16 July 2010

Body Image

I'm a women/gender studies minor. It had to come up eventually.

The topic of body image is a very popular one in the American culture today due to an increased awareness of eating disorders and general body dissatisfaction in women and men alike (though mostly in young white females). By now, we all know how ridiculous the media's "ideal" body is. We've seen the "life size" Barbie dolls that wouldn't be able to stand up on their own. We know about the wonders of Photoshop, and we've seen at least one video of how models are airbrushed to "perfection." We know the reality of teens suffering from anorexia and bulimia; we've seen pictures of the bones protruding from their bodies. And yet we still have this stubborn mental image of a perfect body: the tall, lean woman with perfect skin, long hair, and plump breasts. Not only is this the image of perfection, but it is also the image of beauty.

So what of the girls who don't identify with this image? They aren't tall, they aren't lean, and their skin is far from perfect. They come to see this image of beauty as the only one, and, if they don't look like the image, then they are not beautiful--they may even be ugly.

The biggest problem with this image is the weight of the "perfect" body. Models are almost always incredibly skinny; when was the last time you saw an ad with a fat person--or even a normal size person for that matter-advertising your favorite jeans, cereal, or makeup? Tune into any fashion show and you'll see it: unnaturally skinny women. So, if only tiny women are allowed to model popular--subjectively beautiful--clothing, then how can the rest of us possibly hope to achieve beauty if we weigh more than they do?

Yes, there has been much coverage, and backlash, on the modeling industry. People know about it. But simply knowing does not change this image of beauty that has been ingrained in our minds and in our culture so thoroughly that we can't even imagine a different kind of beauty. Consciously or not, women still compare themselves (and other women) to that image of perfection, as do men. I can't go a day without hearing someone belittle their body, saying "I'm too fat," "I eat too much," or even something like "I hate my body." Many times, I do this to myself. I know how damaging it is to my self-esteem, yet I continue to do it.

So how can we break free from this nasty image of perfection and the damaging self-criticism that comes from it? I can't pretend that I have an answer that would free our women from this media-driven image. Many are trying to change the image of beauty in our society by including a few "curvy" models to the lineup of skinny women. However, these women are scarce--the exception rather than the rule.

On a more personal level, I plan on changing my perspective. I have to stop belittling my body. It's my body, and I've just got to live with it (maybe even learn to love it). I am working out: not only to lose weight but to gain more energy and get stronger. I am trying to eat healthier foods with an understanding that it will help my body function better, which will in turn make me feel better.

I know that there is a long road ahead of me. I cannot change my entire way of thinking overnight. But, with a lot of work and willpower, along with a few inspirational women, I can change the way I think and feel about myself. Am I beautiful? Not yet. But I am trying.

07 July 2010

Not-So-Irrational Fear

On Sunday, July 4, 2010, at 10:40 in the morning, I was attacked outside of my home. I had been at my boyfriend's house, but I stopped in at my apartment before work to pick up a few things. Since I had to be at work at 11, I was in a hurry and wanted to park in the first spot that I saw, which happened to have a boy (about 11 or 12) sitting on a bike in it. I decided that it wouldn't be too much to ask to get the kid to move back up onto the sidewalk, so I pulled up next to the car in front of him, put on my turn signal, and honked my horn  at him. He didn't move, not even to look. The old man on the sidewalk saw me with my turn signal on and motioned to the boy to get out of the street. As the boy was moving, I slowly started to back into the spot, watching the boy carefully.

Once I was safely parked, I locked up the car and got out. As I shut the door behind me, I became aware of a blue car stopped in the middle of the road, facing the other direction. The man in the driver's seat started yelling at me almost as soon as my door shut. "That's my kid," he yelled. "What were you gonna do, just back up into him?" I assured the man that I had no intention of hitting the kid, but he got out of his car and continued yelling at me. Apparently, I was "getting smart" by telling him that the kid was safe, so he decided to put me in my place.

The man grabbed the side of my neck, and in an instant slammed my head against my driver's side window. Momentarily blacking out, I fell to the ground. Shocked and terrified, and already beginning to cry, I started to pick up my keys, sunglasses, and water bottle. However, he was not finished. He continued to yell at me as I picked myself up off the ground. When I got to my porch, crying and ready to call the police, he decided that he wasn't done with me. He yelled about vandalizing my car and then chased after me. Thankfully, I had already gotten the door unlocked. I got inside just in time, slamming the door behind me.

At this point, I was terrified. Crying and shaking all over, I called the police and then my mother. She quickly made a few calls, and my neighbor Tina came over to take care of me until the cop came. My father also called to make sure I was alright, and my boyfriend and future-mother-in-law came to get me. I told the police what I could, but since I was watching the kid so carefully, I couldn't describe the man or the car in much detail. I didn't get the license plate number. All I knew was that I had never seen the man before, so he probably doesn't live in the neighborhood.

Even though I knew that the cops probably wouldn't find anything, I took pictures of what happened. I photographed the bruise above my eye, the scratches on my neck and head, and the scrape on my hand. I took a picture of my car visor, which had been broken. The scratches on my window proved impossible to photograph. If he is ever caught, I have evidence of the attack.

But that can't make me feel safe. Ever since it happened, I have been stiff and sore, unable to move my muscles normally. I fear going out by myself, or even going home. Going out in public also unnerves me; there are so many people around that I feel out of control. Just in Wal Mart, I see many people that look like my attacker, which makes my heart beat faster and sends me into a panic. I can see how people suffer from terrible post traumatic stress disorder and how something like this can change a person's life. I am afraid for my safety and for my life, but I am also afraid that I won't be able to function normally in society. Fear can paralyze a person, sometimes for the rest of their life. I can only hope that this doesn't happen to me.

21 June 2010

Repeating Dreams

It seems that the dreams have been getting better. In the most recent choking dream, I was aware that I have a fear of choking, and so I tried to avoid it. Sometimes, the choking comes from bubble gum, which fills my mouth and throat no matter how many times I spit it out. In this dream, I was somehow aware that happens in most dreams. Instead of choking on the gum, I made a game out of it; every time I felt the gum filling my mouth, I would pick it out of my teeth and throw it at something or someone (which was surprisingly fun, considering I was stuck in a post-apocalyptic situation).

Later in the dream, I once again became aware of a loose tooth. Usually this is a stressful trigger for me, but the tooth, instead of falling to shards, came out all in one piece. It looked odd, considering they never come out whole, but I only looked at it for a moment and put it to the side. None of my other teeth became loose or fell to pieces. I moved on without worrying.

To me, this dream seems like a good omen. Perhaps the dreams will get better. Maybe I can have hope of waking up normally instead of terrified.

Or maybe the choking will change to something else, like drowning.

But let's remain optimistic.

16 June 2010

Fears, continued

The dreams are, once again, getting progressively worse. Now it is not the teeth, but the tongue. In the latest dream, my tongue repeatedly swelled to the point of blocking off my air supply, leaving me choking and panicked. I remember no reason for the swelling, no allergic reactions or bee stings. My tongue was not puffy and thick, as it should be, but it was thin and full of air and puss, like a disgusting balloon. I repeatedly tried to "pop" the tongue so I could breathe, but to no avail. It kept on re-inflating, blocking off my air and heightening my panic. When I woke up, I wasn't sure whether to be relieved that my teeth weren't falling out again or frightened that the choking is now caused by the tongue. I don't know what to expect, but I fear it nevertheless.

05 June 2010

Irrational Fear


A loose tooth is nothing out of the ordinary--for a child. For a twenty-year-old woman, however, it is a completely different story.

Once aware of the loose tooth, I wiggled it lightly to access the damage. Almost immediately, it fell out into my hand. But it didn't come out as a whole tooth you would give to the tooth fairy; it came out as a shard. I dropped the first piece and went back in for the second, which also broke into pieces. Not long after, I became aware of a second tooth as loose as the first. I tried to remove it quickly before it fell to pieces in my mouth.

I was too late. The pieces cluttered my mouth. It was all I could do to not cry as I spit the shards out.

I tried to put in an old retainer that I had gotten after I wore braces. The retainer worked well enough to keep my remaining teeth in place, but it soon made my mouth sore since I was not accustomed to wearing it. To lighten the pain, I pulled it out.

That was a mistake. A horrendous misery stabbed my jaws, which could no longer move properly. My mouth was open only a few centimeters, and it hurt to even try to open or close it. Instead of making my teeth straight, the retainer had worsened the alignment and gave me a painful overbite.

Now without the retainer, my mouth again began losing teeth. More and more became loose and fell to pieces, with no replacement teeth underneath to fill the gaping black holes.

Shards of my former teeth cluttered my mouth, breaking apart faster than I could spit them out. My mouth was in constant pain, and I was beginning to panic.

I was choking! I could no longer breathe through my mouth, and panic overruled my rational thoughts. I tried scooping the shards out of my mouth, but newly broken teeth quickly took their place. There was no way to remove all the pieces from my mouth.

I was choked by my own teeth. I am choked with this same dream--over and over again. And it is worse every time.

20 May 2010

The Ghost

Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, 
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before...

Has Lenore returned to me? Am I being haunted?

Am I going crazy?

How pompous are you that you could think that you have dreams that none before you have had? Are you that much higher than everyone else?

Everyone has experienced loss. You are not the first, and you are not the last. Every mortal being must have these feelings at some point or another. Life is not easy; it is littered with pain and loss.

But it is not all bad. There  are still moments of joy. A touch from a loved one, a laugh with a friend, the beauty of the endless sky. Pain fades. We meet new people. A passionate life is not one without joy. Find your passion. Live for it. Do not dwell on the past. Do not be afraid to love.

To love...again.

12 May 2010

Nice Day for a White Wedding

I am not a person that dreams of a perfect wedding day. In fact, with every wedding I attend, I become more and more sure that I do not want any part of a traditional wedding. First of all, I'm not religious--at all. Neither is my boyfriend. Why should we have to have a priest tell us we can be together? I don't want a sermon, even though we both have religious families. Religion is simply not a part of our lives, so why should it be a part of our marriage?

Now, I'm all about family get-togethers. But, when you have tons of people that you hardly recognize coming to your wedding, you have a problem. Most of those people are probably just there for the food/alcohol anyway, and will you ever see them again? There is no point in having hundreds of people come to see you get married when most of them probably don't even care about you.

The thing that bothers me the most about weddings is the tradition of the father giving away the bride. This tradition comes from the time when only men would discuss who got to marry who; a man would ask the father for permission to marry the daughter, and the father would deny or grant permission. This was essentially a trade (anyone remember the dowery?) between men--women were not involved in the business of marriage. Though women today usually have the power to choose their own mates (in the US anyway), we still have this tradition of the father giving away the bride. I do not want to be a part of this trade; I am a woman who can make her own decisions about who to marry and how to have a wedding. I will not be "walked" down the aisle while I am perfectly capable of walking myself--of my own free will.

Right now, I'm not even sure I want to have a wedding. Maybe I just want to go to the court house and get the necessary documents. The point is that it's my choice; I don't have to be controlled by my father.

05 May 2010

The Gender Binary


The gender binary: the idea that there is a strict line that separates man and woman, which defines masculinity and femininity. However, there are not two genders. Gender is not a category--it is a spectrum.

Sex isn't even a category. If you've ever heard of hermaphrodites, then you understand that there are more than two sexes. In addition to men and women, there are all kinds of in-betweens for which we have no name besides the general term hermaphrodite.

In the same way, there are more than two genders. There is not only male and female; there are all kinds of gender expressions for both genders. Some females feel more masculine, and some males feel more feminine. These people are often quickly labeled "gay," even though their gender or gender expression has nothing to do with their sexuality.

Take me, for example. I am biologically a female, but my gender expression is not strictly feminine. I do not believe in girly dresses, makeup, jewelry, heels, or low-cut shirts. I may be shy, but I'm not passive and I'm not soft-spoken. I do not let the man pay for all the dates. Sometimes I look like a boy, and for this reason people label me a lesbian. Some people are just too uncomfortable around a girl that looks and acts like a boy. You wouldn't believe some of the nasty looks I get.

But why do people have this reaction? Why can't people accept that gender expression may be different from a person's biological sex? Why is there such an obsession with knowing everyone's sex? (I'm looking at Lady Gaga on this one--who cares if she's a man or a woman?)

The gender binary is largely to blame for this issue. Many people, especially from our older generations, believe that there are only two genders and that you should act like the masculine man or feminine woman that you are.

I am here to challenge this binary. I may be a woman, but I do not have to act feminine. I do not have to dress like a woman. If that makes you uncomfortable, good. We need to get over this notion of the gender binary so we can have some real progress in this country for women's rights and LGBT rights.

03 May 2010

Thoughts, April 2, 2009

The world works in funny ways. I was beginning to regret moving back to York, leaving Bryn Mawr behind. But now, it seems like it was meant to be...

"He's passing," says the nurse quietly, as if not to disturb the moment. "I know," I say. Maybe I didn't say it, maybe I only thought it. I probably nodded. Of course I knew. I've known for weeks, I just haven't been able to come to terms with it. A hot tear slides down my cheek. "I'll leave you alone," he says. I nod my silent thanks. He pulls the curtain around us and goes off to find the RN on duty.

I turn back to him. His breathing has almost completely stopped.

His pale blue eyes pierce the ceiling, looking through me, looking at nothing. Even in death his eyes are the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. My grandma said the other night that he had wanted to donate his eyes when he died. The thought struck me as odd in that moment, and I cringed but let it pass. If only she could be here beside him now. Over the past few days, she had never left his side. But last night, they sent her home. Of course it had to be the night before.

I clasp his hand, rubbing my fingers over the dark bruises on his paper-like skin. I know that such a simple movement should have given him a harsh pain, but he shows no recognition of the touch. His face remains blank. He doesn't even know that he's not alone. I rub my hand over his tender forehead, through the little remaining hair. I want to say something, but I can find no words.

I had already said that I loved him. I had already said goodbye. At least that night, only a few days before, I knew that he heard me. He couldn't say anything in response, he didn't know my name or even where he was, but he knew my face, and he knew that I was there for him. He had smiled when he saw me.
Not so today. He's almost gone. His eyes may still be open, but nothing registers when I enter his line of sight. Everything is shutting down, and his lungs are the last to give up the fight. One minute he's there, the next he's gone.

Finally, a woman comes in. She checks for a pulse, checks his lips, tries to close his eyes. She asks if there's anything she can do for me. There isn't. She nods and goes out. Another nurse enters. "Oh Sammy," she says, and kisses his forehead ever so gently. Then she reclines his bed and removes the oxygen from his nose. He won't be needing it anymore. She shuts the machine off, making the TV next door sound even louder. She hugs me and gives me a few tissues.

The first nurse joins us quietly. "He was such a great person. Always made us laugh." I nod, remembering years of inside jokes. He looks back at me. "At least he wasn't alone." I continue crying, the tears running silently down my face. They again try to shut his eyes, to no avail. His pale irises continue to stare, unseeing, at the ceiling.

I am still holding his hand when the nurses leave and my grandmother and parents come in. I move to make room for my grandmother's wheelchair. She is crying. I can only imagine what she is going through. All those years together. She is still here, but he is gone.

I hug my mother. She too is crying. Even my dad has to wipe away tears.

"I'll see you again, Sam," my grandmother says. I see in her why people turn to religion. I almost wish I could feel the same way.

My mother eventually decides that it does us no good to stand there with him. Not him, but the body. He is gone. And we are only beginning to understand what that means.

The next few days are rough. So much to arrange, so much pressure. So many people. Even though I have an escape, even though I'm at school, it makes my head spin.

I go with my mother to the funeral director. He smiles as he takes her roll of cash and my credit card. He asks how we're doing. Neither of us answer him.

Everything is over in less than a week. Everyone tries to comfort my grandmother, uncle, and mother, but what good can it do? They all drive away. I don't even know most of them. Maybe I'm better off that way. Thankfully, it was a closed casket. I wouldn't have been able to hold my composure if it had not been.
I follow my mother and teenage brother to the outside of the small building. Where there should be a plaque, a hole gapes like an open mouth. In a way, I feel like this is worse than a hole in the ground. At least grass can grow back overtop. I am sorry I've seen it, but there's no unseeing now. Maybe I will be able to go back later, when the hole is covered. I don't know if I want to see his name on the plaque. I don't know if I would be able to handle seeing those dates carved in stone. Maybe one day, but not today. I ride home with my family.

Like I said, maybe things happen for a reason. I was unhappy at Bryn Mawr, so I came back to York and continued to be unhappy here. I missed Bryn Mawr. But now I don't regret coming home for sophomore year. If I had been so many miles away, he would have died alone. I would have missed a week of school and I would have fallen behind. I would've been even more miserable at school all alone. Having my family close has helped, both me and them. Maybe we're closer because of it. All I know is that I'm glad I was here. I'm glad I got up early on a Saturday morning to see him, to hold his hand in that last hour. I'm glad he wasn't alone, even if he couldn't see me. Maybe he felt me, and knew that it was ok to let go.

Takin' Care of Business

Though the end of the semester is a very stressful time, especially for professional writing majors (who decided that we had to do so many papers at once?), it is also a time of getting things done and feeling accomplished. I love the feeling of getting something done and handing it in, especially when I get it done early. Of course, people hate me the night before when I tell them I'm going to bed early and they have to stay up all night working on that paper, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Getting everything done definitely gives me a feeling of satisfaction, like I can do anything I put my mind to. Even if I'm stressed up until the very last day of the semester, I should come to expect that feeling of accomplishment, knowing that everything will fall into place.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do when I graduate. I'm sure I'll have something else to stress about at my job or in my relationships. Maybe then I'll find some satisfaction too. One can only hope.

02 May 2010

The Moon

A few days ago, we had a beautiful full moon in the clearest of skies. Though the moon is always beautiful, always mysterious, there is something special, something powerful about the full moon--especially when it appears red. The metaphor of the moon is used over and over again, especially in mythlore and scary stories. Vampires and werewolves are controlled by the moon. Where does this sentiment come from? Why do people fear the moon?

As for myself, I love the moon; I relish its beauty and feel its power over the entire night. This power is probably the cause for our respect of the moon.

As a night owl, I have always felt this affinity with the night and the moon. I remember, back in high school when I would stay up all night, writing by candlelight and cursing anyone foolish enough to bother me. One night, we had a power outage due to a thunderstorm. Though I grasped any reason to light more candles, I quickly regretted the disturbance; my entire family woke up and joined me. I felt as if my peace had been ruined, my isolation broken. It was a violation of myself, my being, my power.

Maybe the moon is just a metaphor. Maybe it is synonymous with night, meaning isolation, peace, or fear. However, we don't have to understand it to feel its power.

30 April 2010

The Power

As an empath, I sometimes feel like I have a certain power over others. I understand their feelings and what it would take to make them feel one thing or another. I know what I would have to do to change their emotions. I know what to do to make them smile; I know what to say to make them cry.

I don't enjoy making people cry, since it upsets me almost as much as it upsets them, but it's an interesting power to employ. Usually, I keep this ability locked up; I hate making people cry. Sometimes, however, it just happens--usually when I feel it would be beneficial to me (this is mostly an unconscious process) or if my inhibitions are lowered (see rule 8) and I care less than I usually would.

Empaths can be powerful beings. Be wary around them. But don't think me a cruel, heartless being; I am the very opposite. It just so happens that I am capable of using your emotions, be it for you or against you.

29 April 2010

Rules

Thanks to a certain someone, I am thinking of rules. Why is the world governed by rules? Because chaos would rule, surely, but why do we need personal rules on top of the "legal" ones?

Rules.

Rules for relationships:
1. Don't cheat.
2. Don't lie, unless it's for their own good.
3. Don't hurt them.
4. Don't make them cry.
5. Don't lead them on for no reason.
6. Support them in whatever they want to do.
7. Stand up for them if someone else says or does something to offend them.
8. Don't get drunk. You will say something you will regret.
9. Respect their family.
10. Don't be clingy. Respect their free-time and their friend-time.
11. Dance with them.
12. Kiss them.
13. Say "I love you."
14. Don't say "I love you" if you don't mean it.
15. Don't belittle them.
16. Listen to them.
17. Communicate problems.
18. Make them feel good.
19. Give them backrubs.
20. Don't ask about their past girlfriends.
21. Don't belittle their past girlfriends.
22. Spend time together, but don't let them become your whole world.
23. Don't take all their money. Don't make them buy you things.
24. Don't push them away. Embrace them.
25. Leave them little reminders to show that you care.
26. Discuss important matters.
27. Love them!

These are my own rules that I do my best to follow. Some of them, I have broken; others, I break on a regular basis. When I follow them, I make him feel his best, which in turn makes me feel good. When I break them, he gets upset, which upsets me. The emotions flow back and forth so easily--in order to keep the emotions positive, I must follow the rules.

The rules are only mine; I must not hold anyone else to the rules. He cannot break the rules because they are not his. You cannot break the rules because they are not yours. If you have your own rules, follow those. Leave me to mine.

Hope in the Face of Destruction

Today I went with a response team to a fire scene where two homes were destroyed and a third had received significant external damage. The residents had gone to bed the night before, not aware that, the next morning, their homes would be gone. When I arrived on the scene, the damage was already done; the homes were torn apart, and a smoking pile of ashes was all that was left of the cause of the fire: an old storage shed. Thankfully, everyone got out of the homes without injury--even the pets escaped. However, the damage was irreparable; only bits and pieces could be salvaged. Though there was destruction everywhere, the now-homeless people, including an expecting mother and a few children, were surprisingly hopeful; the mother was happy that everyone got out safely, and everyone was happy when they saw their cat, Snickers, sneaking up to them from across the yard.

The human spirit is an amazing thing. Even when everything, every possession one owns, is destroyed, hope still springs from the depths of the heart. When nothing else is left, we are thankful that we are still alive, that our family members are safe and sound. People start to realize how important their friends and families are, but sometimes, sadly, it takes a tragedy to bring this realization to light.

28 April 2010

The Empath, an Introduction

Empath:
  • A person capable of psychically reading the emotions of others.
  • Possesses the ability to sense the emotions of other sentient life forms.
  • One who has the ability to psychically tune into other people and may also express precognition. A certain feeling of ease or unease with situations and others involved.
An empath is a person who can feel the emotions of other people. These feelings can be positive (joy, excitement, love) or negative (anger, frustration, fear). The empath does not always want these feelings and can feel violated by the emotions of others. However, the empath cannot always block these feelings and often has to deal with the emotional residue of others before she can deal with her own. (I use "she" as a general term because I am a female.)

This blog will delve into the life, the thoughts, and the emotions of an empath. Her pseudonym: Ravyn. Welcome to my world.