There is so much more love in the world than you can conceive of

Let’s talk about Tom Daley coming out. For those of you who don’t know (I’m assuming a possibility that the media storm about it has only been in the kind of online circles I travel in) Tom Daley is an Olympic Diver from the UK who came out this week in a very sweet little video (link has a transcript if you don’t have patience for a video). I’m very proud of him for his brave act, but I’m more interested in the responses I’m seeing in the media and in comments I’m seeing on stories about this. Really I just want to address the common responses I’m seeing.

1) “It’s no one’s business who he loves.” While in an ideal world this is true. Tom says it himself in his video that in a perfect world he wouldn’t have to do this. I wish he didn’t. But he does because all over the world people are still persecuted, punished, stigmatized, shunned and even killed because of who they love. Coming out is the only way to combat that. When your family, friends, and public figures that you admire make public statements about who they love it makes the entire idea of queerness less threatening. It opens a conversation to help everyone understand that two women or two men getting married isn’t a threat to anyone’s way of life. Because, yes, who your partner is IS a private thing, but it can’t be a quiet thing until we’ve made society at large safe for every one in it. Visibility is key to safety and coming out is key to visibility. So, of course it’s no one’s business who Tom Daley spends time with but until he and everyone queer is 100% safe then public coming outs will stil matter, will still mean something. It’s fine if YOU don’t have a problem with it, but it is important to recognize that your support is much more meaningful than dismissing it as something that is “no one’s business.”

2. Tom Daley “still fancies girls.” This so important and so complicated. Headlines say, “Tom Daley comes out as gay!” People angrily respond that he obviously came out as bisexual since he made a point about liking girls. Headlines say, “Tom Daley comes out as bisexual!” People angrily respond that he did not label himself, so we should not label him, besides he’s young and this probably just his way of easing into gayness or not ostracizing part of his fanbase. This is such an important conversation and it’s important especially because it’s happening. Whether Tom is gay, bisexual or something else actually is no one’s business. He’s been clear that he is with a man, he is very happy and he feels safe and supported in the relationship. That’s all that matters. So why are we arguing about the label? Because bisexuality is a real thing and it is often ignored or erased. Erasure happens because if a person likes boys and girls they generally pair up with one or the other and immediately become identified as gay or straight. Bisexual men are frequently told that they are just not yet fully admitting that they are gay. Bisexual women are often told that they are attention seeking, confused, or just slutty. Homosexuals are as guilty of these responses as the straight majority is. So when Tom Daley says he fancies girls at a time when he does not need too (everyone is going to say he’s gay anyway, everyone knows he’s with a man, so why temper it with mentioning girls?) it matters because it opens to conversation about how sexuality isn’t binary. It isn’t just gay or straight. There’s a whole huge spectrum out there that goes beyond the Kinsey scale. What it boils down to is that it still shouldn’t matter who someone’s partner is, but it does matter that they feel supported in their lives. We’ve been making some strides with gay marriage. As a society we are becoming more comfortable with lesbians and gay men in public spaces. But the whole array of human sexuality, the bisexuals, transgendered, genderqueer, asexual and whole host of other possibilities are still invisible. So when Tom Daley says he’s fancies girls he’s allowing for public conversation, allowing for visibility for everyone who hasn’t yet been invited to the table of acceptance.  No, it doesn’t matter how we label him as an individual, it isn’t our business, but it is our business to pay attention and to listen to our friends and family so we can better understand how they identify and make them feel safe as well.

So congratulations, Tom Daley, on your new found happiness, and thank you for making important conversations possible.

On a more shallow note, holy smokes, Tom Daley is beautiful and his boyfriend is so handsome! And they seem so smart and thoughtful. There haven’t been many present day celebrity romances that have me me all fluttery, but this feels very old school romancey to me, very Bogart and Bacall. I’ll be over here sighing, with cartoon hearts in my eyes, every time I see a picture of them.

Forced change and willpower

Last summer I finally hit the wall of being so unhappy with my body that I had to take action.  For years I’d gained weight and become more sedentary.  I thought I ate pretty well and figured that genetics was against me and there was nothing I could do about my round little apple dumpling shape.  And I didn’t care so much.  I’ve never been terrifically concerned with beauty aesthetics and I am genuinely concerned with the way our society raises young women to starve themselves.  I have a couple friends who underwent bariatric surgery to great (over 100lbs) weight loss and each of them told me that at the end of it, they were still who they’d been before and whatever demons they had still needed to be faced, skinnier or not.  I knew none of my demons had to do with my weight so why fight a losing battle with my body?

But as I age my body becomes more my enemy.  Aches, joint pains, longer recovery times, many new problems.  Everywhere you look there’s a new study saying that exercise will cure everything.  I got into physical therapy for my chronic, severe shoulder pain.  I worked on my posture, I diligently did my recovery exercises twice a day and I decided to get fit.  I mean if I was already doing some sort of exercise twice a day, why not add more?  I determined the the optimum, most convenient exercise for me (indoor rowing) and set to it, with long series of staggered goals.  The biggest one being “turn 40 being in the best shape of my life.”  I rowed and rowed for weeks and the weight almost immediately started falling off.  Exercise with a surprise benefit!  I wasn’t just becoming healthier, I was visibly changing.

Fitness minded friends encouraged me to count calories and really look at my diet.  I insisted I didn’t need to do that because I knew I ate pretty well: no gluten, mostly whole, fresh foods, very little packaged or pre-prepared food.  But I caved pretty quickly and started using My Fitness Pal, initially to just track exercise but my use coincided with discovering my recent weight loss.  I was encouraged so I started tracking what I was eating every day for a few weeks and yes, according to the general consensus, I was eating too many calories for my height & age.  Sure they were “good” calories, but they were still too many.

Armed with numbers (weight and calories and energy expenditure) I didn’t quite understand, I read up on nutrition and on nutrition and sports medicine.  There’s a mountain of information out there and lot of it is wrong.  I sorted through message boards and essays of advice and I eventually made a standard for myself.  Maybe some of it is wrong, it’s hard to tell, but for me it’s reasonable, practical and makes sense.  I eat a low carb, high protein, high fat diet, still avoiding most processed foods.  I spent months altering my diet slightly and recognizing what was making me feel better and what was making me feel worse.  And the weight continued to come off, slowly but steadily.

In the last few months I’ve been pretty uneven about exercise.  My consistent routine was upheaved by moving and the demands of the new house and my job, by not immediately creating a new routine when my circumstances changed.  Days shy of turning 40 I’ve nearly met the weight loss goal I set when I started tracking calories and I feel great.  I can’t stress enough how much pain I was in before and how much simple weight loss helped me feel better.  But even when I was heavier I felt much, much better when I was exercising regularly.  I’m small and relatively fine boned and extra weight was literally dragging me down, so yes, I feel better with out it.  Exercise however has a threefold improvement: the satisfaction of accomplished a single task set out to do (row 30 mins, walk an hour), you get the immediate rush of improved blood flow, it’s calming and over time you physically feel stronger and more capable.  It’s like this door to understanding has opened for me.  Yes, of course we’ve all heard “it’s just diet and exercise” for ever.  But I can’t state strongly enough how true that really is for me.  It is hard work, not because it’s hard to do, but because it takes commitment and dedication and sometimes the returns are slow to show. But really unless you have a major medical problem, six weeks of dedication, to diet, exercise, or both should show you what’s possible.

Still I’m not nearly to where I want to be.  Halfway there.  I’ve got diet figured out, as long as I stick to it I should be fine (“it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change”). But exercise I’m still learning, it still feels forced some days and I don’t love it. Yet.  I’m going to get there.  That’s my goal for the next year.  I know I need to work harder because just like my friends, here I am at goal weight for my height, age and build and I look in the mirror and I don’t see much that’s different than where I started (in fact I can only see the difference when I compare pictures side by side).  Lumpy, poochy, misshapen belly, weak arms, shoulder pain that flares up when I’m too sedentary, aches that could otherwise be controlled.  I am so much better than I was 11 months ago, but  I’m not great yet and I want to age into greatness, into fitness and most importantly into strength.  So I will keep working, keep striving and never set an end point, because I want to have a good relationship with this body and like all relationships, you have to keep at it, keep listening and keep trying.

And because no make over story is complete without pictures:

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What I wore 4/25/13

What I wore 4/25/13

Merona top
target.com

Mango winter white blazer
$53 - johnlewis.com

Stella dot
stelladot.com

What I wore 4/24/13

What I wore 4/24/13

Patagonia cardigan
patagonia.com

Hush Puppies slip on loafer
$53 - debenhams.com

Reeds jeweler
fashion.ebay.com

Silver earrings
$52 - zenggi.com

40 years in a world which I cannot find a reflection of myself

In past years I have always done a 30 day birthday countdown, giving myself a birthday month essentially.  I didn’t do it this year, not by design, but because this year seems to have snuck up on me, like where did the last three months of my life go?  How is it April already?  How is it the end of April already? Ack ack ack!  Rewind, I’m not ready!

But ready or not, here it is, a mere 6 days away, the big 4-0.  I have no issues about turning 40.  Or rather the issues I have are not the expected ones.  Since I was 16 I’ve imagined 40 as being this magic barrier that I would cross and then suddenly be taken seriously as a woman.  Surely no one is surprised that that magic barrier is both moveable and non-existent.

I'm pretty sure that what I see in the mirror is the reverse of this.

I’m pretty sure that what I see in the mirror is the reverse of this.

For many years I’ve attributed the way I’m treated in the workplace (and sometimes the wider world) as a factor of my youth or my youthful appearance.  I have worked hard in sub-par professional jobs most of my adult life, been under employed continuously in relation to my intelligence, knowledge and skills.  This, I believe, is a factor not just of my lack of ambition but the economic lows which have plagued my generation. But the longer I work the more barriers I run into that make me wonder how much my gender has also kept me pushed down. I’ve never felt like any employer has given me a chance to show what I  can really do.  I’ve felt a vague sense of being patted on the head told that I’m cute for working so hard, that it’s resented when I try to wield what power I have, that I’m valued much more for appearance than for my work (or not as valued when my appearance doesn’t meet some standard I’ll never understand).  These are things that I’ve started to see as failings of my (mostly male) employers and of society as a whole, rather than my own shortcomings. I find myself in conflict with coworkers merely because I’ve politely asserted myself.  I long ago let go of the false persona that tries to please everyone (as women are raised to do) and instead focus on the task at hand and the best way to get it done.  I’m told that I’m too brusque and business-like, that I need to make myself sweeter and more likeable (ask my friends, I’m plenty sweet and likeable when it counts).  No man has ever been asked to bake for clients to appease them (um, unless baking is his job). On the eve of 40 I can definitively say that it’s simply because I’m a woman that I am told to  to be kinder, sweeter and less demanding of perfection at work.

This doesn't empower me because I'm neither maiden, mother nor hag and we revere none of these in our society.

This doesn’t empower me because I’m neither maiden, mother, nor hag and we revere none of these in our society.

At 16 I had imagined 40 as some marker where I’d be strong, capable and wise, and no longer recognized as a sexual object and therefore able to speak powerfully and be taken seriously.  And there is a little truth to this.  Very, very slowly it’s becoming more true (thank you, Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren and strong outspoken women everywhere) but it certainly isn’t cultural norm yet (why are we discussing these women’s hairstyle in the news and not their jobs and qualifications?).  Women are still infantilized, particularly in my specific location (in the American South, working in construction, still a predominantly male industry).  As a society we have not made the strides toward equality and justice that I expected to see in my lifetime.  Growing up in the 70s we were all fed the “truths” that the world would keep changing at an expeditious rate and we could grow up to anything.  Which I guess is almost true, assuming you have the right stack of privilege, luck and opportunity behind you.   Yes, it’s been great to be alive to see all sexual orientations start to get their due, but what about the rest of us, the people of color, women, all the other marginalized groups?  How long will we be stuck in some moderately polished up versions of the historical roles society forces on us?

I thought we were charging forward to change but we lost our way sometime around 1984.

I thought we were charging forward to change but we lost our way sometime around 1984.

I meant this to be personal not political, (but the personal is, oh you know…) but I can’t avoid it because at nearly 40 I know much more of the world than I did at 16 and now I can see that the problem isn’t small with only me as its isolated victim.  It’s vast and keeping us all down and it’s shaped me over the years to dream of something better for anyone.  Where once I wanted to be taken seriously as person, now I wish to be taken seriously as a gender.  I want to live to see my sisters equally represented in positions of power.  I want our governing bodies, the world over, to truly represent our whole society.  Give me 51 female senators and 218 female representatives in my own country’s federal government.  Give all my sisters equal pay and equal opportunities or rise to commercial positions of power.  Bring us all up and punish those who strive to keep us down through sexual and physical violence, through words and actions, so that we may have justice with equality.  For my next 40 years that is my fondest wish, to live to see a world in which women can see a reflection of their true selves.

More easily attainable is my fondest wish for the immediate future: time off to hang out with my friends and family, cute outfits to wear and feel confident in, trashy TV to watch, and maybe a little celebration. I will work on my ability to find ways to always fit those things into my life, because even as half of me always seems to be raging at the system, at the news, at the pit of ignorance our society has fallen into, I am still human and it is the small things that bring me joy.  And isn’t joy (not love or money or happiness) what makes life worth living and gives us all the strength to keep fighting for a world where peace is easier to find for everyone?  For my part I will continue to redefine beauty and style to be personal and not a mask of society’s creation. I will challenge everyone I meet to judge me for who I am and what I can do and not on my appearance.  I will call out those who keep us down in speech and actions.  I will volunteer where I am needed, help those who cannot help themselves and try as hard as I can to model the behavior I hope to see from everyone.  I will relax sometimes, and enjoy the good still in the  world.  After all, I’m 40 now, it’s party time on the other side of that magic barrier.

I'd like to live a life of no regrets, but I don't even know this guy and I regret that he got this tattoo.

I’d like to live a life of no regrets, but I don’t even know this guy and I regret that he got this tattoo.

What I wore 4/23/13

What I wore 4/23/13

What I wore 4/22/13

What I wore 4/22/13

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