Author of Breasts Don't Lie

Posts tagged ‘beauty’

Words for Int’l Women’s Day

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I didn’t know what the term meant – I don’t say things like that.

As most of my friends and colleagues and a few attorneys know, I have been stalked, my car and home vandalized, and my professional reputation threatened for a year by a mentally unhinged person. During that time, I walked a tightrope between creating more distress for the person’s family on one side and ignoring my safety on the other side. With this current act of name-calling, I am done being quiet.

There is something horrific about a woman commenting on another woman’s appearance in a way to shame her or cause her pain.

I’ll be sixty in a couple of years and with it has come some hard knocks leading to episodic wisdom.

I’ve lived through ballet auditions where I didn’t make it through the first rounds because they were ‘looking for a particular body type.’ Balanchine wanted his dancers to be ‘like racehorses, rail thin, beautiful, and not bright.’ No one cared how I danced.

Nevertheless, I modeled my way through college being a consistent size 8. Patterns were cut to this size in the 70s and 80s. I can’t take kudos for the size 8 body; it’s the family bone structure and genetics.

My first husband made comments about my looks, my weight, and my height. You can’t change some of these characteristics. They are genetic, predetermined, or out of your control. I will never forget the day I said to that husband, “I’m a size 8. Get over it. Not a size 4. Not going to happen.” And I returned to my graduate school studies. He remarried and described his wife as “young, beautiful, and stylish.” Good grief. She can’t stay that way forever. He can’t either.

I’ve had dates where I knew the men were not into my appearance. “But that body,” they would say. Yeah, I’m a little more than that. We are entitled to preferences but beyond 30, people, this life, my body comes with an expiration date. Go away and grow up.

I’ve lost jobs or not received a second interview because I look too old – employers can’t ask your age, but they figure it out. Ageism. Or maybe I did not fulfill their appearance requirement. Still illegal and still hard to prove but you know it when you are on the receiving end.

My wrinkles and the knowledge in my eyes are hard won – living, loving, making mistakes, grieving, being a friend – it is all there on my face and body. I don’t look, act, sound, think, or believe in the same ways of earlier decades. To do so would be a nullification of who I am, my genetics, my values, and every experience that I have lived through. I will not do that to myself. Or to another female. Or male.

So, to the woman who calls me BUTTERFACE, I am sorry for the time, and it will happen, when someone makes a derogatory remark about your appearance. By then, I hope you will have learned the self-acceptance to shrug it off.

Half Waxed

waxblog

Over a decade ago, swayed by peer pressure, I tried bikini waxing for the first time. My friend warned me to go to a salon for the service. Being cheap and overestimating my smarts, I thought I would try it at home.

“Do you think that’s wise?” she said.

“Can’t be that difficult. They sell kits at the drug store,” I said blithely.

Bad, very bad idea. The drug store and their waxing kits lied.  I have managed to give myself a concussion and melt my underwear to the left side of my crotch. Here’s my story:

After perusing the personal products aisle of the drug store for an hour, I went to the counter for some help.  “What product would you suggest for home waxing?”

The woman’s penciled eyebrows lifted three inches.  “How much pain can you endure?”  That’s such a bad question.

“Uh, I’m not a total wimp”.  Then a client beeped me.  So I may have missed some vital information.  The phone call took some time and when it was finished, the woman was helping other customers – customers who were buying gum, newspapers, and magazines.  No waxing products.  So off to the personal products aisle again.  I picked up the most expensive waxing kit thinking this is no time to skimp.

Following the kit’s instructions, I laid out a brownie pan, plastic gloves, the block of wax, scissors, a wooden spoon, two ice packs and my contribution to the process, a small glass of Scotch for the pain.  Some of the instructions were baffling.  I put on a favorite pair of green bikinis because I wanted a clean line for the finished product.  (Note to anyone — never wear polyester undies while waxing – the reason will become apparent later).  As directed, I melted the wax in the brownie pan using the wooden spoon.  The dogs laid their heads to one side before starting a low baying sound.  I poured some wax on the right side of my crotch and then on the left side before the pain registered.  I screamed.  The animals jumped back barking.  (Another note to anyone — always test the temperature of the wax before applying.)

From pubic bone to mid thigh was bright red. There was an interesting smell.  My skin was disintegrating.  One layer of skin, maybe two.  Definitely first degree burns.  Hoping to avoid the second degree blistering, I quickly yanked off the wax from the right side.  Immediately I passed out from the pain.  The best I can tell, I hit my head on the counter on the way down.  I woke into painful consciousness, stars buzzing around my head like in a Looney Tunes Cartoon, lying curled in the fetal position on the kitchen floor.  The two dogs and the cat were looking at me with these quizzical expressions of “should we eat her now?”

By that time, the underwear on my left side had melted to my crotch.  (Polyester melts in hot wax — very important note.)  Holding the counter for support, I got myself upright and chugged the glass of Scotch with two aspirin from the junk drawer. I corralled the animals, shoved them into the utility room, and closed the door.  Taking a deep breath, I yanked at the strip of wax on my left side of my crotch.  Off came a good inch of skin and melted undies.  I quickly found the ice pack and applied it while jumping around the kitchen.  The room was dark and hopefully the neighbors had not seen my personal auto-da-fe.  Now, what do I do?  The choices were dire.

First, I assessed the situation.  The right side of my crotch was a bright red field of blisters with small patches of scorched earth.  The left side looked worse.  One inch was oozing blood like partially defrosted hamburger.  A good four inches was covered with hard wax and melted spring green undies.

Second, I outlined my three options.  I could continue to self-mutilate my crotch by tearing off the fricassee of wax, undies, skin, and connective tissue.  I’m not sure I had the fortitude for such an option.  I could call Barbara and after she stopped laughing, she could help we with the left side.  This could be embarrassing as I conjured up the image of us tugging at my crotch.  That left option number three.  I could cut off as much of the melted wax – undies – skin – connective tissue combo as possible with my old dissecting scissors, apply burn balm, and cover the wound with a dressing then go to bed.

I picked option number three, bandaged myself, and phoned my friend.

“My crotch is toast.”

“We must have a bad connection. You’re eating toast? What about your crotch?”

“No. No. In the process of home waxing I learned some important life lessons.”

“Okay, I’ll bite. What did you learn?”

“Waxing is rocket science and should be left to the professionals. And. One should never wax with animals nearby.”

“Did they bite?”

“No but I think they were trying to decide if I was dead. Oh and never, ever overheat your polyester undies.  They will melt.”

“Should I call the paramedics?”

“Nah. Off to apply more ice. Stop laughing.  It’s not funny.”

“You’re a mess.” My friend hung up. I hear her laughter every time I shudder past the personal products aisle in a drug store.

 

Bad Hair Days

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I’ve had a two-year run of bad luck. Not horrific big bad luck but the kind of luck that wears away at you. I am the pebble in the middle of the roaring river eroding away into a mass of crankiness.

First there is my damnable car. Never ever buy a Fiat. Italian design does not make up for bad wiring and Hendricks Service Center. These people are incompetent. While the car does not meet the legal definition for a lemon, it makes my mouth pucker. I am on first name basis with a representative of Fiat who must regularly scour the FaceBook pages of all things Fiat for my posts.

“Emily, it’s me again.”

“Uh what’s the car doing?”

“Well, the engine shut off and I had it towed to Hendricks Fiat.”

An hour later, Emily called back. “They can’t find your car at Hendricks.”

She’s a nice young thing. I can hear her cringe over the phone when we talk. I don’t curse or yell but I am ready to drive the thing, I refuse to call it a car – that’s giving it too much credit, over a cliff.

Second, I have had a series of painful operations and medical procedures for the last eighteen months. I am not a ‘nice’ patient being the type who does extensive research beforehand. When I don’t understand something about my care, I ask for an explanation, throwing doctors’ schedules off. I will go and cry in a doctor’s waiting room alarming other patients if they ignore me. More effectively, I will write the NC Medical Board and call the insurance company when I receive substandard care. Probably wouldn’t want me as a patient either.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back, my back, was last week when my hair started falling out from all the stress. Really folks, I have chunks of hair saying ‘bye-bye’ to my scalp to clog my sink. I have learned to use a plumber’s snake. Fudsicles or other words. I’ve never had great hair except for 1998 and the first four months of this year. And today I am getting it cut off. Again.Whine, whine, whine.

This is sucky. I am in the pits except … I have friends. Wonderful crazy ass friends who commiserate and then don’t.

Friends who take me to the Angus Barn when I have two black eyes and a beard of bruises on my face. Parents covered their children’s faces as I approached. A 40ish man fell off his bar stool after one look at me. Not my problem.  I asked the waitress, “Do you have anything soft to eat?” It’s a steak and ribs place. “Can I have a straw for my Chardonnay?” My friends kept talking between my slurps of mashed potatoes and sips of wine. I guess he made it back on the bar stool. I felt Medusa powerful.

Friends who love me no matter how silly and self-indulgent I am, for a little while. Friends who care take.

“Take your painkillers.”

“No I can tough it out.”

“Take them now you’re being a pain in the ass.”

I have the ability to work, not as much or as thoughtfully as I would like but still work. I found a voice, my medicated voice sort of like Freud or Sherlock Holmes. Ergo, a 430-page manuscript full of sex and violence written last year titled “50 Shades of Meow” meets “The Mummy.”

I have a sister who talks to me. Really. Lots of families don’t talk. We don’t agree on a lot but we are connected to each other.

I have a body that I am sure somehow, someday, will become pain-free and mobile again. Soon. Maybe not in the way or to the degree I wanted but good enough.

I had the opportunity to love something, dancing tango, for years with an obsession that was quite obsessive. Did you want to know about my collection of matching satin shoes and handbags for each of my tango dresses? No I didn’t think so. I learned there is an arc for loves, things, and events in this life. I am learning to let go.

Bad luck. I wouldn’t wish it on you but if you have a streak of it, you’ll reach deep down to find a way through and that I wouldn’t give up for all the good luck in the world. Bad luck taught me to know myself.  Count the blessings of friends. Laugh at myself. Stand up for myself. Love myself in all my crankiness. I don’t wish it for you but give me a call if it happens to you. I’ll listen to you whine then kick your ass into gear.

Off to get a really short haircut.

Weird Times

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I’m at this really weird time in my life – mid 50s where I am working as hard as possible but seeing opportunities land elsewhere. In younger people’s laps.

My friends are talking about retiring, counting down the days, and planning their last great adventure. About five years ago, I realized I would be working until I died. Through a couple of lousy turns of the luck and some bad planning on my part, I will never be able to retire. Not ever.

Being unable to see a retirement in my future has impacted most areas of my life freaking me out. How did this happen? How did I not notice? Maybe it is a combination of my friends being 5 to 10 years older and in the last of the pensioned jobs. Maybe it has to do with being single or the two major downturns, more like plummets, of the stock market. Maybe it is a realization of the probability of being single when I die. Most likely the realization became embedded with fright after last year’s string of surgeries.

My friends are settling into their last homes and having what they consider safe adventures – cruises. Paying deposits for communities that allow you to move through ever increasing levels of care. I look at my townhouse and wonder how I will get up those steps in 15 years when my knees and hips give out. But who will give a mortgage to some one nearing retirement … So I have been told to plan for my infirmity. Like a good old codger, I have. Replacing the HVAC system. Replumbing. Changing out appliances. Getting stuff out of the attic and into easily accessible storage. Definitely must upgrade my refrigerator.

My 30-year yoga practice has changed. I said good-bye to the Level 2/3 classes, taking and teaching them. In class, it seems quite pig-headed to keep attempting something apt to hurt myself to appease my ego. But on interviews for yoga teaching jobs, employers do one of two things. They assume I want the gentle and restorative classes or I get pressured into those jobs.

I’m having to hunt down new doctors – my current doctors are retiring. I understand that my new doctors will be younger than me with little empathy for aging’s undeniable march. For example, my forty-year old orthopedist said, “You will never dance again.” I will dance tango again, even Lindy. Just watch me. “Wear sneakers 24/7.” Not bloody likely. I may lower my shoes’ heels from a 4” to 3” height but I will wear the handmade leather shoes from Italy with a tight skirt and fishnets.

I am the patient doctors keep badgering to schedule a colonoscopy, a skin cancer exam, but no one asks me about birth control or safe sex anymore. Maybe they think I’m too old to still be having sex.

Then there’s the men and dating.

No, I don’t want to go antiquing – never liked it so why should I like it now?

Yes, I do want to go for a hike at a decent pace.

No, I don’t want to have dinner at 5pm and go to sleep at 8pm.

Yes, I like to nap but I have liked to nap since I was 4.

No, I don’t want a sexless relationship. Sometimes it feels as if I have aged out of the sexually active category. I could stand naked by a motel with a sign reading, “The room is already paid for” and no one would take me up on the proposition.

Then there are the well-meaning people sending me articles to settle, for a man, any man who is breathing. No thank you. I deserve love as much as someone in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.

I am under pressure to go on that last great vacation. One doctor told me to do everything on my bucket list before 50 because after that I would need really, really good trip insurance. “All kinds of medical things happen.” Wow, groovy, I still plan to go to Argentina.

Maybe, quite possibly, I should replace the word ‘weird’ with ‘irritable.’ I am at this really irritable time in my life.

Nude Ice Dancing and Artistic Revelation

Skaters' Legs

It was another one of those days. I thought, “Don’t look below the neck.” So I kept my eyes raised. Then, as happened at the last photography shoot, my silly attempts at professionalism didn’t matter.

On this second shoot for “69 Scheimpflug Street” we had sinfully beautiful models. Models with bodies marked by the events of their lives. There was some initial embarrassment on my part, some hesitancy on theirs. After their shucking of clothes, everyone got down to the work. The images were strong and vibrant. The models did good.

At one point in the afternoon, we thought we had all the images needed. I looked at Andrew, the artist behind the camera. He said, “Let them go.” I stepped back to look at the totality of the couple. The camera kept clicking. Then the magic happened. The work became seriously luscious and sumptuously difficult eroticism. In these moments when playfulness showed up, the images became the fantasy we were hoping for. They captured a quality that can’t be planned. We were brilliant.

Looking over the images, I had to stop myself from crying – the models revealed themselves. Then we, the planners, got playful.

“It looks like they’re ice skating,” Andrew said.

“Yeah. I think he’s about to throw her in a triple Salchow,” I said.

“We photographed nude ice dancing,” he said.

“On a sofa,” I said with a snort.

We giggled. We Photoshopped ice skating boots onto the male model. We belly-laughed so much we came close to falling off our chairs.

I keep wondering how often do we get in our own way – out of a sense of professionalism, hesitancy, or embarrassment? Do we edit out the playfulness in our lives? Do we over-plan the fantasy out of our lives?

So I didn’t plan this weekend. Lots of things happened – some good, some trying. But the weekend felt organic. I had space to move and breathe. People called up with ideas. I called with ideas. I forgot my phone at times. Events, gatherings fell into place. Responsibilities got met. The weekend was lovely and relaxing. And full but not crazy full.

This Monday morning, I feel ready, peaceful, and a little luscious. This is not to say that we don’t need some planning.

More we need a sticky-note, “Allow for a little spontaneity. Make space for the unexpected. Give yourself enough time to look and live below the neck.”

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

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My body has thrown down the gauntlet. My thighs, hips and tummy are challenging me to grow up. I am fighting it the entire way.

I am pretty lucky. Through my teens and twenties, when I gained weight, the fat cells, like little mounds of dimpled orange skin, distributed themselves evenly over my body. I was pretty happy with my body. Okay dokey.

Hah. Until I hit 30. Then the dimples hit the fan. The fan directed them to my thighs.

“What the hell is this?” I said.

“Ah aging,” said my husband.

“No but it wasn’t there yesterday … “

“Yeah it was. Get over it. Let’s get brunch,” said my good chunk younger husband.

Still my butt was a rounded curve. My tummy was flat and firm – a six-pack when I was working out regularly.

Then I hit 40. My ass fell. Where did it go? It fell downward. Gravity took a bite. I asked an anesthesiologist for plastic surgeons about my flat butt. He looked at me.

“Not too bad. You’ve lost too much fat.”

“Huh?” I said. “I weigh the same as I did in high school.”

“You lost the fat pad at the top of your hips that keeps your butt high,” he said.

Good grief. Now I need a certain amount of fat to keep my butt in place. This is a bad joke.

I made peace with my thighs and butt. I decided ‘body peace’ beat becoming a gym bunny, perpetually obsessed with how I looked and unable to eat a Starbuck’s Morning Bun.

In my 50s, teaching 6 to 12 yoga classes a week kept me too busy to ruminate about my changing body. I would say to myself, “I am strong. My body is strong.” I learned to love my body. There’s nothing quite like wearing yoga clothes four or five times a week to get comfortable, even oblivious, to fat. I learned to love the different body shapes of the women and men in my classes.

Bodies became fantastic objects – I know we hate that word but the changes to my body feel less and more personal now. Bodies are capable of beautiful movements, showing our feelings, receiving information, and exchanging pleasure.

Two surgeries, four debridements, thirteen types of painkillers, and five months of antibiotics later, I am six months into a period of enforced rest with a prescription for minimal movement and medications that trigger sugar cravings. I have gained weight on my thighs, ass, and tummy. I have a fluffy tummy. Not flat. To add insult to injury, I have wavy arms. Ick. I had to reassess my self-concept.

“Crap,” I said to a friend.

“Crap yourself. You’re healing from the surgeries. Make peace with your body,” she said with an “I’m-not-putting-up-with-this” attitude.

We were perusing the Spanx aisle of the department store. “Aren’t these just light weight girdles?”

“Yep. I remember them from my teens,” she said.

“Holy crap. I remember my mom trying to get me to wear one. Fuck. I felt like a sausage with stuffing come out each end.”

“Well that sounds uncomfortable. Don’t buy one,” she said.

She’s so smart.

So I didn’t buy the Spanx girdle and the funny thing is, yesterday I picked up my body’s gauntlet.

As long as I am living, I will need to have a relationship with my tummy, hips, thighs, and arms – my body. In whatever shape they are. With however much I am fat or not fat. Dimpled thighs, flattened butt, fluffy tummy, and wavy arms, my whole body with its increase in fat, fat cells, cellulite, is mine. I own my shape.

You out there – I’m tossing you the gauntlet …

Passionate Fifties

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Aren’t these beautiful people? Isn’t it lovely to have models that are not in their teens or twenties? Or even thirties or forties? Aren’t they sexy?

Being mid fifties myself, I wanted this image to reflect the passion and tenderness of a couple in their 50s. The fifties. When you like a teenager, not one thing or another, not young or old but in the place where things, bodies, ideas, and values are changing.

The fifties, an age where sexuality and love have different meanings, different entanglements, and different responsibilities. We’ve lost by this point – more than a few ideals, some vitality, some abilities, and some innocence. We’ve lost people we love by choice or by death.

But what we’ve gained. We are learning to really love – our lives, our bodies, and connections to each other. The wrinkles and cellulite can’t overshadow what we gain from a loving life.

A week ago, I was talking on the phone with a friend about his phrase, “right now.” I got a tad cranky and flustered thinking, “right now, what’s this right now shit? Are you crossing out the future?”

With uncharacteristic tact, I gently probed. He was talking about staying in the present as a way he didn’t get ahead of himself; overwhelm the potential of a situation. Well that made sense.

Last weekend, I was talking to a girlfriend and bemoaning our physical changes. We laughed acknowledging our insight. Finally we were learning patience, just as we were moving closer to the endpoint of our lives than to the beginning. Life is full of ironies – they smack you in the face screaming, “Wake up.”

Last year, I thought that I had made peace with the idea that my love life was probably finished. Seeing an image like this one reminds me of everything I have to give to a lover – bound up in my wrinkled, dissembling, and experienced self. Looking at their joyous lust, I see their compassion for each other and themselves. At last.

So I am waking up with an urge to create the tender love, compassion, and lust of this image. A big thanks to the models for reminding me of this value.

(Image is from a collaboration of stories and photographs with Andre Giovina titled “69 Scheimpflug Street”)

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