Tag Archives: being a woman

Don’t Listen to Hasselhoff! And Other Thoughts on the Single Life

22 Jan

I never imagined that I’d spend as much time thinking about singleness as I have. When I was younger I had this vague idea that one day I’d meet someone, maybe while grocery shopping or wandering the library stacks or some other meet-cute scenario. I’d just meet someone and then I wouldn’t be single anymore. I never had much idea of how that initial spark in the produce section would develop into a lifelong partnership, though. Too many movies and not enough practice, I guess.

 

I’m only 26, and objectively I know that isn’t very old. But as I age, I have fewer single friends, and it continues to be hard to avoid the slippery slope that is comparing my own life to others. My mother had two children by the time she was my age (I was one of them). Some of my friends from high school and college are now celebrating 5th and 6th and even 7th anniversaries of their marriages. For whatever reason, things haven’t unfolded that way for me. I’m single, and I’ve been single for the entirety of my adult life. I don’t usually volunteer that information to strangers, but I don’t hide it either. For a long time I was preoccupied with the questions about what was wrong with me? Why didn’t guys want to date me? But I’ve experienced a lot of healing in the past few years, and while there is always more work to be done, I don’t think I’m single because of something inherently defective about my person. In many, many ways, I am thankful for the time I’ve spent as a single woman and the good gifts God has given me along the way—gifts I wouldn’t have experienced the same way as someone’s girlfriend or wife.

 

Not everyone really lives the single life. I have friends who seemed to be dating someone from fifth grade onward. Of course dating in fifth grade looks very different from dating in your twenties and thirties and forties and so on, but still. It’s a different life experience to walk through life romantically alone than it is to walk with a partner of some kind.

 

I’ve had the following conversation more and more as I’ve gotten older:

Well-Intentioned Family Member/Coworker/Dentist: So, are you seeing anyone? Do you have a boyfriend/fiancé/husband?

Me: No. It’s just me. (Usually some awkward silence as I try to think of something else to say. What else is there to say?)

 

In fact, there is a lot more that could be said about singleness, and I’ve had a few blog posts on the back burner as I tried to put the words together to share them. I also have a couple books in my TBR pile that I am hoping will provide me with some better perspective on this issue and maybe I’ll post reviews of them here, in that case.

 

In the meantime I want to talk about a scene from the neo-noir teen drama Veronica Mars. Most fans of the show, myself included, love the pairing of spunky detective Veronica and Logan, who is both troubled and sweet– a bad boy with a heart of gold, oh, what a trope! In dorky fandom news, their relationship portmanteau name is LoVe (appropriate). But for a while in the show’s final season Veronica dated a very nice boy, a music afficionado named Stosh Piznarski. Don’t hold the name against him. People can’t help what their parents name them; that’s why there are kids named Mykinzi and Jaxxson running around (apologies to any loved ones out there who like those names…). Anyway, Veronica and Piz. There was this great scene before they got together where they talked about the hookup culture that abounds in college, and let’s face it, post-collegiate life as well.

 

veronica and piz

 

Veronica: The whole chasing-hooking-up-people-go-round… Parker has been going nuts, like I’m some kind of freak because I’m not grabbing anything within ten feet. It’s exhausting.

Piz: Totally. It’s like music, you know– I love music, but that doesn’t mean I have to listen to it at all times and anything will do. I mean I’m not going to throw in a Hasselhoff CD just because I left my Neko Case in the car.

Veronica: Like why bother with something that’s not… good. ‘Cause if it’s not good…

Piz: It’s bad! Exactly. But these guys were all like, “As long as she’s got a pair of–” (gesturing to his chest) You know, it was indelicate.

Veronica: (innocently) What’s indelicate about shoes?

Piz: But I figure, you know, I mean, I know what I like. Why waste my time?

Veronica: Like why bother with something not good just because it’s something.

Piz: Especially when you know the difference, which not many people do. I mean, do you?

Veronica:  I think I do.

Piz: I think that’s like 90% of life, just knowing the difference.

 

When I take a step back and really think about it, so many of my friends have married people who have become dear friends of mine. They got it right. They knew the difference between just “something” and someone really good. And they trusted their romantic future to God and his timing.

 

So that’s what I try to do too. Not to worry too much about that perfect moment in the soup aisle, or finding just the right profile, or having the most winsome opening line. But to keep in mind the difference between “something not good” and Something Really Good. And to keep remembering that my value isn’t determined by my relationship status. I am loved by a creator who knows my hopes and dreams and has a purpose for my life.

 

I hope that all my friends, single and married, know that last sentence to be true too!

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toddlers, tiaras, and louisa may alcott

30 Aug

I need to start by saying that as a 25 year old woman, I’m still learning what beauty is. Some days I wonder why it’s so challenging to be comfortable in my own skin and to be content with the face God gave me. And some days I feel like I’m getting there, like it’s easier to remember what real beauty is and how little it depends on my face. As cliche a statement as “beauty comes from within” may be, I see evidence of that truth in the people I know and in what God says through scripture.

Somehow, I made it to the summer of 2011 without ever having seen an episode of TLC’s show Toddlers & Tiaras. As of a few weeks ago, I can no longer claim blissful ignorance. For those still living in that happy place, let me give you a bare bones explanation. The show, which debuted in January 2009 and is currently airing its fourth season, is a documentary-style view of child beauty pageants. Of particular fascination to viewers are the so-called “glitz” pageants, in which even the youngest babies are decked out in full makeup, wigs, false teeth, and glitter.

To the best of my knowledge, the episode I found myself sucked into watching was standard T&T fare; industry stars Eden Wood and MaKenzie Myers were squaring off at a glitz pageant. There were a few other child contestants featured, including one little girl whose mother seemed to regard every moment in front of the camera as an opportunity to extol her daughter’s beauty. Throughout the episode she spoke of her daughter’s physical superiority: “She’s just so beautiful,” she said. “Her face has a beauty that the other girls’ don’t.” Apologies for my paraphrase, but the sentiment was clear. I doubt that any observer would deny the little girl’s attractiveness, and in the context of the show it shouldn’t have surprised me. But I found the mother’s preoccupation with physical beauty disturbing. Part of it was the spray tan, caked-on make up, and hair extensions that went into showcasing her daughter’s beauty.

Toddlers & Tiaras stars Eden Wood (left, currently age 6 and retired from pageants to pursue a "music career") and MaKenzie Myers (age 5) in full "glitz" makeup, wigs, costumes... and airbrushing.

I came away from watching an episode and a half of Toddlers & Tiaras feeling inexpressibly grateful for the fact that my own childhood bore no resemblance to the experience of these little pageant winners. I was never in the running to win an Ultimate Grand Supreme title or a cash prize or a Princess Canopy Dream Bed as a little girl.

Physical beauty was not something my mother or father placed a lot of emphasis on, and it’s only in looking through the Toddlers & Tiaras lens that I can really appreciate that. Instead of practicing my walk for a creepy swimsuit competition, I was running through sprinklers in a one-piece from KMart, with mud between my toes and scabs on my knees. Instead of gluing plastic hair to my head, my parents just tried to make sure I used a comb occasionally and never fell asleep chewing gum.

In contrast, here is a posed picture of me around age 6. So homely. So blissfully unaware of plastic hair, eyelash extensions, swimsuit competitions, or fake teeth.

What kept echoing in my mind after seeing Eden and MaKenzie and the other girls prance around the stage in sequined dresses and workout clothes “inspired by the 1980s” was a scene from one of my favorite movies, the 1994 adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. The film features a stellar lineup that includes Winona Ryder, Gabriel Byrne, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, and a young Christian Bale. Susan Sarandon anchors the cast as Margaret “Marmee” March, the mother of the four Little Women in question. In a scene adapted from the novel’s chapter Meg Goes to Vanity Fair, she listens to her eldest daughter’s confessions about the way she behaved at her first society party, eager to impress others with borrowed clothes and a coquettish manner. And then she gives the following advice:

“If you feel your value lies in being merely decorative, I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that’s all that you really are. Time erodes all such beauty, but what it cannot diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind: Your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage. These are the things I cherish so in you. I so wish I could give my girls a more just world. But I know you’ll make it a better place.”

As I said, this is an adaptation from the dialogue in Alcott’s novel, which was first published in 1868. The novel has Meg ask her mother whether she has “plans” for her daughters the way the gossips at the party speculated (ie, plans for them to marry wealthy men). Marmee responds,

“Yes, my dear, I do, a great many– all mothers do, but mine differ somewhat from Mrs. Moffat’s, I suspect. I want you to listen to my ‘plans.’ I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good; to be admired, loved, and respected; to have a happy youth; to be well and wisely married; and to lead useful, pleasant lives. Your father and I trust and hope that our daughters, whether married or single, will be the pride and comfort of our lives.”

This scene is one of my favorites in the movie despite the changes, because it really gets at the spirit of Alcott’s novels about the March family. For all the adventures and misadventures that Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy experienced, they were rooted by the love and support of their parents. Contrary to the values of “society” people in their community, Marmee and Father March affirmed their daughters’ strength, intelligence, independence and unique gifts. They saw their children as much more than chattel and expected that their lives display more fruit than physical beauty.

A show like Toddlers & Tiaras couldn’t exist without viewer demand for it. Perhaps, like so many reality shows, people find themselves sucked in to a trainwreck of horror. I know I have a hard time turning off I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant, and “trainwreck of horror” just about sums that show up for me. But given the way that Western culture commodifies people and makes celebrities out of just about anyone, it’s especially disturbing to see children featured this way.

My heart goes out not only to the Edens and MaKenzies of this world, but to anyone fixated on what they see in the mirror. Our culture doesn’t provide us many opportunities to see that we are created to bear the image of God. I can only hope that with each passing day, I’ll learn to place less stock in my own outer beauty and be able to affirm the beauty of those around me– not what is “merely decorative,” but what time cannot erode.

why i use a menstrual cup, and maybe you should too

15 Jul

Warning: If you are so immature as to be unable to deal with the reality that most women between puberty and menopause menstruate, this post will be challenging for you. Grown-ups, read on!

There are some topics that I have been hesitant to post about here on my blog. I am not a “share-all” kind of person, and there are some things I discuss only with a few close friends, and some things I rarely discuss at all. That said, I have decided that the pros outweigh the cons in this case, and although it’s not something I would bring up over Sunday brunch, I am coming out to the Internet to say: I use a menstrual cup.

I have been using a silicone menstrual cup monthly for five years, since the summer of 2006. This product has transformed the way I experience my period. Since literally all of my friends either a) menstruate or b) know someone who menstruates, I wanted to share my personal history in the hope that others can experience the convenience and economy that a menstrual cup allows.

I first encountered menstrual cups while in college. Some feminist group on campus would occasionally advertise for The Keeper, a brown rubber cup, and for parties to sew reusable cloth pads. At the time, I was a little grossed out by the idea. I guess I just wasn’t ready yet.

I don’t remember exactly how I stumbled across the idea again, but I ended up doing enough research to want to try using a cup. I was finally questioning the idea that my natural bodily functions were disgusting. I’m hardly someone to shout from the rooftops that I love having a period, but I’ve accepted that it is a fact of being a sexually mature woman, and nothing to be ashamed of. Using a cup has helped me to be more in touch with my body and how it works.

Here’s what I like about using a menstrual cup:

  • It is easy. I had a very short learning curve with my cup. By the end of my first period using it, it had become practically second nature.
  • It is convenient. With a cup, you don’t have to worry about carrying extra pads or tampons around, or about running to the store when you get your period unexpectedly. Also, in five years I have yet to have a leak, even during heavy periods.
  • It is cheaper than using disposable products. I paid about $30 for mine in 2006. This website estimates that using disposable pads, I would have spent $226.33 minimum over the past 5 years. For tampons, $299.33. Again, these are the estimates using the least expensive pads and tampons as quoted by Luna Pads. Note that they also recommend replacing your cup every two years. In my research, this is not necessary. Before 2006, I used a combination of pads and tampons– but let’s say I only used the cheapest pads. By switching to a menstrual cup, I saved $196.33 over five years. Not too shabby, especially considering that my cup shows no signs of wear after five years… who knows how many more years I’ll get out of it?
  • It’s good for the environment! In the past five years, I’ve avoided throwing about 1,200 disposable products into a landfill.
  • It’s better for my body. With menstrual cups, there is no risk of Toxic Shock syndrome. You don’t have to worry about having processed, bleached fibers touching your most private of areas. Most cups are made of medical grade silicone, which is nonabsorbent, and easily sanitized.

Final points: It should be acknowledged that menstrual cups are not for everyone. I was sad to find that one of my friends, who purchased a cup after hearing my experience, has not yet been able to use it comfortably. Some women may take longer to become accustomed to using a cup. Everyone is different. Still, I believe that most women, if willing to give menstrual cups a chance, would find them an improvement to disposable products.

While researching for this post, I discovered that there are many more brands of cup available for consumers now than when I purchased mine five years ago. At that time, there were only four brands available– now, there are closer to twenty, with many options for size and color.

Resources for those interested:

This How to Use a Menstrual Cup page on Wikihow explains the basics of cup use.

This Menstrual Cups blog has many helpful brand comparisons to help women decide which cup to choose. This link will take you to all the comparison posts, which go into detail on everything from size to color to malleability.

The cup I use is a MoonCup, manufactured by a company in the UK. Apparently in the years since I purchased mine there have been some legal issues with selling this cup to customers in the US, because The Keeper company started manufacturing a silicone cup under the same name. MoonCup UK now sells their cup to those in the USA under the name MCUK. According to their site, it is the same product.

The Menstrual Cup community on LiveJournal is a great resource. There are countless posts where users provide advice about choosing a cup, using cups, and caring for cups.

Readers, any thoughts? Are you one of the few, the proud, the reusable menstrual product advocates? If you have questions I will do my best to answer them, but keep in mind that I can only speak from my own experience.