What would you tell a younger you?

cafe con leche 2

I still remember the first time I heard pop singer Pink’s song, “Conversations with my thirteen year old self.” At the time, I thought how utterly wonderful it would be to regress in time and warn a younger me of all that lay ahead, to insist I do certain things, to behave or not behave in a particular way.

Yes, life would be easier if we knew what lay ahead, if we knew which decisions would result in hardships and struggles. Yet even while this is not possible, I still find it useful to contemplate how I would be better prepared to steer the course of my life if I knew what lay ahead. I find it’s still therapeutic to think of the things I’ve done and shouldn’t have or the things I didn’t do and should have done. Because even though I cannot change the events that have taken place in my life, I can still identify lessons learned.

I pondered this as I drank my second cup of cafe con leche this morning. As I sat, soaking up the early morning sun at an outdoor cafe, I overheard an angry exchange between a mother and an adolescent girl over her appearance. While the mother desperately tried to convince her child that she looked fine in her swim suit, the girl insisted that she would not take her shirt off at the beach and “expose the public to her fat rolls.”

As I listened to her words, I regressed in time. I easily retrieved a mental picture of myself at thirteen. I remembered how difficult it was to feel good about myself, how I struggled to accept myself. At the time, the opinion of others mattered so much. My decisions revolved around what others thought, said, or demanded. The media ruled how I felt about my body, my person, my self. Comments from friends and family dictated my mood and self worth. Magazines told me what I should wear, weigh, and eat. It was excruciatingly difficult to know who I was, to become acquainted with the real me with so many voices telling me who I should be, what I should do, and how I should act.

Yes, life would have been so much simpler if I had been able to warn myself that the opinions of others would not define me, that it wouldn’t be necessary to seek validation, acceptance or approval. That I and I alone would determine my worth and what others thought of me would not serve as a compass in my journey of self discovery.

If I could go back in time, I would tell my thirteen year old self that physicality alone should not define my essence. That I am so much more than a face, a body, a size. I would insist I follow my heart but only after weighing the consequences of my actions. I would affirm that while dreaming allows me to envision possibilities, realism provides the wisdom to know when to walk away and when to scrap what doesn’t work and start fresh.

I would encourage a younger me to not expend energy on other people’s problems, to stay away from toxic folk, and abstain from meeting the expectations of others. Given the possibility to regress in time, I would shake the adolescent me, hard, and say that no matter what anyone says, I am destined to become a phenomenal woman.

Sisters, today when you look in the mirror or catch a glimpse of your reflection, smile at yourself and say, I am beautiful. I am unique. There is no one else like me.

Because it is every woman’s destiny to breathe, feel, and experience joy. But alas, this is only possible when we believe in ourselves, when we believe we have what it takes to do whatever we want to do.

Let us learn to love ourselves unconditionally and without reserve.

Watching the tears trickling down that angry teen’s face this morning, I was reminded of how easy it is to hold ourselves hostage, to deprive ourselves of feeling joy, to sabotage our right to be happy.

And while it may not be possible to warn our thirteen year old self, we can still move forward, secure in the knowledge that we are phenomenal women.

Each and every one of us.

Yes, ladies, we are phenomenal women meant to shake our hips without reserve, hold our heads high, and laugh heartily with every step we take.

What would you tell your thirteen year old self?

Are you still awake?


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by jenny downing

Last night, as I wobbled like a Weeble Wobble to the kitchen, the phone rang.

Glancing at the clock, I realized it was a little after midnight.

I had barely croaked a hoarse “hello” when screeches at inhuman decibels hit my ears.

“Are you awake? Tell me you’re awake cause nowadays with you, I never know. Bears in hibernation sleep less than you, Bella. Anyway, pull up a chair. This is going to take a while.”

Carefully replacing the moka pot in the cabinet, I reached for the leftover dinner wine. Something told me coffee wasn’t going to cut if for tonight’s tête-à-tête.

“Do you remember Diane, the woman who’s married to Henry, my next door neighbor’s son? You know, the one who was fat as a house? And notice how I say was and not is. I saw her this morning and I didn’t recognize her. The woman is 200 pounds thinner!”

I slowly inhaled what was left of the dinner wine’s bouquet.

“Turns out she had gastric bypass surgery. She tells me she’s been sick as a dog for the past three months but with all the weight she lost, who cares? And if the weight loss wasn’t enough, the bitch went and got a tummy tuck to get rid of the leftover skin. A tummy tuck! Do you know how long you and I have dreamed of getting one of those babies? But have we? No. And why not? Cause all of our money goes into paying for these kids’ education, that’s why!”

I took a long sip and let my head roll back.

“And for what, Bella? For what? Your kid still is still a work in progress and my two have been working toward a Bachelor’s Degree for the past six years. What a waste of money! We could have spent that cash in getting our stomachs stapled. And with what we’ve spent on books and other incidentals, we would have had enough for a tummy tuck, liposuction in our jaw, an eye lift, and four Botox treatments!”

I turned my neck to the side and heard it crack loudly.

“We would be skinny minnies shopping for bikinis at Target. In size 0! No more being on the defensive and saying 0 is not a size, because it would be our size! We’d be a double 00, you and I! No more fat pants, tunics, or those nasty sweatpants you’re so prone to wearing. We’d be sporting skinny jeans, mini skirts, and thigh high boots! We’d be a force to be reckoned with. We’d look younger, taller, and skinny! S-K-I-N-N-Y!”

I took another sip of wine and wobbled back to the kitchen.

“If we had better invested our money, you wouldn’t have knee troubles from being overweight and I wouldn’t have a double chin I have to hide with scarves in the summer and turtlenecks in the winter. We’d teeter on high heels, buy skinny lattes at Starbucks, and count calories using an app. Instead, those universities where our kids say they go to study are sucking what’s left of our meager savings dry. At this point, we’ll be lucky if we avoid living out the rest of our days in one of those nursing homes where they beat the elderly and starve them to death!”

I slowly moved the items in the kitchen cabinet, searching for a box of Carr’s crackers.

“Mom is right, you know. We’re a pair of enablers. Not only have those kids taken all our money, they’ve also done away with our taut stomachs, firm boobs, and perky derrieres. I never recovered from that 13 stitch episiotomy, you know. I go one day without consuming fiber and all hell breaks loose. You can hear my screams in the next county. And you, don’t get me started on how your desire to breastfeed left your girls, Thelma and Louise! One more month of breastfeeding the Son, and you’d be dragging them on the floor!

I rummaged in the refrigerator and searched for the brie.

“I wish I hadn’t seen that woman today. She’s the reason for this rant. Her and her new flat stomach. She used to weigh more than I did, you know. It makes me want to cry. When I think of the money we’ve wasted on useless pursuits, I want to scream! Where did we go wrong? We made bad choices, plain and simple. I should never have gone to the club that night and met you know who and you should have joined the Peace Corps like you wanted to. Who knows, you might now be married to a doctor and I wouldn’t have to wait until they put the granny pants on clearance at Target.”

Not having found the brie, I made do with the remains of what I hoped was Cheez Whiz.

“We were destined for glory, you and I. Remember how I was in the top ten percentile in college? You spoke French like a native. Dear Lord, now look at us. I bet you’re drinking stale wine and spreading something moldy on a cracker, aren’t you?”

I tried to chew the saltine I had just spread with some sort of mystery cheese without making noise.

“It’s too late to do anything about it now. Our lives suck. This is our reality and we have to deal with it. You and I. We’re in this crap hole together. No one’s digging us out. We’re going to be stuck in here till we die. Or till they send a pair of burly orderlies from the nursing home where our kids are sticking us. Because that’s what awaits us down the line, sister. Me, a woman who should have been dressed in Prada, wearing a straight jacket and you, a woman who was going to write a best seller, singing ‘Old McDonald had a farm’. Dear God, why do you hate us so?”

I took a final sip of wine and placed the wine goblet on the kitchen counter.

“The sound of an empty wine goblet scratching the surface of your old kitchen counter. My cue to put the soap box back in the corner.”

Smiling, I answered, “Yep. Do you feel better?”

“Maybe a tad. Same time next week?”

“Absolutely.”

Click.

Who do you call when you need to vent?

Could this be the best kept secret?


cc licensed ( BY ND ) flickr photo shared by Skelekitten

Note: Be advised that this post deals with a subject of a sensitive nature.
Dear readers, please read at your discretion.

“I sat there and listened to him. I heard the group of men he was with laugh heartily. The only thing that kept me from outing him was her pleading look across the table. I was outraged, Bella. Disgusted. And to think this poor woman may not be alone; that other women might find themselves in this circumstance.

Ever since you were ten, I’ve heard you quote, ‘knowledge is power.” Well, don’t you want to know if this is the best kept secret in the world? Don’t you want to debunk the myth? Isn’t it, like you say, your ‘civic duty’ to create awareness?”

“Yes, but my readership is mainly composed of women.”

“So what? Don’t you think it will help women like Betty? Don’t you think it will help her feel better to know that she is not alone? That this has nothing to do with her?”

While I love to write what I hope are humorous posts, I also like to address subjects that I feel strongly about.

The introduction to this post is an excerpt of a conversation I had with my sister. She was recently invited to dinner at a friend’s house and had witnessed her friend’s husband joking with his friends over his frustration of “not getting any.”

Not only did my sister find his public disclosure of lack of intimacy with his wife distasteful, she also knew he was lying. A week before, her friend Betty had mentioned she hadn’t had sex with her husband in six months.

The reason? He wasn’t interested.

However, when in the company of other men, Betty’s husband had felt the need to make light of the situation and blame her for their non-existent sex life.

Sex starved women.

As a society, we’ve been conditioned to believe that men are always ready for sex; that testosterone drives them to have intercourse so they can reproduce, spread their seed, because it’s in their nature.

Boys will be boys.
He’s a man, for God’s sake.
Men just can’t help themselves.
Testosterone fuels their desire.

We hear this constantly.
Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with the notion that men are sex machines.

Yet my sister will attest to the fact that the group of women who sat huddled in Betty’s family room are of a different opinion.

Every one of them complained that their husbands always had an excuse for not having sex.

Yes, folks, for not having sex.

They were too tired.
Too stressed.
Worried about work.
Not in the mood.
Thought it was too much work.
Didn’t have the energy for it.

Healthy men.
Men who were not having affairs.
Men who were not suffering from depression.
Men who were not substituting sex with porn.
Men who were simply not interested in having sex with their wives.

The result?

Women who felt rejected.
Women who thought it was their fault.
Who thought that it was because they weren’t sexy enough.
Who thought they weren’t desirable.
Who thought it was because they’d gained weight, gotten older, gotten grayer.
Women who felt unworthy.
Women who were trapped in a relationship with a man who was nothing more than a roommate.

This post leads us to ask many questions.

Why do we continue to fall prey to the myth that men are the only ones who are sex starved?

What is causing men to lose interest in sex?

What compels men to lie about their lack of sexual libido?

How can women deal with the feelings of rejection and the insecurities that surface as a result of living in these circumstances?

Why isn’t this being discussed more openly?

Why is the only suggestion given, “talk to your husband” when clearly men do not want to discuss the issue?

Is partner celibacy more of a reality than we think it is?

Today’s post is meant to fuel conversation around these topics.
Intelligent and respectful feedback will not only help us discover possible answers, it will also help determine if Betty is alone in her predicament or if more women are also dealing with this problem.

Your input is most appreciated.
I have allowed for anonymous comments on this post so those who wish to share their thoughts but not their identity can participate.
Please note that I reserve the right to delete any comment I feel is not relevant to the discussion.

What say you, friends?

XOXO,

Names have been changed to protect the innocent.