Archive for May 31, 2012

Travel post #6: To dress or not to dress

This is the sixth in my series of short travel posts from the road as my husband and I drive from one side of the country to the other. See highlights from our trip here: Across the Great Divide.

 

We are almost finished with our long (but wonderful) trip across the country. Sadly, I think our travel mojo must have run out in Los Angeles over the weekend because now we’re just ready to be home.

For that reason, neither one of us feels like bothering to take very many photos or plan the events of our last few days. In fact, we barely want to get dressed in the morning. This morning I seriously debated if I should just stay in my pajamas all day rather than go to the trouble of putting on regular clothes.

Some people think that if you don’t want to get out of your PJs that it’s a sign you’re depressed—for evidence of this, see Young Adult (above) and Terri (below), but maybe it just means you’re smart.

I mean, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all dressed comfortably—in clothes that didn’t reveal too much—every day? Designer Rachel Roy did just that a movie premiere last spring (see her PJ outfit at the top of this post), and I think she looks great as well as appearing both stylish and professional.

So what do you think? Who’s with me?

Travel post #5: Flaws make the woman

This is the fifth in my series of short travel posts from the road as my husband and I drive from one side of the country to the other. See highlights from our trip here: Across the Great Divide.

 

After spending three days in Los Angeles, I am more opposed to the idea of plastic surgery than ever.

Don’t get me wrong—I have never been in favor of plastic surgery. But after seeing so many artificial-looking women walking the streets of Hollywood, I have an even stronger sense that natural is better.

In Hollywood, I saw women who looked more like cartoons than real people.

I saw women whose mouths had so much collagen injected into them that their lips jutted away from their faces like appendages.

I saw women with skin so tight it looked like a CGI special effect.

I saw middle-aged women wearing skirts that barely grazed their buttcheeks, tops that plunged to their navels, and five-inch heels that would have been beter used as weapons than footware.

Listen, I love Lady Gaga as much as the next person, but dressing like Jessica Rabbit is meant for the stage, not Rite Aid, which is where I saw some of these women.

And I love to dress up as much as the next girl—but five-inch heels and crotch-grazing miniskirts are the stuff of fantasies.

I have many, many, many middle-aged friends who look beautiful because they look real—they have crow’s feet from squinting into the sun when they go to the beach, lined foreheads from nights they spent reading and thinking about the meaning of life, and a few pounds of fat around their middle from the children they brought into this world.

And they all look gorgeous.

Right now I’m driving back across the country, and, as a result, I’m in awe of the beauty of the natural world around me, reminding me yet again how important it is to leave things of beauty—be they the human form or a mountain pass—pristine and untouched.

Travel post #4: Lost in the funhouse

This is the fourth in my series of short travel posts from the road as my husband and I drive from one side of the country to the other. See highlights from our trip here: Across the Great Divide.

 

There are a lot of wonderful things about traveling—as I’ve reported in my last few travel posts—but there’s one thing I could leave behind: the way traveling can mess with your head.

I’ve noticed the last few times I’ve visited my parents that mirrors at other people’s houses always make me look different than I do at home. Like a funhouse mirror, I always appear bigger or smaller or stretched in some weird way.

Sometimes I like the changes I see, sometimes I don’t. But no matter what, I never look the same as I do at home, which is usually disconcerting.

I’ve noticed the same thing on this trip, but coming to California has added another layer of head-messing. (And it’s one I’ve experienced before—usually in New York and oddly sometimes at the Apple store.) In California, I feel less confident about my appearance because so many of the people, especially women, around me are so much more attractive than everyone else.

In fact, I think I’ve come to realize there is a type of “California” woman: she is always thin, usually stylish, and almost always well groomed. Even when she looks casual, it is a studied casualness—with her hair falling out of her updo in such a way that perfectly frames her face.

And since so many women in the Golden State look this good, it’s hard for me to feel confident about the way I look. Or at least it’s hard for me to believe that people here think I look good. In that way, it’s another kind of funhouse mirror I’m seeing the world through.

This was painfully obvious to me on my walk this morning when I actually called myself “fat,” something I haven’t done in probably four or five years. And that’s when it hit me that I can’t let the artificial world around me change my reality.

I always hated funhouses when I was a kid, but one time I worked up the courage to step into a hall of mirrors. I probably got one whole foot inside the place before I turned around and ran back out the entrance, determined to never return again.

I was always a smart kid.

 

Travel post #3: Vacation…all I ever wanted

 

This is the third in my series of short travel posts from the road as my husband and I drive from one side of the country to the other. See highlights from our trip here: Across the Great Divide.

 

I’ve decided that we all need to be on vacation all the time. (Officially, I’m not on vacation anymore because I’m working here in California, but it feels like vacation since my desk has a view of the Pacific—as shown above.)

Not only am I eating less on vacation—as I said last week—I’m also eating healthier food and exercising without even realizing it.

Exercising is easier because it’s just part of life in many vacation spots—you walk to dinner, you walk to the beach, you walk to the market. And even when you do go out of your way to exercise, it’s so beautiful that you don’t notice you’re doing something that should be rigorous.

That was the case with me this morning when Dave and I went for a walk on the beach here in beautiful Summerland, California, where we followed a horse along the sand. There’s something about walking on the beach that just doesn’t feel like exericse. It feels like fun.

No, it’s not as grueling as my boot camp workout back home, but it’s still good for me and not every day has to be about push-ups and burpees. (If you know what a burpee is, I’m truly sorry. If you don’t, consider yourself lucky.)

And eating healthier food is happening because out here in California there are so many healthy restaurants and grocery stores, reminding me yet again that it’s harder for people from the middle of the country, especially those who hail from economically depressed communities, to be healthy.

So I’ve decided that the only solution is for all of us to be on vacation all the time.

I know we all be much happier and healthier as a result.

Who’s in?

Travel post #2: Seeing (but not eating) America


This is the second in my series of short travel posts from the road as my husband and I drive from one side of the country to the other. See highlights from our trip here: Across the Great Divide.

 

Yesterday it hit me that the more we travel the less we eat.

A big reason for this is logistical: we don’t really have any food in the car—unless you count goldfish or apples, which we’re getting sick of and I don’t really count as food anyway. So we have to stop and buy food every time we want something real to eat.

And since we’re driving across the top of the country, it isn’t unusual to go sixty miles or more without seeing a restaurant or roadside convenience store, and even when we do find one, our options are limited. I’m almost getting tired of eating Buffalo (almost), which is the main theme in the food we find up here—Buffalo burgers, Buffalo brats, Buffalo dogs, Buffalo stew, you name it. (And, thankfully, we’ve only seen one McDonald’s since we left Iowa several days ago.) So finding food is hard enough.

And another reason we’re eating less is because we’re doing so much more. On Tuesday we visited six—yes, six!—American treasures: the Badlands, Wall Drug, Mount Rushmore, the Crazyhorse Monument, Deadwood, and Devil’s Tower. And after that, on Wednesday, there was Little Bighorn.

We basically zigzagged across South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana trying to hit every spot we could before they closed the gates on us or the sun went down. (We barely got to Devil’s Tower before the latter happened, as you can see in the picture above.)

Because of all this rushing around, we didn’t have much time to spend eating, and have instead eaten almost solely to fuel our bodies rather than to satisfy our cravings. This makes me wonder if we eat more when we don’t have enough to do—or at least enough to do that makes us happy. I do know this: what I’ve missed out on in terms of eating I’ve more than made up for in experiences. It’s a trade I’m happy to make.

Travel post #1: Do you see yourself as an ugly duckling or a beautiful swan?


Dave and I are on a road trip right now—traveling from our home in Kentucky to California by way of many great American landmarks including Mount Rushmore, Little Bighorn, Yellowstone National Park, Devil’s Tower, and many more. (If you’re interested, you can follow our progress on our Tumblr blog, Across the Great Divide.)

Since I’ll be away for a few weeks and have limited internet access, I’m going to run a series of short travel posts during this time rather than writing regular-length entries.

Here’s my first travel post, which I’m calling “Do you see yourself as an ugly duckling or a beautiful swan”. . .

 

I had an epiphany pretty quickly after we left home. At the end of the first day, Dave and I stopped in Kansas City, Missouri, to have dinner with my very first best friend, Ruthie. Ruthie and I were BFFs when we were very young—from around the age of three to around the age of eight, give or take a year or two. We were pretty tight, so much so that Ruthie once gave me chicken pox and when she told me she was moving to Kansas City after second grade, I cried for two whole weeks.

Since we were so close, it’s no surprise Ruthie remembered many fun stories about me. But one particular memory of hers made me question how I see myself.

Ruthie reminded me about the time I had appeared in a school play—probably in kindergarten—as the ugly duckling.

I had forgotten about this experience, but as soon as Ruthie mentioned it, the whole thing came back to me: as the ugly duckling I stood at the front of the stage with my back to the audience and wagged my fluffy duck tail at all of them. According to Ruthie, I stole the show, sending the whole audience into laughter—just as any five-year-old shaking her feathered butt at a room full of people would. But, to the audience’s surprise, when I turned around and faced them, I had been transformed into a beautiful swan.

That’s all either one of us recall about the performance, but we both also remember that I had no trouble playing the part and was an extremely confident child.

I’m still confident about almost every aspect of my identity, but on rare occasions I struggle to feel confident about my appearance, something I oddly never worried about when I was a five-year-old ugly duckling.

This makes me wonder: why have I changed so much in the past thirty-seven years and what caused that change? And, almost more importantly, what can I do to get back to that level of confidence? The kind of confidence that allowed me to shake my tail at a room full of people and let everyone call me the ugly duckling?

I wish I could go back to my adolescent self—the time when I probably became less confident—and shake my doubts out of me. But since I can’t do that, I guess I’ll just have to obliterate any remaining insecurities now and focus instead on shaking my fluffy tail.

“Too young and too thin is no longer in”:
Vogue changes the rules of the model game.


Some good news last week I never got around to talking about: Vogue, the most influential fashion magazine in the world, has banned models who are either too thin or too young.

According to Conde Nast International Chairman Jonathan Newhouse, “Vogue believes that good health is beautiful. Vogue Editors around the world want the magazines to reflect their commitment to the health of the models who appear on the pages and the well-being of their reader.”

That’s pretty damn impressive.

And it gets better . . .

Vogue editors have agreed to “not knowingly work with models under the age of 16 or who appear to have an eating disorder.”

To accomplish the former, they’re actually going to check IDs when casting models. I have no idea how they’re going to achieve the latter, but I imagine they will adopt similar techniques to the ones used on runways overseen by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), a group that also bans too-young or too-thin models.

The CFDA has emphasized that age and weight are a real problem in the industry, saying, “designers generally produce only one sample size for the runway, and in the last decade there has been a dramatic downward shift in the sample size of some of the top design houses. As a result, models are under increasing pressure to be thinner and thinner, and younger and younger. The industry’s hiring of prepubescent-appearing teenage girls as models of adult clothing sets an unrealistic standard; hips and breasts, the curves that define the female figure, are absent. Some models have difficulty maintaining the body ideal as they move into adulthood and run the risk of engaging in unhealthy eating behaviors that lead to eating disorders.”

Thank God they’re admitting what we all know to be true—that curves are absent are far too many models.

No matter how you slice it, this is good news—for models and for women who see the images of models in everyday life.

In other words, it’s good for all of us.

And that’s because, as we all know, until we start seeing regular-sized women in our magazines and on our screens, we’ll continue to have trouble feeling like we can measure up.

No, Vogue isn’t going to start featuring women who wear the same size—twelve—as the average American woman, but at least this is a step in the right dreiction. At least something is changing.

An interesting side note: Vogue‘s U.S. editor-in-chief Anna Wintour was instrumental in crafting similar guidelines for the CFDA in 2007 and no doubt played a role in this decision. A thinly veiled version of Wintour was played by Meryl Streep a few years ago in The Devil Wears Prada, depicting her as a heartless bitch would do anything to get ahead—even if it meant hurting those closest to her. There’s no doubt Wintour was involved in this decision by Vogue to try to improve the model problem, and it makes me wonder—did the movie just make her out to be so awful just because she’s a strong, successful woman? It’s certainly something to consider.

You can read the whole article here: Vogue bans too-skinny models.

 

The shoe on the other foot: Jason Segel gets put on a diet to appear opposite Emily Blunt in The Five-Year Engagement

This weekend Dave and I went to see The Five-Year Engagement starring Emily Blunt and Jason Segel. It’s not the best movie I’ve ever seen, but it had its moments. And I was pretty entertained by the jabs the writers took at higher education. Suffice it to say the movie accurately captured what it’s like to work in academia, especially when you’re married to someone who needs a job too.

But academia is not what I want to talk about tonight. (Lord knows I’ve been thinking about it all day, which is enough.) What I want to talk about is Jason Segel, the film’s male lead.

Segel is probably best known for his role on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, but he’s also a regular fixture in Judd Apatow-produced projects such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Knocked Up, and Freaks and Geeks (one of the best TV shows nobody watched).

Since he’s starred in other Apatow films, I was shocked to find out that Segal was put on a strict diet by studio execs when he began making The Five-Year Engagement. According to Segal, “I was told that it had to be conceivable that Emily Blunt would ever choose me to be her husband.”

And that’s why they put him on a diet.

Segal goes on to say: “I didn’t enjoy it, but they sent a trainer to set and I had to work out twice a day, and then he would watch me all day and monitor my eating.”

It sounds just awful—can you imagine having someone watch you eat all day?

But Segel claims he still got his fill because he played a chef in the film and would eat on set: “I paid my costars a nominal amount of money to forget their lines,” Segel explains, presumably so they would have to do multiple takes of scenes in which eating was required.

I’m not thrilled that Segel was put on a diet for the film—as so many actresses have been forced to do before—but I am happy that, for the first time I know of, studio execs are thinking about the fact that audiences might not always buy some of the movies in which they pair gorgeous actresses with schlubby actors, a problem I’ve been complaining about for years.

(See my “Thank god somebody finally said it” and “Holy hypocrisy” posts for more on that issue, and see “Is she really with him” for a photo collection of these mismatched couples.)

Could this be a sign that Hollywood is finally getting the message that we don’t believe it when people like Emma Stone end up with people like Jonah Hill (as she did in Superbad)? And that it’s unfair and unhealthy to expect women to look perfect on film while letting their co-starring men appear more like real people?

I really hope so, but I also know that change in Hollywood happens about as fast as change happens in Washington. In other words, it doesn’t happen.

Keep your fingers crossed that I’m wrong about this.

Step away from the party food

We’re having our second party this spring tomorrow night, and as we clean the house, hide the dirty laundry, and prepare the food, I’m reminded of how little people ate at our last party a month ago.

Our previous party was an ’80s dance party, so we served ’80s-themed food. I had a hell of a time coming up with ’80s food ideas, and ultimately I realized it was because—back in my teenage years—everyone ate processed foods. We’re talking Hot Pockets, Steak ‘Ums, frozen dinners, Fruit Roll Ups, Easy Cheese, Mac ‘n Cheese, Cheese Wiz, Spaghettios—all the stuff we try to stay away from now. But I figured, when in Rome . . . and served a bunch of unhealthy snack foods to my dancing friends.

Even though the food was yummy and we got plenty of compliments on it, nobody ate very much. I’m used to going to parties where friends and family step up to the table one minute and leave it pillaged the next, so I was shocked.

Why hadn’t people eaten more? Why hadn’t I eaten more?

But pretty quickly after it was over, I figured out the answer to that question—people didn’t eat very much because they were WAY TOO BUSY dancing. How cool is that??? My friends and I danced for about three hours that night! We took a break about ninety minutes in to sit and catch our breath, maybe grab another beer, but nobody really ate. Maybe we were too tired or sweaty or somehting. . . whatever the cause, we just did not eat much at all.

And this made me think about how rare it is to go to a party that isn’t about food. Most of the time Americans get together to eat—whether it’s party food or a full meal—and we almost never exercise in a social setting.

And maybe that’s our problem—all of our fun is about eating rather than moving, which is what’s really need to do more of.

We read stories in women’s magazines all the time about how people workout more if they have a workout partner or how it’s better to join a gym or take an exercise class when starting a new fitness program than trying to do it alone.

But maybe it makes even more sense to spend the time we set aside for having fun doing something active. After all, that’s what we did when we were kids (and I’ve talked before about how much more exercise we got then in my “Returning to Childhood” post)—we roller skated, we bowled, we danced, we skateboarded, we swam, we rode bikes, we DANCED!

In fact, almost EVERYthing we did socially revolved around exercise.

I wonder what would happen if we did that now? Would we all go back to our adolescent weight? Would we be able to start eating Hot Pockets and Easy Cheese whenever we wanted?

God, I hope so.

All the real girls: stop Seventeen from photoshopping models

A fourteen-year-old girl is doing her part to change the world.

Julia Bluhm is sick of seeing women in magazines who promote unrealistic standards of beauty because they’ve been Photoshopped and airbrushed to the point that they don’t even resemble themselves anymore.

As a result, Bluhm is asking Seventeen magazine to feature one photoshop-free spread in their pages ever month.

Bluhm—and the Spark a Movement website—have launched a petition to support their cause, which has already garnered over 20,000 signatures. They also plan to visit Seventeen headquarters tomorrow (Wednesday, May 2nd) to express their views and fight for their cause.

So please sign their petition tonight and support young women who reject impossible standards of beauty.

*

PETITION: Give Girls Images of Real Girls!

Girls want to be accepted, appreciated, and liked. And when they don’t fit the criteria, some girls try to “fix” themselves. This can lead to eating disorders, dieting, depression, and low self esteem.

I’m in a ballet class with a bunch of high-school girls. On a daily basis I hear comments like: “It’s a fat day,” and “I ate well today, but I still feel fat.” Ballet dancers do get a lot of flack about their bodies, but it’s not just ballet dancers who feel the pressure to be “pretty”. It’s everyone. To girls today, the word “pretty” means skinny and blemish-free. Why is that, when so few girls actually fit into such a narrow category? It’s because the media tells us that “pretty” girls are impossibly thin with perfect skin.

Here’s what lots of girls don’t know. Those “pretty women” that we see in magazines are fake. They’re often photoshopped, air-brushed, edited to look thinner, and to appear like they have perfect skin. A girl you see in a magazine probably looks a lot different in real life. As part of SPARK Movement, a girl-fueled, national activist movement, I’ve been fighting to stop magazines, toy companies, and other big businesses from creating products, photo spreads and ads that hurt girls’ and break our self-esteem. With SPARK, I’ve learned that we have the power to fight back.

That’s why I’m asking Seventeen Magazine to commit to printing one unaltered — real — photo spread per month. I want to see regular girls that look like me in a magazine that’s supposed to be for me.

For the sake of all the struggling girls all over America, who read Seventeen and think these fake images are what they should be, I’m stepping up. I know how hurtful these photoshopped images can be. I’m a teenage girl, and I don’t like what I see. None of us do. Will you join us by signing this petition and asking Seventeen to take a stand as well and commit to one unaltered photo spread a month?

 

Julia Bluhm, 14, is an 8th grader and has been involved in the Civil Rights Team for many years. She spends many hours a week dancing ballet. As a feminist, she not only wants to put a stop to sexualization and stereotypes of girls in the media, but also to negative stereotypes of ballet dancers. She is a blogger for the girl-fueled SPARK Movement, which fights against sexualized images of women and girls in the media. See her blogs at www.sparksummit.com.

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