Monday, December 5, 2011

Hair Stuff

My hair is an ongoing saga. I've been dyeing it since I was fourteen or so, which was a year after it completely changed texture due to puberty. As a youngin' I had straight, fine, medium brown hair. I liked it, I guess, but I didn't think about it too much. Around thirteen it became fine, medium brown, and curly. It was a bit of a strange adjustment. I didn't have anything against curly hair but...when you've had one type for the entirety of your short life it's weird when it just shifts like that. I started experimenting with hair products to control it, enhance the curls, or straighten it.

Growing up, my mom had wonderfully curly, silvery gray hair. She colored it a few times but always went back to the gray because, as I have since learned, the root regrowth is a serious pain in the butt. My mom was (and continues to be in her 60's) very beautiful. She lights up a room. Her hair is a striking contrast to her youthful face and has been for as long as I can remember. I didn't inherit her beauty, but as it turns out I did inherit the prematurely gray hair and tendency to look younger than I am.

By the time I was 14 I was struggling a lot with social/school issues. People didn't like me, basically. Actually, I think they kind of hated me. And after dealing with two full years of nearly non-stop bullying, I was pretty tired of being me too. I hated how I looked. I hated how I felt. And I desperately need to do something about that. Over the summer between 8th and 9th grade I decided that something I could change was my hair. I had always admired red hair so I went in that directly. The first thing I tried was something called "Glintz" which was a temp color that gave you different highlights. It was fairly crappy.

Unsatisfied with the results I investigated other methods. At the time I didn't want to deal with chemical dyes and I was often in the health food store with my mom. Which is where I discovered henna. The rest is hair dyeing history. My mom helped me put that green goop on my head and I was pretty much hooked. Henna also had the interesting side effect of making my hair more wavy than curly. Which it still is, although if there is ANY moisture in the air it curls up like whoa. I sadly can't use henna anymore because A. I like the gray and henna is hard to do in just sections. B. it tends to make white hair a kind of bright orangey-red color I'm not fond of. I prefer cool reds.

At around 19 I started going gray. Well, really my hair started going white. You get white hairs, not gray hairs. It's just the mix of the white hairs with your natural color that make it look gray. I was excited. But with white hair comes another texture shift. Some people get coarser hair. I got "wilder" hair. It's still fine and wavy, but it has a complete life of its own. Which isn't a bad thing, it just requires more effort to get it to do what I want...and sometimes I just don't bother.

So, taking all of that into account, here's what I've learned works for my hair*. I've tried so many things that I think I've got a decent handle on what's worth spending money on and what's not for me.

*One thing I should mention: A lot of people are proponents for the "no poo" technique for curly hair. Or most hair. It's basically not using shampoo's because they use sulfates which are supposedly as harsh as detergent. The technique also usually involves no silicone products because they build up on hair, which then forces you to use sulfates, and creates a bad hair cycle. I've found conflicting data on this, so, it's up to you to decide for yourself.

I tried the no-poo/no silicone thing, for over a year. I specifically tried products for this technique and others that don't use any sulfates or 'cones after research and careful label reading. They spectacularly did not work for me. My hair was either dry or oily, hard to manage, and just...dull. Sometimes a product would work for a day or two and then, no. And I really did try. I think a year is enough time to determine that a particular technique just isn't for you.

** You'll probably notice that I don't list products specifically for "fine" hair. The reason is that most bodifying products dry out and "roughen" the hair surface to make it appear fuller/thicker. The result on my hair is a kind of unattractive poof that feels weird and looks fake. My hair is fine and that's just how it is. Instead of fighting it I find the things I like about it (the color, the wavy texture) and enhance that instead.

Shampoo

1. Aussie Moist Shampoo. I really like this stuff. In fact, most of the time I can just use it and not bother with conditioner. Cheap, smells non-offensive, and it doesn't dry my hair out or make it gross.

2. Free & Clear Shampoo. I've actually just started using this because my husband has been having horrible allergic reactions to something topically and we got this on the advice of his doctor. It's free of common irritants, including sulfates, but it still suds up quite a bit. And it hasn't created any problems. It's helped him with his dandruff and it doesn't strip my hair or make it feel funky.

3. Aveda's Blue Malva. This stuff is specifically for pale blonde or gray/white hair to keep out brassy/yellowing tones. If you have white/gray hair it will make the white really, really, really bright. I don't use it often, but using it once a month prevents it from getting dingy looking. It's kind of mid-range to high in terms of price, but it smells amazing, and since I use it so sparingly it lasts forever.

4. DHC's Gentle Scalp Cleansing Shampoo. I like the smell of this shampoo and how gently it cleanses my hair. My hair feels really soft after using it even without conditioner.

5. Oscar Blandi's Dry Shampoo. This stuff is awesome. I use it on my roots if I want to avoid shampooing too often. It smells nicely lemony and compliments the white in my hair. If you have darker hair I could see this being problematic. I got the travel size which is actually pretty reasonably priced and has lasted several months.

Conditioner
1. Oscar Blandi's Jasmine Hair Mask. This stuff is expensive, but I love it. It smells wonderful, softens and conditioners the hair perfectly, and lasts if you don't have very long or thick hair. When it's really humid out I use it every day and it keeps frizz manageable and the wilder hair stuff under control. I miss it, but I just can't justify the cost right now.

2. Frizz Ease Leave In Conditioner. This is very light and effective for pre-heat styling. Easy to apply. Since I often don't use conditioner every day it helps keep the hair from tangling, which can be a problem when your hair is fine and wavy.

Products
1. Frizz Ease Hair Serum. Cheap, effective, I often just use this instead of conditioner. It's a silicone product, obviously, but I haven't had any problem with it weighing my hair down or it making it oily, even when I don't use a sulfate-y shampoo. I use either the regular or the one for fine hair, and it really does matter if you put it on while the hair is wet as opposed to damp. You do have to be careful of the amount or you'll get kind of grubby looking hair, though. And generally I only use this when it's really humid out and mostly on the ends/middle instead of the roots.

2. Bumble & Bumblie Curl Conscious Cream. This stuff is technically for relaxing really curly hair, and a little goes a long way. I've had my bottle for about 2 years now. I find it very effective for soft, manageable waves. It doesn't have a ton of hold, though, so it won't keep hair under control in humidity. It's also pretty expensive like most B&B products. But since you don't need to use much it lasts a long time.

3. Aussie Volumizing Hair Gel. This is my one "no fine hair products" concession because it's actually good. I usually mix this with the B&B cream and find the combo gives me really great hold and styling versatility. I get the waves I want without frizz, I get shine, and a nice bit of body, especially at the roots. I can also get it pretty straight without heat styling if I let it dry without combing it first so it gets a tad "stiff". When it's dry you just brush it out and, at least for me, end up with straightish hair. Never had an issue with flaking or anything and the hair doesn't feel dry or funky.

4. Phyto's Straightening Balm. When I do want to use a straightener I use this. It's expensive but it works. You don't need much. Just run it through damp hair and either use a blow dryer or let it air dry before using a straightener. Gets it pretty close to pin straight, smooth, shiny and it lasts. This is what I use when I want a "professional" looking style and can't get it done at the salon.

5. Pantene's Thick Hairspray. Like the name implies, this is technically for thick hair but it works for anyone and has a higher "hold" factor than other sprays. It's also a good price and, like most things Pantene, does indeed keep hair shiny. A trick I learned from my hairstylist: Spray hairspray on your hands and run it over your finished hairstyle. This will give you hold that lasts without making the hair crispy or crunchy. I've found it holds up even in San Francisco's fairly high humidity, too.

Tools
1. Chi hair straightener. I. Love. This. Thing. These are expensive but they are so worth it. I've used cheaper straighteners and there really was a difference. The Chi has a nice nuanced heat setting, which I tend to keep low for fine hair. It heaps up fast and glides very smoothly through the hair. Only use straighteners on already dry hair or you'll burn it, btw.

3. Baybliss mini dryer. From what I've read hair dryers are not that different from one another no matter what fancy claims they're making. It's more about the wattage and heat setting. If you don't have thick hair you want a lower wattage and you don't need high heat to dry hair. The reason your salon blowout looks awesome is because that's what hair dressers do. It's not really the dryer. No matter what you put on your hair heat styling is damaging so in general I keep this to a minimum. I like this dryer because it's teeny, dual voltage for travel, and I got it for like $15 at Marshall's. It even has that weird duckbill attachment thing for more control over the heat placement.

4. Mason Pearson hairbrush. These are crazy expensive so I have a mini-travel one that cost way less and was on sale at a Sally's. I don't use this on wet hair, you should use combs when hair is wet because the cuticle is more vulnerable and delicate then and comes don't rough up the cuticle. I do, however, like to brush my hair a few times a week to get it smooth, redistribute the hair oils, and stimulate the scalp. I've never had an issue with it damaging it, even though some people swear you should never brush it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Makeup is Pretty

So, I really like makeup. Sometimes in a purely functional way, in the sense that I don't like showing off blemishes so I'm happy I can cover them up. But most of the time I like the creative, fun, playful, painterly aspect of makeup. I like colors and shimmers and messing around with different looks, especially those of bygone era's. Sadly, I don't really get to do this much at the moment since I'm at home with the cats all day and they don't really care about how awesome my eyeshadow combo is.

Sephora and MAC are probably my fave makeup sites because they display everything so nicely and have huge selections of colors. It's very similar to when I got to the art store and look at the various paint shades and finishes.

Overall, I'm not a huge fan of "matte" as a texture. Not on my skin and not in my work. It just tends to look too flat and unreal to me, so I usually opt for makeup that has some kind of "glow"...although there are many levels of "glow" from subtle to cabaret bam!. For every day you generally want a healthy, natural glow. A Twilight level of sparkle is a bit much for errand running and grocery shopping.

That said, I still gravitate towards glittery-as-a-fairies-butt eyeshadows most of the time. And generally not in neutral, subdued shades. The older I get the more I like bright colors for some reason. And the more I just don't give a fuck what other people think.

So...here's a list of makeups I like that is in no way complete because I'm constantly picking up new stuff. I do make an effort to use brands that don't test on animals but I'm also budget conscious because I can spend way too much money at Sephora in a split second, especially if my period is anywhere in the mix. So sometimes I do sacrifice some personal ethics so as not to be completely broke. Also, there comes a point at which no one "needs" any more eyeshadows. I only have two eyelids and so many days in the year.

FACE

1. I use Aromaleigh's mineral makeup in a blend of Alabaster, 1Y, and 1P mixed with their Illuminator in a generous amount. Unfortunately Aromaleigh doesn't make face makeup anymore after some change ups, but I bought enough when they were stopping that I should be good for at least a year. Then I'll have to figure something else out, unfortunately. A little goes a long way, honestly. And it doesn't irritate my skin or make it break out, and it's not heavy or masklike. I don't think I could go back to liquid foundation at this point, I'm so used to both the technique and feel of minerals. I personally use a flocked sponge to apply because I got a horrible rash from a face brush once, my skin is that sensitive.

2. Amazing Cosmetics Concealer in Fair. This stuff is ridiculously expensive in a full tube, but you can get a travel sized one at Ulta for half the price and it lasts FOREVER. You only need the teeniest, tiniest amount to cover dark circles or blemishes. And it really does cover them up and blend them in seamlessly, in any lighting. Which is fantastic. I'm really, really, really pale so it's unusual for me to find a concealer that isn't too dark, too orange, or too pink.

3. Maybelline cover stick in White. I only use this for Halloween, really, because it's waterproof and pretty high coverage, and cheap. It'll make your face a nice, nearly white, canvas for dead styles of makeup. I doubt it's great for your skin, but, it's a good cheap alternative. And if you're fair skinned enough it's a decent regular concealer.

3. Physicians Formula Shimmer Strip in Healthy Glow. This is technically a blush kit, but it's also got a highlighter and 3 shades of "blush". Now, personally, I don't generally need blush because I have pre-Rosacea and my cheeks are naturally pink-red depending on the weather, heat, or embarrassment level. What this kit does for me is actually give me a nice set of colors for use on the eyes, lips, and cheeks, for a natural look that also emphasizes my eye-color. It's not terribly expensive but it is a great "all purpose" product. They have a bunch of different sets for different skin tones. I found this very useful on my last few trips to cut down on carrying too many products around. It functioned just fine for everything and kept me from looking totally dead after a cross country flight.

EYES

*First, a tip. Depending on your eyecolor and skintone you should try using a contrasting color to make them standout. I have blue/green eyes so pinks, reds, and corals make them seem bluer. Copper has a similar effect. Purples make them seem greener, and browns and greys make them look sort of grey. Check out a color wheel and play around.

1. Makeup Forever Eyeliner. I have this in black, smoky gray, and a deep plum. I love them all. They stay put, make AWESOME smokey eyes, and are very easy to use and non-irritating. I don't really bother trying other eyeliners anymore because these just work and last quite a long time with maintenance. Ie. sharpen them regularly and be mindful of bacteria.

2. Urban Decay Eyeshadows in Lounge, Woodstock and their Deluxe eyeshadow in Fishnet. Woodstock is an incredibly vibrant hot pink and Fishnet is the most gorgeously nuanced shade of purple/pink with a hot blue shimmer. It's sort of the equivalent of the purple eyeshadow Disney villainesses are always sporting. I'm very fond of both because they're nicely pigmented, go on smooth, and make my eye color pop. Lounge is a brown/green that's really lovely and unusual, but great for pretty much any eyecolor. Also: most of their Deluxe eyeshadows are vibrant and true to hue no matter your skin tone. Which is great when you want a very dramatic pop of color. Which I usually do.

3. Aromaleigh Eyeshadows. Thankfully Aromaleigh is now making some limited sets again. Their eyeshadows were always immensely gorgeous. I have way too many to list them all, but they're worth checking out. Very layered colors, from high shine to frosts to glitters, to mattes. They last, they're really lovely, and they tend to have fun names. You also usually get quite a lot for the money. Some of my favorites over the years have been: Lilith, Ophelia, Grace, Drama Teal, Papillon, Flowers of Romance, Dirty Deeds, Strychnine, Cocoa Mauve, Mania's Locus, Phantasm, Nightshade, Dragon Scales, and on and on. Aromaleigh got me to try colors I never would have otherwise.

4. MAC eyeshadows in Shale, Shadowy Lady and Smut. Shale is a kind of mauvey gray that's subtle and more natural. Shadowly Lady is a deep gray purple, great for lining and drama. And Smut is a blackened red that makes blue eyes pop. I recommend going to a MAC counter or store to pick out shades, though. The pics on their site tend to be a bit misleading and I find the descriptions often seem counter what the pic shows.

5. Mascara. I prefer clear mascara, but I do like Benefits Badgal in black. Very simple and effective. Separates, lengthens, nothing too fancy or frilly and doesn't flake off.

6. Eyelash curler. For years I didn't see the point nor did I get how you could use one without hurting yourself. Then I figured it out and suddenly realized how it opened up the eyes and made the lashes more noticeable, mascara or no. I am a convert.

7. Eyebrows. I just groom mine with clear mascara sometimes. I don't fill them in or do anything fancy besides pluck when they look too wild. I prefer Tweezerman tweezers, though. Trust me, it'll save you a lot of frustration and owies.

LIPS

I love lipstick but I rarely wear it, likewise gloss. I feel weird reapplying it because I feel like I'm putting on a show. So what you'll mostly see here are tints or balms.

1. Fresh tinted balms in Plum and Pink. These are ridiculously expensive but the colors are amazing. And they have a new red one I really want to try. They're moisturizing, the colors are layerable, and they're in a tube so you're not trying to deal with a wand.

2. Stila's Lip/Cheek Stain in Cherry. This is my go-to. It's a stain that supposedly adjusts to your individual lip tone. I have no idea if that's true, I just know it's a fantastic, long-lasting, natural looking "flush". Kind of like I just ate a cherry popsicle, only more pigmented. You can also apply more than one layer for more color. It's not drying, but I use lipbalm regardless and it still lasts.

3. Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey. I love this color and find it to be just the right pop when I want a more sophisticated lip that isn't too much. Goes on smooth, easy to reapply. Not hugely long-lasting, but, eh.

4. Lipbalms! I'm kind of a lipbalm junkie. I tend to have like 4 in my bag at all times. Plus one in the car, in a coat, etc. I have lots of different kinds. Carmex in the little tin thing for when I need exfoliation or have a fever blister, Nivea with SPF, Softlips, another Carmex only in a stick, Blistex, and I just got 4 natural lipbalms from an Etsy shop called AutumnBalmBotanicals. They smell awesome and feel great. The Peppermint even has a touch of shimmer.

The only sort of cosmetics I really don't go in for are nail polish and anything contouring. Nail Polish looks pretty but I can't stand the way it feels on my hands, and I'm not keen on the chemicals. Other than that, I tend to just have fun with it. I'm still looking for the perfect red lipstick, though...

Next time: Hair Stuff

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Love & Things

My husband is my best friend. He has been for 17 years. It is, without a doubt, the most important and influential relationship of my life. He's my home and I not only love him, I just really like him a whole lot. I know, I know. Gross.

Now, I haven't been married for 17 years, we've just been together that long. I'm 32 and he's 33. If you do the math you'll figure out pretty quickly that we were 15 and 16 when we became a couple. To us, this is just how things are. To other people, it's more than a tad unusual.

I wouldn't technically call us High School Sweethearts, since we went to different schools in different states, and I think that term usually refers to people who go to the same one. But maybe it does apply. We were certainly in high school when we met. It was even, ::gasp:: partially an online relationship! This was in the 90's, way before internet dating was a common thing, and there were no official dating sites that I'm aware of, at least not the way you see them advertised on TV now. We actually had this complex relay system on Prodigy so that a group of us could all talk together in a kind of makeshift private "chat" room, and then have individual ones if we wanted. I'm sure we weren't the only ones to game the system like that. It made it so those of us in different states could still stay in touch and have legitimate friendships or relationships with people we had connected with, who just had the misfortune of living too far away for regular hang outs.

It's funny to think about this now since the internet has changed so much since then. I have so many friends in so many different locations it's pretty routine. But I think those early forays into finding people with common interests but who were not limited to your immediate geographical area was really important. One of the least realistic aspects of school is the idea that spending time with people who are the exact same age as you, that you've grown up with and been in the same classes with, with largely similar backgrounds, is in any way "normal" or indicative of the world at large. In real life you tend to associate with people of all ages, from different countries (let alone different states), with radically different backgrounds and interests. That's a good thing, especially if, like me, you really don't fit in with your peers very much. Finding people outside the forced social circle I was in helped me enormously.

When I met my husband I was 15, a social pariah, and sincerely convinced that I was too ugly/awful to be loved by anyone, ever. There's a certain kind of conviction that comes with being that young that is both misguided and yet utterly sincere. You think you really know how things are, and sometimes you do, but more often you don't. I don't think adolescents are stupid, of course. But I do think they're young and, since everything feels so very important whether it actually is or not, you tend to overestimate what you do and don't really understand. It's a time where you're trying on a lot of different identities to figure out who you are, forming a more solid sense of self that is not dependent on what other people have told you to do or be, so everything has this air of "meaning" to it. I sometimes think the real conflict of adolescence is between the excruciating importance of everything you feel and think...and the relative mundanity and boringness of most of the situations you're dealing with. But maybe that's just because I was a geeky nerd who read a lot more than she socialized.

Anyway, it's interesting to me that during this overly fraught age is when I met the person I've since spent more time partnered with than alone. Well, sort of. Our relationship was long distance for the first 7 years. We saw each about once a month, twice if we were lucky. It gave the whole thing an air of tragedy, I'll say that. I cried every single time we had to part. Some of that was an adolescent tendency towards drama...but a good part of it was that I really only felt truly understood and cared for when he was around. I felt calm and appreciated for myself. I didn't have to worry about being judged or criticized for the things I liked...and he totally put up with the weird/silly things I did...like the whole year I wrote emails in a kind of a faux Scottish accent. And I understood that he just needed to wear this ugly old man hat he called, "Fred". We were good to and for each other. We didn't really have fights, we never had that break up/make up dynamic...and even then we were kind of our own mutual appreciation society.

I think part of what really solidified us a couple, though, was that about 6 months into our being together (we didn't really "date", that's tough to do when you can't see the person very much, we just a couple)...they discovered that his chronic back pain was due to 1. a tumor on his spine and 2. rather severe scoliosis that had developed rapidly to compensate for said tumor. He needed to have spinal surgery which ran the real risk of paralyzation, not to mention they didn't know if the tumor was maligant or not. Generally it isn't in that particular location, but still. He was 16 years old and the word "tumor" is pretty terrifying no matter what. He was also told that after the surgery he'd need to wear a back brace for at least a year to make sure the spine healed and "fused" correctly. And he'd have to be careful because if anything compromised that fusion he'd have to be rushed into surgery again.

There was a moment where I was like, holy shit, this is REAL SERIOUS LIFE STUFF. This wasn't some minor sprain or an annoying rash, this was something that would probably effect him for the rest of his life, a very risky surgery, and a year of recovery that was really only the start. I had friends who were like, you don't want to deal with this, you're too young, you should date someone local...but I didn't see it that way. Even at such a young age I understood that life was not a series of happy endings like in the movies. People got sick. People died. It could happen when you were young, middle aged, old, but it was going to happen at some point. You had to deal with it. It was scary and everything, but I just didn't think that bailing on someone the second they needed you for something actually important was a particularly nice thing to do, especially if you legitimately loved them. So I did what I could to keep him upbeat about it and read up on his back condition a lot. The day of the surgery was pretty much awful and I didn't sleep the night before. I was so relieved when I got the phone call that he was okay from his mom that I went immediately to sleep and didn't get up until the next day, probably a good 14 hrs later. It was a Thursday and I would go to see him in the hospital on that Saturday.

My mom, I have to say, was always really wonderful. She let him stay with us over weekends, in my room, and never made a big deal about it. She says now that it's because we clearly weren't casual that she felt like it was important to be supportive. She's also not a prude about sex and trusted me to be sensible and safe, which we were when we eventually got to that point. I'd had very thorough sex ed from both my mom and school so we didn't rush anything and I think that was a good thing. It didn't happen until quite awhile into our relationship, and well after his surgery. I think we both kind of knew that wanting to have sex was not the same as being really ready to. For teenagers we were remarkable self-aware sometimes.

So, when the surgery happened my mom was just a totally awesome person. She drove me up to see him in the hospital and waited in the cafeteria with his mom and sister while I spent about an hour with him. I had to be careful because of the surgery, I couldn't just climb into the hospital bed and hug him like I wanted to. But I did my best to be silly, sarcastic, and positive. He looked good considering, but seeing someone you care about in a hospital bed just isn't a fun time no matter how successful whatever it is has been. I managed to be completely composed and fine up until about 3 seconds after walking out of the room. Then I burst into tears and had a good long cry.

The year after that was, to put it mildly, challenging. He was in a back brace for it, which was hard plastic, and he also had to wear a metal support part from his chin down to where the brace started at about the top of his chest. He was also stuck at home that year, which couldn't possibly have been much fun. There really aren't any words to describe not being able to hug someone without a big old plastic barrier in the way...but it was way worse for him than it was for me. When he finally got that thing off, we had the most amazing hug. I still remember how he looked standing in the sunlight, a smile on his face, and I was able to put my head against his actual chest and my arms around his waist. As much as it's not an experience I would wish on anyone, and as much as I wish he hadn't had to go through it, I sometimes think that it made us appreciate each other in a way we might not have otherwise. I don't know that for sure and it's not really important. We got through it and were stronger for it.

Throughout high school and even most of college, we never talked about The Future in any grand sense. We never planned out a wedding or how many kids we might have or even thought much about big picture type stuff. We both knew that we were really young and that life could change things at nearly any moment. We knew we wouldn't be going to the same college, we knew that relationships like ours were not generally considered realistic or likely to last. We certainly didn't treat it like it wasn't serious, but we also didn't try to force it. I think we both knew that it was important that we grow up and do things for ourselves and not let our relationship define us.

In that sense college was not as difficult for us as it is for other people trying to maintain relationships. I went to school in NYC, he went to school in CT, and we both pursued our individual interests. We both commuted from home to school and we never pressured each other to compromise on our education or interests for the sake of our relationships. I think we both knew that would kill it faster than anything.

I don't want it to sound like we were some perfect couple who never squabbled or were the same person. We've had dumb fights, a few "serious" ones, and we don't always agree. And there have been tense times other than the surgery, like when he graduated from school and couldn't find a job for a year or two, and I supported us with my first comics editing job. FYI, those don't pay very much and it was not fun to handle bills and all that real life stuff on my own. But we got through that and actually ended up in games instead of graphic design. Which has ultimately worked out better as he's always been a gamer and loves it.

Likewise, going from long distance to living together had some adjustments. I will honestly never understand people who don't live together before getting married. Sharing your space with another person is challenging no matter how much you have in common or care about one another. I can't imagine leaping into a commitment like marriage without dealing with living together first. It teaches you a lot.

Then, of course, there's the fact that we didn't get married until we'd been together for 9 years. And only then because we wanted to be under the same health insurance/dental plan. Terribly romantic, I know. Neither of us had any issue with marriage per se, we just didn't really care. We were committed, we were together, and we definitely didn't need a piece of paper to make that binding (other than legally, of course). We did have a lovely, tiny, wedding, though. We pretty much avoided anything particularly traditional and when I say tiny I mean 20 people tiny. We basically went and got the license and told people where to show up like 3 weeks later. Friends and family were very sweet and said lovely things, I wrote the extremely non-religious vows, and afterwards we had pizza. I don't know if we're just weird but I don't remember feeling any different about our relationship after...it was just a really nice day.

Fast forward to now, we've moved cross country together, and recentlyish to San Francisco. Even though every apartment hasn't been fantastic, being together with our ridiculous cats always makes it feel like home. It doesn't "feel" like 17 years. We still talk constantly. Well, I talk a lot...he listens and enjoys my chatter for some reason. We like spending time together and pretty much hate being apart because we kind of feel adrift, without our anchor. Not in any sort of clingy sense, I don't think. It's not needy, grasping, or jealous. It's just...being together feels right.

I have no idea what the future holds for us. But I know we both feel really lucky that our interests have always seemed to run parallel to each other so that, while we don't love exactly the same things all the time, we "get" what the other one is about. We trust each other, we have a kind of obnoxious shorthand that probably drives other people nuts. Mostly, though, I'm grateful that I have such a supportive and kind partner in life. I don't ever want to take that for granted. It's too rare.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rub The Lotion On Your Skin

Generally I'm not a huge fan of either our celebrity or product obsessed culture. There are times when I think Capitalism might just be the root of all evil. That and changing room mirrors.

However, I also like to buy things. It's clearly socialized, it clearly isn't a true "need", and it's obviously frivolous and silly to have a bajillion skin creams and about a hundred different shades of "pink" eyeshadow. As much as I'd like to tell you I'm the sort of person who only buys local, organic, and "upcycled"...I don't. And I seriously have way too many bottles of supposedly de-frizzing hair products.

So, one of the things I do enjoy is reading about what other people buy and use. One of my favorite blogs is Mindy Kaling's (http://theconcernsofmindykaling.com/) where she often posts about that sort of thing. Generally they are, very aptly, titled: Things I've Bought That I Love.

I'm going to shamelessly steal that idea for this post because I feel like writing about something A. fun B. girly C. maybe useful for someone else who likes to buy things but likes to have recommendations first.

This post will be about skin products. I have tried a LOT of these. Expensive, cheap, natural, fake, and pretty much everything in between. I try not to experiment so much these days as that just tends to make matters worse. I'm also on a budget and doing my best to be a good, thrifty freelancer, so nothing on here is going to be like that crazy $200 moisturizer (LaMer, I think) that so many people swear by. It might be like putting God on your face, but I'll never know because I'm not paying that much for something that gets used up.

My skin type is of the finicky variety that is multiple personality'd, and also disordered. It's very sensitive, acne-prone, oily in the t-zone, mostly normal in the cheeks, hormonally reactive, and it will get weird and dry and flaky in the right climate/right before an important event. I have never been able to get it to be perfectly balanced and it gets crazy pants oily no matter what. Even if it's doing it's best impression of an alligator, it'll still get shiny over it. I don't even bother trying to stop it anymore, I just make sure to moisturize (yes, oil skin needs it), stock up on blotting paper, and pretend it's a healthy "glow".

So! These are the products I use consistently that fall into the Not Cheap But Definitely Reasonable category.

1. Paula's Choice Beta Hydroxy Gel 2 %. This stuff is awesome. It's an exfoliator for your pores and it does what it says if you use it day and night. Keeps skin clear (nothing will keep it perfect, but this will definitely help), non-drying, non-irritating, and it even helps fade acne marks and prevent actual indented scarring because of cell turnover. I had an indented scar from getting injections in one spot for incredibly frustrating cystic acne a few years ago and this popped it out after a month. Which was a huge relief. Having acne scars like I do is embarrassing and upsetting, so it's nice when something helps keep more of them from happening. And me from crying and wishing I could wear bags over my head.

2. Paula's Choice Resist Smoothing Treatment 5% Alpha Hydroxy Acid. I use this at night a few times a week for extra exfoliation. It makes my skin super smooth, glowy, and further reduces marks and redness. It's also anti-aging. I don't totally understand the different between alpha and beta hydroxy's, but a combo is supposed to be good for you skin. So, I do what I'm told.

3. Cerave Moisturizing Lotion. This stuff is amazing. When I was using Retin-A this stuff saved my skin from irritation, flaking, and any kind of weather related crankiness. And it still does that, keeping my skin feeling soft and moisturized, never tight or greasy. You can find this at most any drugstore, it comes in a big jar or bottle, and it lasts forever. You can use it on face, hands, body, whatever. It's non-comedogenic and recommended by dermatologists. I haven't used another moisturizer in like 4 years, that's how much I love it.

4. Witch Hazel. I use this as a toner, especially if my skin is feeling irritated because it soothes it and never dries it out. Also it has the word witch in it.

5. DHC's Oil Cleanser. No, trust me, this stuff is great. I don't use soaps on my face because it just strips it, and this is my nighttime cleanser. It feels nice and soothing on, rinses totally clean, and removes clogs and makeup without making your skin feel stripped and crummy. You have to get it online, but it's actually very reasonable for the amount. And I swear, you can absolutely use it on the oiliest of oily skin.

6. Aspirin mask. If you didn't know, aspirin is made with salicylic acid, a common acne fighting ingredient. If you can find uncoated aspirin (I get Bayers AM) and dissolve it in a little water, it makes a gritter mask that reduces blemishes, redness, and irritation. You can use it as an exfoliator as well, though you need to be gentle as it has a rough texture. I tend to use just one or 2 tablets. See the next list for another DIY mask I do with this.

This is a list of Expensive Products That Are Worth It, as I've learned that if my skin likes something I should stick to it or it will get very pissed off at me and develop scales. It's pretty gross.

1. Dermalogica's Ultra-Calming Cleanser. This stuff is not cheap but you don't need to use a lot. This is my morning cleanser which gently soothes and removes product residue from the night. I don't use harsh cleansers because I'm not bathing my face in dirt and it's actually counterproductive when you have oily, sensitive, and acne prone skin. If you irritate it it just gets worse.

2. Dermalogica's Matte Sunscreen for the face, 20 SPF. This is the only SPF I've ever found that didn't clog my pores up immediately, smell like Rockaway Beach in August, or simply do nothing and let me get burned. This has held up in SoCal in every kind of weather and not made my skin dry or oily. My esthetician tells me that my skin has almost no sun damage, and I've been wearing sunscreen since I was a kid obsessively, every day, every season. I may look like a pasty vampire, but I'll take that over looking like I'm made of old leather at 32. It is over priced, but some things are worth it. Like not getting face cancer.

3. Murad's Clarifying Mask. This is one of the few clay masks that actually works for me, even though it has sulfur in it which can be irritating. What I actually do is mix aspirin with it and, for me at least, it shrinks pores, exfoliates, and often stops breakouts in their tracks. It also keeps the aspirin on better as it tends to flake off on its own. Be careful doing this kind of DIY, though, as skin is individual and what works for me could be a disaster on you. I'd do a spot test before putting it all over your face.

And then there are the Splurges.

1. Go to a dermatologist. If you have skin issues, that is. I can't stress this enough. If you're having stubborn acne, persnikety skin sensitives, or are just overall not finding things that consistently work, see a derm. Most insurance will at least partially cover a visit and it will definitely cover prescriptions. Obviously this is less viable if you don't have insurance, but a visit to a derm can actually be around $75 out of pocket for a consultation, and it will likely save you a ton in the long run by giving you product recommendations that will actually be effective. Most derms I've been to have also been super generous with the samples and don't just try to sell expensive stuff if you're on a budget.

2. Facials. I see an esthetician about once every month to two months who clears out my pores. Sounds gross, but, it's worth it to me. Picking at your skin is a bad habit that tends to make things worse, leading to deeper infections, bigger breakouts, and scarring. Estheticians (good ones) know how to do extractions that, while they don't feel great, heal up and go away without leaving marks or spreading bacteria. Plus, you'll look like you have baby skin when they're done, your pores are that clean and tiny. And, if you're lucky like me, you'll find one who is an obsessive sci-fi nerd and you'll talk about the latest episodes of Fringe while she degunks your face.

And that's my skin product rec's. Paula's Choice you can find at: paulaschoice.com, DHC Cleansing Oil at dhcskincare.com, Murad can be found at Sephora or Ulta, and Dermalogica can be found at Ulta or local Dermalogica skincare outlets.

Blame the Belly

It's strange to notice that the more stressed out I am the more anxious I become about my body and weight, which leads to an odd desire to shop for new clothes, which makes me even more stressed out and anxious about my body/shape/weight. It's a tremendously destructive cycle.

My area of greatest body concern has always been my belly. Even when I was starving myself sick but thin, it stubbornly held on. It is strangely resilient, this belly of mine. It refuses to be flattened or kept down. For something so soft and round, it's tough. It likes where it is and no amount of crunching, dieting, or obsessing seems to change its need to be seen, to be felt, to be noticed. And believe me, I've tried to hide it in every empire waisted, baggy, boxy, shapeless style you can think of.

There are days when I hate it. In fact, I can't remember not feeling, at best, disappointed with it. On my worst days it's an object of disgust, something I've dreamed about slicing off. It's the core, the center, of my self-loathing.

Like most things I dislike about myself, my belly hate starts in adolescence. Before puberty I was slight. Not skinny, really, but small and slimish. I never gave my body a second thought. I didn't really think about how I looked at all, and my weight was never a point of concern. Until it suddenly became one, which really did feel like it was overnight. Unlike how most girls seem to develop boobs and other noticeable sexual characteristics, puberty for me was gaining an overall softness sans breasts. It was confusing because I didn't look like other girls. I didn't look older or feminine. I just looked...soft. I went through puberty in the 90's which was the era of the half shirt/crop top. Everyone seemed to be showing off flat, muscled, slim abs. Even before my peers starting pointing it out, I knew my body was not "right" for that. And I couldn't seem to make it, no matter how hard I tried. So during some of my most formative years I became deeply convinced that my body was wrong, and that my belly was to blame.

Now, everyone knows that girls bodies change in adolescence. Periods, boobs, your hormones are doing their thing. What I don't see people talking about much, if at all, are the further changes our bodies go through in our mid twenties to late twenties. I wasn't prepared for that at all. I had grown accustomed to, if not particularly fond of, my body shape. I was still suffering with disordered eating and body dysmorphia so we'll take it with a grain of salt that I had a remotely realistic idea of what that shape was...but I had small boobs and no hips and my belly was still there. That had been my reality for over 10 years. It was my status quo.

And then suddenly...I grew breasts. It wasn't quite as overnight as puberty, but nearly. I didn't know what the hell to do with them. I went from pretty much never wearing a bra to, well, jiggling. Noticeably. What had always been what I called "booblettes" were now absolutely boobs. I was in complete denial at first. And then, a little later, out popped some hips. What the hell was going on with my body? Why was I suddenly "developing" at the ripe old age of 26-28? Was something wrong with me?

And what about the belly? It remained steadfast, though it did yield a bit more to a "curve" than previously in the waist department. But otherwise it still sloped and curved, still remained stubbornly un-flat. I had hoped it would be redistributed somehow, but, no. My belly was not having any of that.

A quick poll amongst my female friends of the same age made it apparent that we were all experiencing shifts. I even asked my mom who said "Oh, yeah, that happens." Which was both funny and irritating since I'd never heard about it before, from a woman who told me very candidly about the first time she had sex. I suppose it's not as traumatic for other women who don't have the body hangups I do, but I can tell you...I had a lot of cries over this sudden upheaval and change in physical terrain.

When I went into nutritional treatment and therapy for eating issues I went through another change. I gained weight when I started eating which has led to more boobage and hippage. Nothing drastic, but enough to make me anxious and self-conscious in a way I never had before.

And the belly...oh the belly. My soft rounded friend. She's certainly enjoying the additional curves, the added softness, the more rubenesque rolls. I haven't quite gotten to that yet, where I can rejoice in additions to my body that indicate a healthier, heavier me. I know that I am mentally and physically healthier now than I was when I was starving...but oh, the resentment that sometimes wells up. The anger, the disappointment in my roly poly fleshyness.

The thing is...I don't have this problem when I look at other women. Slim, fat, curvy, athletic, average, old, young or any shape or size you like...I honestly believe I see beauty in everyone. Except me. Myself I always view in terms of taking up too much space. I don't just "feel" fat, I feel enormous. As though I dwarf anyone else around me with my vast expanses of skin. This is, by the way, in complete denial of reality. I may feel like I'm towering over people...but at my height you'd need to be a child for that to be accurate. I'll refrain from even attempting to rationalize my size because this hasn't been a great day and I'm afraid I'll make some insulting comparisons or suggestions.

And in the end, it all still revolves around my belly. The center of my distress. The core of my terror. Because she's just so easy to blame.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Words

when we speak
those careful sounds
where do they go
do they end
do we breathe them back in
if i shout
will it push through you
into air
or bury itself
in our bones
how many words
can i carry
what meaning does
this body hold
will these words
live past or outside
will they go on
past the dark
becoming what
we can not

My Period Makes Me Do Things

In an ongoing effort not to fall back into unpleasant and unhelpful negative cyclical thinking, today I am going to write about all the things my impending Period is making me do and why I hate it sometimes. Also? I really, really, really, really, miss my therapist today.

For instance, yesterday, my Period made me eat Nutella by the spoonful, straight out of the jar. I'm pretty sure it's going to make me do it again today (actually, it's happening right now as I write this). Also probably pickles. The really sour kind. In general my Period likes to make me shop and eat. I have spent untold amounts of money at Sephora over the years because of my Period, usually because it's in a snit about aging or breakouts and thinks I really need another face lotion or moisturizer RIGHT NOW.

Earlier this week my Period went on an obsessive quest to find new dresses, without much success, because something was wrong with even the most basic ones. It finally settled on an Etsy purchase of a fairly bland black dress. It waffled a lot on the sizing, it tends to size way up as a general rule. This often results in sack-like purchases that are never worn.

Today, my Period made me try on about a millions clothes before deciding that baggy and black was really the only option. And then it made me feel really bad about having a zit on my chin because I'm 32 and who still has acne issues at my age? My Period is really judgy.

Then my Period made me return some clothes that didn't fit right, which is kind of the first time it's done anything helpful. Unfortunately, it followed up that act of charity by forcing me to wander around a mall for two hours, looking at my reflection in mirrors and window fronts, and telling me how extraordinarily, freakishly, short and fat I am. I think the exact description it used was "waddling portly black bantam".

My Period forced me to go into Forever21 and feel depressed about not being 17 and slim anymore, and tried to make me buy things with glitter on it. But I resisted. It tried to tempt me with really ugly rings but I held my head high and said no.

So my Period retaliated by letting me know that my hair is really ridiculous and I should cut it all off because honestly, who am I kidding with this mess? My Period says this every month about my hair, which has led to some drastic cut regrets over the years and many freak out hair dyeing experiments. It usually lures me into the hair care section of stores and makes me buy a lot of serums and conditioners that don't work. I'm getting wiser about this tactic so I just put my hair up and told my Period to suck it.

It then dragged me to Target to wander aimlessly through their clothing section where I couldn't even manage to buy a plain old long sleeved tee without judging myself for it. My Period tried to make me buy some more cardigans but I told it, no, you have enough of those right now. It had a little bit of a hissy fit at this point and tried to convince me to buy XL sweats in bright fuchsia, but I held out. It was a very near thing.

However, my Period did convince me to pick up an oversized t-shirt with a sparkly pink skull on it. It told me I could wear it at home because I freelance and the cats won't judge me. This sounded almost reasonable.

And then my Period hit the motherload. The Halloween section at Target is now up. Thankfully, this is an activity I like and which does not make me feel bad about myself. I spent a lot of time eyeing skull plates, masks, life size skeletons, stuff in jars, fake gravestones...however I was good and only bought a tablecloth with a very cool skull and ghosts motif.

Finally, my Period forced me to go to the makeup section. It really wanted some eyeshadows but I know better than to mess around with that stuff at Target. Instead, I ended up with a totally stupid lip gloss in "Saucy Mauve". However, this plus the t-shirt and tablecloth seems to have soothed my Period for the time being so I can kind of function.

Still, my Period isn't very happy that I'm writing this. It thinks I'm blowing its cover. I suspect it will make me pay for it with pointless online window shopping later today, plus probably watching Jane Eyre and Pride & Prejudice back to back while having a good cry. Also probably more Nutella.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Into Every Life a Few Cliches Must Fall

Over the years I've had to accept that, although they are gender cliches and I hate being anything "typical", there are some things I do (or don't do) as a woman that fit some of the more irritating generalities made about us. The thing that's important to remember about them is that, though they may be cliches, the only reason they're gendered is because of sexism. They aren't universally true of all or even most women, it's just taken for granted that they are. And unfortunately, even the most acceptable feminine thing is "less than". That's just the nature of othering.

The problem with that, among many, is something I encounter when it comes to the phenomenon of being considered "girly". I'm going to define that here as things that are deemed cute, traditionally feminine (ie. dresses, lace, bows), and often domestic arts. Being "girly" is definitely not used as a compliment most of the time, it's generally diminutive because it's more overtly "feminine" and therefore not masculine...which even for women is often more positive than negative, so long as you don't go full on "butch". That's a whole other conversation.

Now, I am not talking about women who speak in baby talk or act like they're five when they're thirty. That's being childish, not "girly". What I'm talking about is the belittlement of things like baking, crafting for fun, enjoying cute, playful, or whimsical fashion, and not conforming to the modern idea of what a "mature" woman should wear or do for fun. Enjoying silly things does not mean you're the anti-mature, and it doesn't mean you're trying to remain a child. What it does mean is that you've been able to cultivate the same sense of wonder you had as a child and apply it to your adult life. How that's bad I don't know.

Plenty of women who wear much more objectively womanly clothes (ie. ones that make it obvious what your gender is in a sexual sense and are arguably worn for the male gaze) act more immature and childish than I do. If someone can't take me seriously because sometimes I wear a bow in my hair or prefer quirkier fashion than just whatever The Gap is selling this season, then that says a lot about how they judge others. I don't act or present myself as a child, I just don't adhere to fashion trends.

Granted, gender expressions of any kind don't exist in a vacuum. But it's as important to wonder why people want to genuinely infantalize women, as it is to objectively look at why many women choose to identify themselves in less male gaze oriented fashion, or dabble in activities that they enjoyed as a child, and why we would seek to belittle that because it's "girly". If wearing pink or lace is an automatic negative, we need to look at why. The same way we need to criticize other generalities associated with being female and what is and is not acceptable for gender presentation. And beyond that...I'm kind of really super tired of people trying to dictate my fashion sense. Wear what you want, but don't expect me to conform to arbitrary notions of what is and is not fashionable and appropriate. Especially when I'm covered from neck to ankles and in no way infringing on your space or somehow poking you in the eye with my sartorial choices.

As you can see from the above, caring about fashion is one of the many gender cliches I fall into. I legitimately give a shit about clothing and spend a lot of time figuring out outfits and pieces, especially for professional situations. I care a great deal about how I present myself. Some of it is from having an eating disorder and body dysmorphia. I'm overly aware of how I look and worry a lot about how that's interpreted/judged. But I also enjoy it as a way to express myself. I find clothing, when everything goes well, fun and creative and another aspect of who I am. And ultimately I make fashion choices based on what I like, not what I think others will like or accept.

What other cliches do I fit into? Well...I do love chocolate. I wear makeup. My periods are awful and I get cranky before and during. I sometimes spend to much money on shoes, though generally it's boots. I like kittens and things that are cute. I enjoy frilly dresses and Peter Pan collars. My personal style is eclectic...a dress, tights, and an old lady sweater will probably factor in. I like vintage silhouettes and stompy boots. And sometimes I lounge around the house in oversized sweats, or go for military coats. Mixing it up is something I enjoy.

I make things. Like, if I suddenly get a bug up my bum that I absolutely MUST HAVE a glittery octopus pin or skirt with a flower on it or some fancy icing cupcakes...then I make them. I keep jewelry supplies all over the house, usually stuff that is sparkly or fun, and just...make a necklace or a ring or a bracelet because I can. I like home crafts a lot. I go completely nuts at Halloween with the decorations, most made my me. I like pretty things, girls, colors, textures...I still think fairies are nifty, even if they are not really very nice in mythological terms.

Some things have shifted over time. I used to really hate the color pink, for instance. I hated how it was used in ridiculous discussions about what is and is not inherent to gender. I hated that I was expected to wear it just because I was a girl. I hated that people ignored the fact that not that long ago it was actually considered a masculine color, so attaching gender meanings to hue is just dumb. And then...I grew up. I didn't forget the meanings given to it, but I stopped allowing it to influence whether I liked it or not. And I do like it. I've had pink hair, and some pink items of clothing, and I find it unexpectedly flattering. I still prefer blue, but not because I'm rejecting gender norms.

The only cliche I fit that actually bothers me on a deeper level is that I both hate and am not good at math. I don't know if it's just that my brain is wired for narratives and illustrations, or because I'm so verbal I'm practically diarhiffic...but math and me have never been friends. There was a time when we were cordial. I didn't feel stupid at it, I just knew my limitations. I over think math by a lot and just in general would rather be reading something about dragons. But a time came, about late middle school, when I realized math and I were going to have words. And then a falling out. And then tense encounters until I was finally able to drop it my second year of high school.

I admire people who are great at math and wish I was. But the reality is, I'm good with the basics and that's as far as it goes. Everything else might as well be in an alien language.

The truth about all of these cliches or stereotype is that while they apply to me and I'm a woman...they aren't what defines me or any other woman. They aren't essential female traits. Many, if not all, are socially engineered. They're not biological. And that's okay. It's okay that some of things I like are social constructs because I know they are. I'm not blindly thinking they're created out of magic vagina powers every other woman I know will immediately relate to and feel the same way about.

At the end of the day it's about balance. I can accept the things about me that are considered "traditionally" feminine, and even the parts that are "girly" because I don't see them as negative. I'm a complicated person and no one part of me is better than the other.

And if you underestimate me because I wear pink or lace, well...you'll quickly learn it was a mistake.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Womanthology: Why I Don't Want to Be Paid

As usual, the internet blew up about something comics related. Dealing with the Womanthology questions ate up most of the latter part of last week for me, and I'm pretty tired. And I still have my pages to draw. I'm like the only person behind and I'm an editor! Bad Mariah, bad.

Honestly, backlash isn't really unexpected, although I dearly wish that Internet Outrage TM would read before commenting sometimes. A lot of the questions people had were already answered and readily available information. It's easy from the outside of something to say what people "should" do. However, Womanthology's success is rather unprecedented. Applying older models to it only goes so far. Like it or not, we're all learning as we go on this.

In some ways, I feel like the biggest criticisms of Womanthology really just illustrate the underlying naivete/idealism involved. The project comes from a sincere desire to give back to the industry, to create something for creators of all levels to showcase their work in, to give many people access to professionals and feedback they wouldn't otherwise have, and to use all that experience to then further donate to worthy charities. It's basically a cyclical "giving back" concept, where it's more about what you give than receive. Like I said, it's idealistic.

Asking creators to volunteer their time and work, which includes the editors involved, does come from a rather DIY mentality. It's meant as a way to do this together, because we want to, and because we value the work for what it is and want people to see it. It's the same reason most artists create their own work, at core. It's not that we don't want to be paid...but it's not the only reason we make things. Making money probably shouldn't be the underlying motivation to creation. I'm not saying it's a perk you should be grateful for, it's just that creative endeavors aren't always lucrative. So you have to find value in the work regardless, and want to create for reasons other than that.

When Renae approached me to help edit, I signed on to donate my time, in this specific case, to something I wouldn't get paid to do. I spend most of my days trying to find work to be paid for, because I'm a freelancer. I do that daily grind. And frankly, I was getting tired of feeling frustrated and cynical and constantly thinking about money. I don't think that's a part of freelancing anyone enjoys, and it can start to suck the joy and life out of something you love after awhile. Not because, again, you shouldn't want to be paid. You should. It's just feeling that way isn't very fulfilling and you start to wish you had something else to focus on.

Part of my job as a freelance editor is making sure the creators I work with, on the same projects I get checks for, get paid themselves. I sign those vouchers. I turn them in. I know that people need to pay rent, because I need to. I know that checks often can't get cut fast enough before they're whoosh, gone to bills and feeding kids and making sure you have a place to live for another month. I know that because I get the frantic emails about power getting shut off. I know what living paycheck to paycheck means. Because I have been there. The value of getting paid for one's work can't be emphasized enough. No one pays the rent or eats by good will, or exposure, alone. These things are true and in no way debatable.

That said, I emphatically disagree that there are never circumstances in which one's time, energy, and abilities can or should be donated. Do I think this should be done frivolously or even frequently? No. I absolutely believe that artists should be paid for their work. That they should retain copyright and control over those works, and that we don't place anywhere near enough value in it. At all.

However, I also don't believe that asking people if they would like to donate that time, willingly, is the same as saying you don't value them. I get why people who have been doing this a long time are skeptical, or who have worked on unpaid anthologies before, don't like it or find it uncomfortable. No one could (sensibly) argue that there isn't a serious problem with expecting people to work in comics for the "love" alone. I myself am seriously critical of that attitude. I love comics but that love has never covered my bills. Only work and paychecks have done that. The love I have for the medium makes the work satisfying, but it generally makes the financial side frustrating. In fact, in about another month or so, I'll likely be going back to Nannying and other non-comics related work to keep myself afloat. I'm working to line up more paying jobs, but the reality is, freelancing is often feast or famine. And during the famine, you find other ways to live.

It would be really difficult for anyone on Womanthology to undervalue anyone's work or time, because most of us are underpaid freelancers who are trying, daily, to be valued for ours. Which is, again, why I agreed to do this. So I could give the same editorial feedback I normally get paid for, to people who otherwise wouldn't get it. To pair them up with other artists and creators, people they might not otherwise meet or get to work with. I saw it as a teaching experience and a learning experience, and a way to give a real professional experience with deadlines and feedback to a lot of people just starting out. The same way I have donated my time as an editor to unpaid portfolio review sessions at schools, guest speaking engagements, writer workshops, teachings kids about comics, and even to moderating on forums, which is more time consuming than it sounds. Unless those also have no value, then I don't see how it can be universally true that this type of project has none.

The way I view volunteer work is that it's partially selfish and partially selfless. You do get something positive out of volunteering. Usually you feel good about yourself for spending time doing something that isn't about just you, but about helping others. That's the selfish part. The selfless part is what the other people get out of it, which is hopefully something useful or inspiring or that allows them to further develop themselves. Volunteering for something means sharing a bit of yourself without expecting anything in return.

Ironically, I would normally not advise anyone to do work for "exposure" unless there was something they really valued about the project or the cause. Which I do here, hence why I made my own personal exception to volunteer and work on it. I usually don't, and I've been asked before by other projects.

The only real mistake/error going on here is really a lack of cynicism on the part of Renae and those of us working on it. We thought this was going to be a small project with a small print run. It snowballed. We could spend all day listing out how we "should" have known better, or been better prepared, or whatever. But honestly, it's been a learn-as-we-go thing. So much time was dedicated to making the Kickstarter successful that it's still a shock that it did what it did. So, now we're playing a little bit of catch up. That's the unglamorous truth.

More accurate printing costs are being looked at and will definitely factor into everything from here on out. More copies for contributors are a definite. Sketchbooks for contributors to sell are happening. And we're talking about a lot of other things along those lines, because the whole goal of this project was to give people a unique experience. I know it would be wonderful to have all the accounting figured out and every cent accounted for right now. But the reality is that fees, taxes, printing costs, and other things do have to be estimated. And it takes time. Because everyone working on this has got about a thousand other things they're doing...including also trying to find paid work. No one is trying to hide anything or neglect anyone. I recognize this is like saying "please trust us because we are trustworthy!" That's going to raise some eyebrows. However, we all understand how necessary transparency is.

Incidentally, that lack of hiding anything is partially what opened this up to criticism. Because Renae was free with her ideas, how overwhelming this was/is, and that we all have a certain lack of experience with it. There's no hiding that, and I actually value the advice that's been given. There are obviously things we need to improve on and keep in mind.

Does the sum of money raised change things? For me, yes and no. It doesn't change the reason I volunteered to do this, nor did it somehow make me want to get paid for that time. For me, it was an overwhelming indication of support for the concept, and the conversations alone leading up to all this has led to a great deal of real exposure for the book and contributors. As much as that's often criticized, correctly, it's not really applicable here anymore. This is way too visible. And there's a vital re-examination of assumptions going on right now, and I think that's productive.

Now, the amount of money changes the level of scrutiny considerably. It also changes the level of what we can do with the finished books, how many more outlets we can get it into, and it raises the profile of this from a somewhat obscure vanity project, to something absolutely no one saw coming. This has completely changed how many people can potentially see this book, which was something we all wanted from the beginning.

However, what it doesn't change for me is what the project is for. I came on to volunteer my time, as did everyone else. Volunteer and charity work is something that's very important to me, and I often feel guilty I can't do more of it. This project allows me to fulfill that in a medium and industry I love, and give back because I am very lucky to be here. I don't feel that devalues my work or the work of anyone contributing.

The money raised certainly shocks me, and I want to see it used in positive and productive ways. But there's more than one way to do that, and the person who gets to make that decision is Renae. She's put in an insane amount of work, based on the simple idea that she wanted to give people a book to be published, to give back to the industry, and allow those contributing to give back as well. We donate our time and work, that work is sold and the money goes to various charities. Personally, I'd like to see some of it go to CBLDF and some other comics related charities as well as Global Giving. I don't have any issue with Global Giving, since many of the charities are small and benefit specifically women and children in various ways. That's worthwhile to me, too. And that's been clear since the beginning. It's easy for me, like anyone, to say I would do x or z...but you know, at the end of the day, this is Renae's baby. She made this happen. It's a product of her generosity, enthusiasm, and genuine desire to give. I'm not interested in trying to make it something else.

I absolutely understand anyone who takes a more hard line to "always be paid for your work". Normally, I'm with you. But there are exceptions to everything, and this was an exception for me. It's not some sacred cow, it can be questioned and wondered about. It should be, if you can't stand up to scrutiny then something really is wrong. And I expect more questions and curiosity, that's only natural.

At the end of the day, I can't fault anyone who advocates for creators rights, because that would be going against not only my own ethical convictions, but self-interest as well. It's always a worthwhile conversation. To me, we're all on the same "side" here. We all want to see artists and creators work valued financially and for itself. I would seriously hate to see Womanthology used as a way to either devalue or argue against artists getting paid for their work. That's so far beyond the concept, it would be heartbreaking.

But now I need to get back to work because I've missed my own deadline and, if I don't catch up, I'll be letting a whole lot of people down. And they've worked too hard for me to be okay with that.












Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Haunted by Stories

Been feeling oddly adrift lately. Some of it is post SDCC settling, some of it is anxiety about being freelance, and some of it is...I don't know. Feeling like I'm on the cusp of something important creatively, but being unable to attain it. I worry I won't, or it'll slip by and I won't notice until it's too late. This has led to the monthly melancholy of dwelling on existential dread.

As usually happens when I'm in this mood, I've watched a lot of really depressing movies. Mostly British ones, about epic and (at the very least) bittersweet love stories. It's a thing.

Fantasy and fiction is this odd creature. I don't really want to have a life like Jane Eyre, or live in a repressive time with corsets. And yet. There is an undeniable magnetism to stories set in such times. Some of it is the way we idealize it, although ironically the stories often don't. But the love stories are so intense, so fraught, so full of meaning and passion and grief. I suppose that, in their intensity, they capture the essence of a lot of what life is...just in a more condensed form, with all the extraneous bits left out. We live out our lives day to day, year by year (hopefully). But in fiction, it is distilled. It makes the mundane more. It is haunting. It is fantastical. It is breathless and sweeping and wondering.

When I read or watch stories of this kind, it taps into some deep well I have. I think it's where my love of stories come from...a place that connects to what I can only imagine other story lovers feel, in a way I don't with anything else. This place is full of joy and terror, grief and love, want and need...and then more than that. It's an actual feeling in my chest sometimes...hot and cold at the same time. Sometimes I think it will consume me with its indefinable need. Or it will rocket out of me, screaming, grateful to be released from its cage. It seems to be a part of me and alien at the same time. Something that desperately wants. It wants more, and other, and out.

I don't really have the words to properly express it, and I think that's where every story I have ever told, ever experienced and loved and connected to, has come from or gone to. It needs meaning. It craves expression. And all I have are words, which never quite seem adequate or worthy or enough. But sometimes they come close.

I have no doubt that I am haunted by stories. If such a thing as a soul exists, maybe mine is a story trying desperately to get free.












Sunday, July 31, 2011

SDCC: I had fun!

So. SDCC. 

I've been trying to write up a recap for a week now, but I've either been working, falling into sleep coma's, or busily reminding people they met me. I lucked out and didn't get Con Crud, which I'm extremely grateful for. Usually I'm still recovering a week later, but this year, I'm feeling pretty good and haven't had nearly the same amount of post convention blahs.

This might have something to do with the fact that I had real fun at SDCC, took it at my own pace, and met some really fantastic people. This is the first year I felt like I was part of things, not separate, not awkward, not overwhelmed.

Now, of course, the convention is still enormous and crazypants. But I took my time, I didn't try to see everything (I didn't even go near the 2nd floor), I did some signings, and I talked to a lot of fellow professionals and creators. It was creatively stimulating, professionally gratifying, and just kind of...lovely.

I think this feeling is, in no small part, due to being a published writer. Now, I was last year, too. But it was new and felt odd and I wasn't really comfortable with saying that's what I was (as well as being an editor). I didn't really believe I'd earned it (and I kinda still don't). I doubt I'll really feel like a "real" writer until I do something that's entirely my own. But I don't feel like I don't have the right to call myself a writer anymore, and I feel more confident about my work...even though I know I still need lots of improvement as a storyteller. I'm just hoping I can get more opportunities to tell stories and grow.

One of the best things about con's is meeting people and catching up with creators in person. This year I got to meet George R. R. Martin AND Anne Rice. Whaaat? The reality that I've worked/am working with both of them kind of sunk in when I got an awesome hug from George, and chatted with Anne about writing. I never want to be the kind of person who's all name-droppy obnoxious...but I'd like to think it's okay to celebrate working with such wonderful storytellers and people. It's an amazing opportunity and one I'm extremely grateful for. I met so many cool industry folks, editors, writers, artists...some I've known for years, some are now new friends. It's one of the things I like most, how comics can really unite the people who work on them.

Then there was Womanthology, which I got asked about a TON at the show. I met some of the creators, which was fantastic, and I got to hear from many professionals how excited they are for the project and how happy they were to be able to support it and see it get such a tremendous response so quickly. I can be pretty cynical about this industry sometimes, and it was gratifying to be able to have something to be so positive about. 

I was sorry to leave the show really early on Sunday, but I couldn't be happier with how it turned out. I hope the rest of the conventions I go to this year turn out even half so well.




Friday, July 8, 2011

Heroic: A Womanthology - Oh. Wow.

So, not that long ago, artist Renae DeLiz sent me an email about an idea she'd had along with fellow artist Jessica Hickman. It was for an anthology featuring women creators, known and unknown, young and established, big names and unpublished newcomers. The idea was really simple: showcase the breadth of female talent that loves comics and is making amazing work in the medium right now. Give them a platform and a published book, let them tell their stories, be supportive of each other, and celebrate female creativity.

In other words: It was exactly the kind of project I wanted to be a part of. But how to do it? The email chains were epic. Anthology's are huge undertakings on their own, not to mention printing is not cheap. IDW graciously agreed to be the publisher, but we still needed funds to make it all happen. Enter Kickstarter and a lot of enthusiastic folks willing to help and...you have a phenomenon. That's taken maybe two months to put together. That's what love and enthusiasm can accomplish.

I say this because the Womanthology Kickstarter began yesterday and, in less than 20 hours, not only met, but exceeded, it's goal of 25K. It's well on its way to 40K at this point.

Check it out: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/renaedeliz/womanthology-massive-all-female-comic-anthology

I think I can safely say this was a huge shock to everyone involved. I don't think any of us doubted we'd make the goal...but eventually. Not in less than 20 hours of the first day it was up out of 30. How did this happen? Well, social networking played a huge part. Twitter, Facebook...it was viral in only a few hours. People like Neil Gaiman suddenly tweeted about it. Incentives for donations went like hotcakes. It seems to have struck a nerve at just the right time in just the right environment with just the right people.

And it's incredible. For all the creators involved it's a wonderful testament to the amount of work that's already gone into this project, and that a book like this is clearly wanted. It's even more of a testament to Renae DeLiz, who is without a doubt one of the most talented artists working today. Seriously. Check out her work on The Last Unicorn GN and tell me that's not stunning, every page. She's also kind, dedicated, and just an all around lovely person. The fact that she's been able to accomplish a goal like this in record time gives me hope for the world, and our little industry.

Why? Well, comics are a wonderful medium. It's unlike any other storytelling format, no matter what people tell you about the similarities between it and film. But as much as I love it, it has an issue with diversity, just like our culture in general. At this point I think its troubles with sexism are so well documented they're largely a cliche.

I always see the same sorts of questions, with the same answers, most of which are, in my opinion, erroneous or misguided. Mostly in regards to whether there really is a female audience for comics, what kinds of books they want, and sometimes most discouragingly...whether women actually exist in the industry or not. It's as frustrating to deal with the reality of sexism within as it is to deal with the ignorance from without, where most progress is ignored in favor of boob windows and CEO's who say "penis". It's not that these things don't exist or don't matter, but there's so much more to what women in this industry are doing, every day, on every level. Every time an article comes out and basically says "OMG, women make comics! And read them!" I want to bash my head against something. Yes, we do. And we have been for awhile. This is not new. And treating it like it is marginalizes all of us who work so hard here every day.

So something like Womanthology taking off like a shot in its first 24hours is gratifying both personally and professionally. It's vindicating. We're here, we have stories to tell...and what's more...People. Want. To. Read. Them. For me, this little juggernaut is proof positive that there is a demand for stories by women. That they can be and are for everyone.

Our audience has spoken, and we are thrilled to have you on our side.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What I think about when I think about SDCC

SDCC is rapidly approaching, and amidst the stress of figuring out my flight, hotel, booth duty, and what the hell I'm going to wear so I don't feel uncomfortable but also don't look crappy for 4 days...I'm thinking about two incidents that happened at my first SDCC (which is about 5 years ago now, maybe even 6) that have forever colored the way I view it and every other convention I attend, and likely will attend, for the foreseeable future.

In short: during the 2nd night, at the Hyatt, I experienced two separate physically and sexually threatening situations. The first was a groping that I was too shocked to register until the next day. The other was being cornered, touched, and made uncomfortable by two drunk men.

Both left me feeling shaken, upset, and like I had done something wrong. I kept thinking: how did I get in that situation? What did I do to provoke it? What mistakes had I made? How did I allow this to happen? Why didn't I make a huge scene? Basically, I immediately started blaming myself for being a woman who did not prevent someone else from making me an object. Something that I had absolutely no control over, did not deserve, and yet still feel responsible for in some way, to this day.

First, the groping. I was standing with a group of fellow professionals I had worked with for years. Most of them I knew quite well, one not very well. They were all drinking, I was not. I suddenly felt a hand trail down my back and cup my right...er...posterior. My stomach immediately flip flopped and I turned to the guy, shocked. He was talking to someone else and then stumbled away. He did not look at me once. I said nothing, because I had already started telling myself it hadn't really happened, I must have imagined it, who does that, no way.

The second happened about an hour later. I had drifted away from the group I had been talking to, to write an idea down in my sketchbook. I was against one of the large windows. There were many groups of people around, as there usually are. I did not notice the two men until they were towering over me. I was stuck and felt very small and uncomfortable. I looked around to see if anyone I knew was close by, but they weren't, and in any case, couldn't see me because these two men had neatly blocked me from view. I didn't know them at all and, the clearest thought I can remember when I realized I was cornered, is that I wished I was wearing my boots. I had left them at home because they're a pain to deal with at the airport. I was wearing flats after a day of standing on my feet, and I suddenly felt about two feet tall (I'm actually a little over five feet tall). They started asking me what I was so intent about, why was I so serious, what was I doing at SDCC, was I a friend of someone there. I said, no, I'm an editor. This was a mistake as they were then curious about why a girl worked in comics. They moved closer. I backed up, but there wasn't anywhere to go. I could tell they had been drinking, likely a lot, and for some reason I felt compelled to be...nice. I was scared to be mean or just get away, afraid they'd get mad or rough. I felt like I was stuck to the sidewalk. One of them men reached out and touched the front of my jacket, telling me I looked like a Tim Burton character. He tried to run his hand down the stripes and that's when I unfroze. All I could think of to do, because for whatever reason I just couldn't yell, I said...oh, I see some people I know, bye. And I quickly moved away. I had to squeeze myself against the window and duck. I practically ran to open the door and went up to my hotel room where I proceeded to have a very hard time sleeping.

My mind raced. I had every cliche thought you can think of. Had I been wearing something "wrong"? Not unless you think being covered from neck to ankles in baggy black, with a striped jacket is "revealing". Had I somehow suggested I wanted attention? Not unless being shy and a little freaked out at my first SDCC indicates that. Had I acted inappropriately? Other than a bit awestruck and not drinking (which might be considered weird at a convention), no. Had I, in short, done something to deserve what happened?

Although I am rationally aware I did not, and that you can't "deserve" being objectified in any case...emotionally, I was convinced I had done something wrong. Namely: that I had moved away from people for a brief moment, thereby allowing myself to be in an unpleasant situation. I had not been vigilant. I had not been "smart". The groping I felt less responsible for, because it had just...happened. And I was sort of convincing myself it hadn't, like somehow someone's hand would trail down your back and cup your ass by accident. I just couldn't process it. And it didn't occur to me at the time that experiencing both in one night was perhaps a lot to deal with and that I was having a panic attack. I felt sick, I remember that.

The rest of the convention I didn't really go out at night. I avoided the bar. I was at my industry's largest event, with all kinds of people I admired right downstairs...and I was scared to leave my room. I felt wrong, that's the only way I can describe it. I spent the rest of the convention nervous, on edge, and not because of how big it is or the fact that it was the first time I'd been there. That was overwhelming enough. I had wanted to be this strong, independent professional...and instead I felt like a groped, disrespected, thing. 

I didn't feel like I could talk about it because I'd be confirming all the stereotypes about women being harassed at conventions...and I was worried people would blame me. That they'd say I should have done something different, not been alone, yelled...or worse...that it was something I would just have to get used to.

In the years since, I haven't had a single experience like it at SDCC or any other convention. And yet, it colors the way I view every nighttime event. I don't always have the option to go to something with a group, and professionally, going to the bars or hotels to interact with creators and publishers is important. It keeps you visible, lets people get to know you a bit in a more casual setting, and can lead to opportunities. And it can also be cool to run into the various other people who go to cons, you never know who you might get to chat with. It's supposed to be, you know, fun.

But for me, it rarely is. I can't not think about what happened that night. I still blame myself, if I'm being really honest. It's a big reason why I don't drink, although it's not the only one. I might have a beer I'll nurse all night, but that's it. There are plenty of reasons that's not a bad thing, and I don't wish I could get smashed. But I do wish I didn't have to spend every second being vigilant and on guard. That I didn't have to feel scared, way down, most of the time.

Women tend to get criticized for bringing up scenarios like this, because most people want to believe we did do something to "make" it happen. And I'm sure someone reading this will think, well, you SHOULD have been more vigilant. Honestly, it's exhausting. And no one can keep that up 24/7. Then there are the people who will say it was either complimentary, or I took it too seriously, or they were drunk so what did I expect? Well, I'll tell you what I didn't expect. To have my personal space invaded, to be touched without permission. No one should be assuming, no matter how drunk they are, that other people's bodies are a free for all. The fact that they did shows a profound lack of respect for me personally, and women in general. It's not a compliment, I can tell you that. As for taking it to seriously...no. Other people don't get to define what is threatening to me, and cornering a young woman in the dark is, by definition, threatening. Every man on the planet should know better.

And anyway...shouldn't the men, who acted like that, be responsible for NOT putting me in that position? Being a woman is not a reason to harass me or any other woman. Drinking isn't an excuse. Just...don't do that, okay? It's awful. And I won't be forgetting it any time soon.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Small Thing

i can do this one
small thing
angry as i am
twisted and broken
as you are
one small thing
i lie
i comfort with
what you need
to hear
i do this small thing
because i can
though i owe you
nothing
i do this small thing
this false thing
this lie
and know it
means the world
to you



Monday, June 13, 2011

Windy Girl

i am a windy girl
a wild refugee of
moors i have never seen
when the fog rolls in
filling my eyes with gray
i embrace the sprite in me
the green isle fey
with silver tentacle tresses
and a taste for tears
the wind hums, screams, cries
inside i wail with it
it becomes me
bonny little girl
standing small
against the wind

Mind Noise

floating on this brittle fiction
i wish i was clean of mindnoise
held fast by a cold kind of calm
numb straight through
yet raw
i am a cut off limb
a phantom of
caged desires
if you set me free i would
devour you whole
bite you essential
exult with your bones
and if you
stripped me down to
spirit, to flame
i might never die

Friday, June 3, 2011

Concern Troll This

Since I'm still having a bunch of weight related struggles and my ED thinking is kind of in full effect, I've been reading more articles on weight and fat acceptance and health recently. Sometimes this is triggering. Well, it's always triggering. But since it's impossible to avoid it, I just remind myself that it's triggering and deal with it. Plus, sometimes it's cathartic, because I can take out my frustration on commenters who are shitty or judgy or concern troll-y about weight. I don't yell (although I may employ sarcasm). Mostly I point out that shaming people, even if you mean well, is not helpful.

One of the things I really don't understand is why so many people take other people's bodies personally. That seems to be one of the main issues people have with other people who are fat. That this other person's body is somehow infringing on them, directly or indirectly, and they should have the willpower or decency or whatever to not take up so much space. This will often get covered up by claiming they just care about other people's health, but...no, they really don't. If you actually cared about other people you'd stop making sweeping generalizations about laziness, talking about how "easy" it is for everyone to lose weight if they just want to enough, telling everyone to not eat sugar/carbs/whatever food you think is bad and makes people fat, and that being fat has no genetic component. Or my personal favorite: just take the stairs.

I mean, if people can (and are) naturally slim...then the converse must also be true. That's just common sense. I'm also pretty sure it's scientific fact. Likewise, if people restrict their eating to the point of nearly dying...such as anorexics...couldn't people also be overeating in the same compulsive, it's possibly a mental illness, sense? Wait, no, it's just about willpower. I always forget. I mean, obviously my EDNOS was all about willpower. I was in control. I was so in control I wasn't eating. And since I didn't look sick and became thin, everyone thought that was just great. Never mind that I was so obsessed with taking up less space that, eventually, I could have killed myself. Then I would have stopped taking up space at all.

The point is: I was thinner. And that made other people more comfortable. I know it made them like me more, treat me like a person, want to talk to me. The fact that I was seen as worth more when I was thinner is something that will never stop making me angry.

I can't imagine why treating people like they aren't human beings because they're fat would be a problem. Or indicative of a much deeper disconnect in our culture. A culture that has a bajillion dollar diet industry that, for the most part, operates on quick fix "solutions" that can't be maintained. They just encourage perpetually dieting. Which, fyi, actual scientists have found is not healthy. You're better off being at a consistent weight than yo-yoing. But who cares! Being thin means being happy!

This is one of the many problems I have with the way weight loss is discussed. It's presented as an accomplishment that leads to other accomplishments you could have never achieved otherwise. Except, wait, why is that? I mean, other than feeling really shitty about yourself because our society makes anyone who isn't thin feel like a failure...why can't you accomplish things you want to while fat? Why is losing weight, in and of itself, presented as an achievement that will unlock all the happiness, bliss, and love you never thought you'd have? Because you were fat. Because being fat means you cannot be happy, healthy, or deserve love.

Obviously I have no issue with people losing weight because they want to or need to, and I hope they do it in a healthy way. And if it leads them to feel better about themselves, I'm not discouraging that. I am, however, questioning WHY so much self-worth has been built into weight, especially for women. A fat woman is, without question, more likely to be the butt of a joke, viewed negatively, treated badly, or otherwise criticized than a fat man. I've only recently seen some well known diet companies target men but definitely not at the frequency women are encouraged or shamed into losing weight. After all, what kind of life can you have if you're fat AND female? This seems to be at the root of all these campaigns. That life is just less worthwhile if you're not thin, especially if you're also a girl.

In my personal, anecdotal experience: Bull. Shit.

In the 2 years I've been in treatment for my ED, gained weight, and spent less time and energy on trying to diet I've: Become a published writer, one of my biggest goals. I've written 3 series so far, with 2 others currently being written. One project I co-wrote was on the NY Times list for 9 weeks. One I edited has been on it for nearly 10. I've started selling my artwork, am in the process of creating a shop and website, and been creatively productive as hell. I've gotten back to a lot of the crafts I love, like jewelry and figures. I've also moved to San Francisco, gone freelance, and am pursuing numerous other writing and editing projects. I'm planning several trips, working with other amazing artists and writers to help encourage each other in our endeavors...and re-started this blog. My partner and I continue to be happy together, 17 years into our relationship. He's thankfully never had an issue with my weight, up or down.

That's not bragging, although it feels like it a little. It's just what's happened. Because I stopped making my weight the most important goal in my life. And I'm much happier for it. Do I still care? Yeah. And I'm making the effort now to do things to make myself feel healthier. But one of the reasons I can do that is that I don't feel like a faily failure anymore. I've done real things I've wanted to do. And not because I was thin. To be frank, most of what I accomplished when I was starving was in spite of being miserable, tired, and hungry all the time.

If people stopped being told they can't do anything unless they're thin, or that any other accomplishments they achieve are not as meaningful unless they're thin...I think the world might be a better place. A place where people were treated as worthwhile, fat or thin or in the middle. They could lose weight if they needed to, but feel no obligation to meet anyone elses's aesthetic preferences in order to be treated like a human being. Crazpants, I know.

If we, as a culture, actually stopped and looked at the incredibly messed up way we view bodies, gender, fat, food, and health...things might improve. If we maybe considered, for a second, why we think other people's bodies should conform to preferences that are not created in a vacuum...but are at least partially created by capitalism and consumerism, not to mention a long history of controlling women's bodies and using beauty "ideals" as a part of that control...we might get a better sense of perspective on this whole weight/health thing.

One thing we definitely need: Enough with the concern trolling already. You are not helpful, you don't really give a shit about anyone else's health, and you can keep your ill-informed, "it's just my opinion" posts to yourself. If you're going to say "it's just your opinion" and follow it up with zero facts and a lot of fat phobic rhetoric...go take a nap, read a book, find something else to do. You're contributing exactly nothing to any discussion. You're being a jerk.