Does This Loincloth Make Me Look Fat?

A few nights ago, my husband and I were watching Antiques Roadshow (stay with me), looking at giant, hulking pieces of turn-of-the-century furniture, an old box the owner thought was a wine storage box, but turned out to be a sugar cabinet (complete with lock), and pieces of jewelry for which I’d give choice parts of my anatomy.

While we were watching, I absently scrolled through social media, as I sometimes do, and somehow the world of ‘Oops! An entire sleeve of crackers just fell into my mouth!’ and ‘And if you turn the piece over…’ violently collided, and I had a significant revelation: Women, one hundred years ago, probably weren’t overly focused on the size of their asses. 

 

 

 

Lathe operator machining parts for transport p...

Lathe operator machining parts for transport planes at the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation plant, Fort Worth, USA (1942). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Women, in factories, during World War II, probably weren't sitting around the break room, going, "Should I have that donut? No, I shouldn't. But I really want that donut. Do you think it would be okay if I had that donut? That donut is giving me the googly eye." And you know why? Because they were busy outfitting their sons and husbands with clothing and ammunition. They were working their gnarly fingers to the bone. They were trying to stay alive.

And then I thought back further, to colonial times. Would they have been scolded for taking two scoops of succotash? NO! Because they cooked it with their own two hands, on a rickety pothook, over an open flame. They could not have possibly been vain, all scurvied up and covered in fifty layers of wool. Plus, they were too busy focusing on the real problem: witches.
A still photo of a Winston advertisement featu...

Looks like Wilma smoked! To stay thin, perhaps? A still photo of a Winston advertisement featuring Fred and Wilma Flintstone. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then I thought even further back, to caveman times, and at no point do I recall seeing a cave drawing of a group of caveladies, drinking SkinnyGirl margaritas. And why wouldn’t that cavewoman want a little meat on her bones, what with all the bears, men with clubs, and babies hanging off their shoulders all the time? If I needed to run, I’d want a little momentum behind me. That’s physics, people.

It wasn’t until (and you can chew this irony over in your heads) the sexual revolution, the women’s liberation movement, in the ’60’s, that women really started becoming obsessed with their figures. Fashion, fashion magazines, and modeling became big business, and women started looking at themselves far more critically than they ever had.

Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia became most prevalent in the early seventies. The same women who fought for the right to work, the right to be seen as equal to men, were the ones essentially picking apart their own identities.

Women now have much more time (Thanks, Hot Pockets!) than when they more actively contributed to the machine, when their contributions were (dare I say) more meaningful than bringing Pinterest-inspired cookie bars to the bake sale.

They didn’t have time for self-indulgence, as they were too busy caring for themselves and others, ensuring their community’s survival. Their minds and bodies were active. They had neither the occasion nor the desire to stop long enough to compare themselves to their neighbors.

When women relax today (and it’s not from chopping wood, skinning animals, or plowing fields), the indulgence is a spa day, a pedicure, or a new pair of shoes – all things that somehow affect their outer appearances.

Women constantly receive the message, and here’s the kicker, give the message, that they’re not good enough. Every time a woman puts herself down for eating a cookie, or ‘falling off the wagon’, or buying a box of Fiber One Bars, you know, ‘to stay full’, she reinforces the message that I am not okay the way I am.

It’s an endless loop. I am insecure, therefore I will buy/eat/try something to help me feel less insecure. The companies, who feed off that insecurity, will create another item, which I will utilize when next I feel insecure. I invite you to step out of that loop. When a trail of crumbs leading to the Fountain of Youth, Beauty, Fitness, and Eternal Happiness, is dropped in front of you, you need not follow them.

There are many who depend on this pattern of thinking to survive. They are sharks, waiting patiently to taste a few drops of your blood. If you cease to bleed, the sharks will move on. If you stop throwing the I-feel-terrible-about-myself. I-need-something-to-help-me-feel-younger-or-prettier-or-thinner message out to the universe, the universe will eventually get it. Your peers will get it. Your daughters will get it.

Our foremothers seemed pretty busy sewing American flags, creating the foundation of this country, and holding down the fort. Perhaps the fort’s pretty well secured now, and through the miracles of invention and modern technology, we do have more freedom of mind and body than we’ve ever had.

All I ask is that we stop wasting it, stop publicly broadcasting innocuous-sounding messages that translate as guilt and shame. Stop putting ourselves down. Stop thinking ‘fat’, ‘old’, and ‘ugly’. And stop grasping for interventions to fight them.

At the end of the day, no one’s going to look down at your casket and say, “Wow, she really stayed beautiful, young, and thin until the very day she died! Kudos, abnormally attractive corpse!” They’re going to say, “She was a great mother and friend. The world lost a great person.”

Keep working on being that person.

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I’m Hosting Guest Posts Again!

Image of a modern fountain pen writing in curs...

Image of a modern fountain pen writing in cursive script. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m dropping in because I’ve read some really great voices lately, and it’s got me pretty excited. I also miss hosting guests on my blog, so I’d like to start hosting again. I got so busy for a while there, I couldn’t juggle work commitments, family life, and coordinate guest posts at the same time. Good thing is, much of that has settled, and I’m super thrilled to be reading new, up-and-coming voices.

What does that mean? I’ve had many guest posters. I usually host a Christmas series as well, that includes up to 14 bloggers. I haven’t made a firm decision on whether I will be continuing that this year. It was called ‘Momma’s 12 Days of Christmas’. Since I’m not Momma anymore (out here, at least), I’ve got a few decisions to make. But I digress. I’ve had many guest posters, and some of those people have become my greatest blogging friends. I’ve been fortunate to have met some really great people through hosting guest posts.

I’m not looking for anything in particular – in general, if you write humor, parenting, entertainment, food, even DIY – if you have a strong and entertaining voice, I’d love to have you.

If you are someone I know and love, or someone I know and maybe kinda like, and you’ve found someone fresh and new to read, please, by all means, either nominate them or send them my way.

I’d like to run a short series in the fall, and then, if the stars align, maybe, maybe I’ll do Momma’s 12 Days. Or just Stephanie’s 12 Days. We’ll see.

If you’re interested, please send an email to sbernabasblog@gmail.com, let me know what you write, and, perhaps a link or two that best represents your work.

Running guest posts is a labor of love. I don’t get anything for it, and you’ll probably only get paid in love and admiration. Nonetheless, I’d love to have you.

Send me an email! Even just to say hi!

Drinking the Kool-Aid: What Jonestown, the FLDS, and Michael Brown’s Death All Have in Common

I watched a 20/20, or a Dateline, or one of those shows last week. It was a repeat, about Warren Jeffs, and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and it’s haunted me all week.

Temple of the FLDS in El Dorado, Texas

Temple of the FLDS in El Dorado, Texas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Basically, this religious sect, if I understand it correctly, is a less-forgiving, more rigid model of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as Mormons. They believe in plural marriage, living exclusively amongst others who believe the same,educating their own, staying far away from the world at large, etc…

Long story short, the original leader of this church, Rulan Jeffs, passed away, and the position was quickly assumed by his son, Warren, who assured his followers he was a conduit of God.

Trouble was, he was a criminal and a rapist, sentenced to twenty-plus years for aggravated sexual assault on a minor, i.e., he had convinced his followers that girls as young as twelve they needed to feel the power of God exclusively through his penis, on a ceremonial bed, surrounded by onlookers. The man himself said, “If the world knew what I was doing, they’d hang me from the highest tree.”

The image of that bed stuck with me all week, and what I imagined were the terrified faces of his victims. The thought that an entire community of people were complicit with his devious plot, without question, and still follow this man’s word from prison, really shakes me.

And it also opened up a wider issue, the issue of drinking the Kool-Aid, a reference to the Jonestown massacre, in 1978, where hundreds of people died by drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid at the behest of their leader, Jim Jones.

Wikipedia, not surprisingly, defines drinking the Kool-Aid as “a figure of speech commonly used in the United States that refers to a person or group holding an unquestioned belief, argument, or philosophy without critical examination. It could also refer to knowingly going along with a doomed or dangerous idea because of peer pressure.”

I’m always a just a little bit nervous when I witness a crowd forming. See, in crowds, especially sheltered ones, things can go very wrong. Very literal madmen can take reckless and harmful control over entire groups of people, human rights are violated, and people are destroyed. It’s not a good scene.

The kicker for me is that the children born into these groups, or – let’s call it what it is – cults, never have a chance. They believe what they are told, and they become part of the machine, unless they have a flash of insight (and are able to act on it) along the way. And even then, they’re threatened with being shunned, rejected, or otherwise ostracized until their beliefs become more congruent to the group’s. This is how groups like this, beliefs like this, survive.

Humans are social creatures, and want to be accepted within their group. Trouble is, sometimes that group acts without regard to the interest or safety of its members, or becomes taken by temporary passion, and people get hurt, even die. Sometimes group dynamics prove dangerous – think the Boston baseball riots of 2004 or the L.A. riots in 1992.

I’d like to say people are mainly interested in the betterment of themselves and society, however history (and the news) has proven otherwise. Some humans are power-hungry, cold, calculating, and dangerously narcissistic, and would go so far as rape young girls in front of a crowd, in the name of God, to satisfy their desires.

And the worst offenses often occur in a vacuum, behind a cloak of secrecy – there must be some complicity for these injustices to occur, whether its voluntary or not.

Trayvon Martin’s murder in 2012 and the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri have roots in complicity as well – two unarmed black teens essentially killed due to someone else’s beliefs. I cannot speak to Brown’s guilt or innocence regarding the reason(s) for his apprehension – I simply don’t have enough information – but the pervading thought that young African-American men are dangerous, in and of itself, is one of the subtle ways America stays complicit. 

There’s only a stone’s throw between the murder of a young girl’s spirit at the hands of her megalomaniacal leader and the killing of a teen guided by the invisible hand of our beliefs. But we don’t always see it that way. Today, I challenge you to do so. Also, I urge you to be mindful of the fact that there is danger in both sides – being the person(s) about whom riots begin, and those doing the rioting.

So, looking forward, for yourself and others – Be curious, be open, be skeptical, and be independent in your analyses. Never, ever drink the Kool-Aid. It just might save a life.

I Am the New Pink

Last night, I (once again) got sucked down the rabbit hole that is Palladia. I was watching a Pink concert. And I’m a big fan.

As I watched, I felt something wasn’t quite right. A strange uneasiness took over my room. I scanned the screen, trying to determine the cause. Watching her sing, something was off.

I sat for a few minutes, a little uncomfortable, as if I didn’t know this woman who’s been soundtracking my life since the year 2000.

I continued to watch her perform, dance, do something on a trapeze, and still wasn’t comfortable.

About twenty minutes in, the reason seemed to hit me out of nowhere. This must have been before she had her daughter, I thought, hitting the ‘Info’ button to check the date of the recording. It was her Funhouse tour, which, sure enough, was recorded in 2010, before she was a mother.

She just didn’t seem to exude inner confidence, did not appear settled within herself.

P!nk Funhouse Tour (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

P!nk Funhouse Tour (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

She was cocky, was still rocking a tremendously toned lower body, kicking rock-chick ass, and clearly not at peace. Sure, I still loved her, but was a little shocked that I could actually feel, through the screen, that she hadn’t ‘arrived’ yet.

Having children literally changes the entire world for a woman – from how you relate, to what and whom you accept in your life, to very mundane decisions like where you eat dinner. And, at that moment, basically seeing my own reflection in the tv, I realized that though I often squawk at home about “not having kids and buying a condo” (which sometimes sounds like a dream), I wouldn’t be who I am without having had these experiences.

There’s no greater satisfaction than having confidence in the space one occupies, knowing that every molecule in one’s body is swirling exactly where it should be, resting comfortably in the belief that one’s soul is learning the lessons it was meant to.

And, for some, this happens through the act of caring for another human being.

Had I bought that condo and had no kids, I’d be happy (whoa, would I be happy!), but I think I’d be a little empty as well, a hollow shell of who I could have been, what I could have become. I would have been doing whatever I wanted, but I also may not have been existing for a greater purpose.

You see, something happens when you’re put in charge of another life (or lives). Your whole inside changes, your organs are rearranged, and your mind becomes trained to only the most imperative aspects of life. You cut out the drama, you stop taking people’s shit, and savor the beautiful moments as they happen, because you now know the difference – the difference between living fully and simply existing.

Where you could once stay out until the sun came up, you come to realize you neither want nor need to. My first love’s every action was dictated by his need not to be the ‘loser’ at home on a Friday or Saturday night. I was busy with school and chasing my aspirations. I ate expensive dinners and drank wine with friends, but life was like running on a treadmill. We ran towards that holy grail, only to have to continue running, because it was always just out of reach.

How good is lobster when you can eat it every night? How rewarding is sleeping in, when you can sleep in at will? How much fun is it to let your hair down when you never have to put it up?

And that’s what I saw when I watched that concert. I saw someone lost and searching, much like myself at that point. Someone who, I’d venture to guess, no longer exists.

So, if I guess I had to pick who I liked better, I’d pick the New Pink, the new me. A little older, a little wiser, and a lot more self-confident.

I think I’d be sick of lobster if I ate it every night, anyway.

Excerpt from a Romantic Novel in the Year 2023

Vintage Romance Novels

Vintage Romance Novels (Photo credit: Stewf)

The sky glowed like Chlamydia. Watching the sun slide lazily across the sky was equally impressive. It’s orange tone highlighted the gold of the fall leaves.

I looked over at Miranda and texted, “Your my soulmate, my BFF”.

She texted back, “ty”.

We held hands, enjoying the crisp breeze, silently watching two crows fly off beyond the horizon.  She stood up, taking in the view, the sequins of the words on her ass glinting in what remained of the sunlight. She was gorgeous. I decided I could wait not one min longer.

“Will u b my wife?” I texted, getting down on one knee.

She looked down at her phone and started to cry.

“ok,” she texted, the thin band of her pink thong showing at her waist, “Where my ring at?”

“I get paid on Fri,” I texted sincerely.

“I want a dress just like Kimye’s,” she texted again.

“U GOT IT,” I responded.

We cuddled for a few moments, when I remembered I had a casserole in the oven. We raced home together, roaring with glee, over the rolling hills to my cottage.

I poured some Chianti from a box into glasses. We sat by a crackling fire, waiting for the casserole to cool. The box said ‘Let stand 15 minutes’.

“Im so excited!!! :-) ” she texted, then changed her relationship status on FB. I dreamily imagined being her husband, all the venti half-caff mocha frappucinos we would enjoy together into our old age. I was happy. I had clearly done something right in this life.

The guy at the pawn shop was holding a sweet ring for me. I gave him my dad’s cufflinks, and told him I’d bring him another two hundred and some good weed for it on Friday. He agreed.

We ate the casserole. It was good. We cuddled on the couch, watching YouTube videos late into the evening. Around 11:30, I carefully uncurled her fingers from the iPad, turned off her phone, her laptop, disconnected her iPod, removed her Google Glass, and covered her gently in a blanket my grandma had crocheted.

In the morning, I decided we’d make the big announcement over dinner. We called ahead at Olive Garden, and invited the whole fam. We took the hybrid, and I wore my best dress shirt. Since Miranda was pregnant, she was having trouble finding a dress that fit.

“U R beautiful,” I texted.

She smiled at me and put on a blush pink dress with some jeggings. After a quick stop at Target, we were on our way.

They sat us near the bar, where we could all watch The Voice semifinals. Grandma tweeted votes on our behalf as we laughed and drank Bellini after Bellini. It was a magical night. After we finished our Tours of Italy and our celebratory Tiramisu, I stood up, Miranda’s hand squeezing mine.

“We’re getting married!”  I announced loudly. Everyone was watching The Voice. They really love that Blake.

I texted, “We’re getting married!”

Our families gasped, smiled, and clapped. The greetings came pouring in.

“Good 4 U”

“Congrats”

“Finally! She’s about to pop!”

“Wait – where the ring at?”

Our happily ever after had finally begun. I couldn’t wait to start the next chapter of our lives. #blessed

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