand. But, there is also the small stuff, which is actually what I want to focus on.  

It has become increasingly clear that men--even nice, respectful men--when a woman says to them that she shouldn't have to worry about x, y, or z (say, how she's dressed for instance) will agree.  These men will say 'Yes, I agree, they shouldn't have to...' (ladies, you know what's coming next) "But that's the world we live in." (or some other platitude that sounds very similar).  And how nice that you, man, are using the Royal We, but I have to break it down for you and say, quite simply, no. That is not the world that "we" live in.  That is the world women live in.  Not men. You have your own little world that you live in, where you can say "Yes, I agree, she shouldn't have to," and then walk to your car alone at night in a safe neighborhood without even thinking twice.  Sorry, but WE, as women, do NOT live in that same world.  And that is why we find the notion that it's 'just the way it is' so damn infuriating. It's so passive... and also, so inaccurate.

The world WE live in as women is why we are so damn tired of you telling us that we need to watch what we wear, because that's just the world.  It is NOT just the world.  It is MEN in the world, and it is the society that produces the MEN in the world. And we have to worry about things you've never even thought of.

Men, there are a million things you take for granted--things you do without even thinking twice, and the really amazing thing for you is that you get to do that. The truth is this: women don't.

As a woman, I have my own experiences which I will share--but, I took to social media to ask other women about their own experiences, and I would urge you to read them--they are collected from women across the United States, and there are many repeats on the list as well, meaning many women expressed concern about the same mundane things, though each is only reproduced here once.

These are all simple things--things that most men can do confidently in a neighborhood or city that is deemed as 'safe.'  (Please note, I'm not talking about walking around in an unsafe neighborhood--these are fears women feel in areas that are considered safe by normal standards). These fears were submitted by young and older women alike.

-Order a pizza/take out food.
-Get in an elevator, particularly if there is a man in the elevator.
-Take a taxi or other rideshare service.
-Sell a bookcase/anything on Craigslist.
-Going for a walk/run on the streets alone during the day.
-Going for a walk/run on the streets alone during the night.
-Hiking alone (day or night).
-Going to the laundromat in broad daylight.
-Going to the laundromat at night.
-Camping alone.
-Backpacking alone.
-Wearing heels where you'll be walking alone.
-Checking into a hotel room alone.
-Walking through a suburban park when it's not broad daylight.
-Going to the dump.
-Taking trash to the dumpster.
-Going to a gas station at night.
-Downtown Los Angeles at night.
-Parking garage at any time of day, especially at night.
-Going to the grocery store at night.
-Walking a dog at night/evening/morning.
-Taking public transportation (bus, metro, subway).
-Walking along a nature path 1/2 mile from your own home, without a male.
-Going to the gym at night.
-Leaving doors unlocked ever.
-Having windows open.
-Leaving the blinds up.
-Driving a car with the doors unlocked.
-Driving a car with the windows rolled down.
-Walking home from work.
-Answering the door.
-Coming home at night to an empty house.
-Riding a bike anywhere.
-Not being able to find your keys right away.
-Saying 'no' when asked for your number at a bar, bookstore, restaurant, etc.
-Going anywhere alone.

This is by no means a comprehensive list. There are thousands of small things that women fear because of what could happen to them.

And, if you're going to say or thinking that everyone should be careful, and everyone has to worry about these things, not just women, let me just stop you right there and say: you're kind of actually missing the whole point.

We can't stand up for things we believe in--someone I know from college witnessed a violent man beating his dogs, and being without her cell phone, she was unable to do anything to stop it.

Beyond these fears, there are stories--there are little things that we all do, as women, to make ourselves feel more comfortable.

When we order pizza, we turn on a sports channel--we put our husband's/boyfriend's/male shoes on the porch.  We turn the bedroom light on and yell, "Pizza's here!" to an empty apartment, so that the pizza delivery man won't think we are home alone.

So we don't have to come home to an empty house, we stay barricaded in our homes so that we don't have to leave and come back to an empty house, where a guy might have figured that out.

When there is a knock at the door, and we're home alone (sometimes even if we're not), we won't answer. Not because we're annoyed or frustrated that we are being bothered by evangelists or a salesperson, but because we are afraid of what might happen to us if we open the door.

When someone asks us for our phone number, we invent a boyfriend, even if he doesn't exist. Or, we give a fake number--or, we give a bastardized version of our own phone number that we memorized so we don't have to be caught off guard.  (Do you understand that many of us often do not even feel safe to offer a simple 'no' when a man asks for our phone number?)

When we are driving home, we constantly check the rear-view mirror to see if anyone is following us, and if we even think that they might be, we continue driving around until the person turns or goes past us.

The moment we get in our cars when we are by ourselves, we lock the doors. We don't 'dilly dally' in the car, texting friends, or checking facebook. Instead, we immediately start our car and drive, aware that we may simply be a 'sitting duck.'

We live in fear that someone will learn our route home from work, so we drive, and sometimes we take different routes, and drive extra slowly or leave work a little earlier or later, so that no one can define a clear 'routine.'

We sleep in tennis shoes, in case we need to run or kick--so we won't have to do it in our bare feet.

We avoid eye contact during public transportation, we park under lights, we have an escape route, or an exit plan, or a plan for if someone breaks in.  We consider putting locks on our closet doors and charging our phone near the closet, in case we need to get in there and create an extra barrier of protection.

We look over our shoulders in supermarkets, retail stores, malls, restaurants, making sure no one is following us, and if we think they are, we wait until we think that they're not anymore, and when we walk to our car, we use extreme caution.

These are all real things that only a handful of women do, or have done--there are more.  There are so many more.

So, pardon us if we don't think that "It's the world WE live in" is an appropriate response, excuse, platitude, or way of thinking.  It isn't.

This book is recommended to us by the women's magazines we read: The Gift of Fear - a copy sits on my bookshelf.  Articles in magazines tell us how to safely travel alone, if we must, because women who travel alone are often a target.

We carry pepper spray on our keys. We carry The Cat. We carry every warning everyone has ever given us, and they all run through our minds when we are walking to our car. It's exhausting.

The 'personal alarm' is a product on Target Shelves, and all three brands have a woman on the front: 

Personal Alarm
And you wonder why we are not appeased with or resigned to the notion that "this is the world we live in."

It's because this is the world we live in.

When I moved into my first apartment with an elevator, my mother took great care to explain to me that if a man got on the elevator with me, I was to pretend I forgot something, and step off.  I was never to, under any circumstances, ride the elevator with the man.  I ended up always taking the stairs, but this advice stays with me now, and even at work I feel a little panicky when I am stuck alone on an elevator with a male. 

My mother has never ordered a pizza--and my dad picks up the phone any time he wants one.

Society teaches women that they should be polite--that they should let a guy down easy, that they shouldn't be rude, or profile.  Society teaches us that we shouldn't trust our instincts, and women get killed for being polite, for NOT stepping out of the elevator she was riding alone when a man stepped on, lest she hurt his feelings.  

And then that very same society raises men who think they have a right to our bodies, and other men who agree that it's "so sad" but "that's the world we live in." And men who question why we want 'herstory' and 'womyn,' because they don't realize that going out into the world is such a scary thing that we have to face every day, and that we sometimes have to rely on other people for our safety--whether it's a companion, husband, friend, father, or whether it's simply relying on someone else NOT to hurt us (which is never a guarantee).

It's the world we, as women, live in.  And pardon us if our 'F' word is showing, and so sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, but you don't get to mansplain feminism to us, and you don't get to tell us about the world we live in.  Because we're here. Every day--that list up there, that's our lives.  And that's not just the world we live in--it's the world that was created.

And it's the world that will someday be destroyed by that pesky little F word and every single person who doesn't just lament 'it is what it is.'  Because, that's only true until it isn't.

*Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their stories with me, it is much appreciated.