The F Word

You thought I meant the four letter one, huh? Or the three letter one? Nope! I mean the word FEMINIST.

Most of the time, I love being a woman. In high school, my best friend and I would pore over the book Making Faces, spending hours crafting various looks from tubes of concealer and blushes and eyeshadows. We delighted in the feminine pursuit of shopping and finding clothes that flattered our bodies, made us feel confident, and brought a swing to our step. Even dating was in some ways an exercise in self-acceptance, as we quickly grew to realize what boys really did appreciate the fact that we loved aggressive girl-punk-rock, and which ones actually thought we were just silly girls.

I’ve always had a feminist edge, and I’m not ashamed to say I’m a feminist. I’m still shocked by something that happened to me in college: I was working on my Bachelor’s degree in 2008 at Cal State Northridge, and we had a “women and men in the media” class. My teacher asked everyone in the class who was a feminist to raise their hands. Out of 32 students, one person raised their hand. That person was me. I couldn’t quite understand why being a feminist was seen as such a bad thing. In fact, one of my first boyfriends dumped me because I was a “feminazi” because I told him that females could be DJs just like men, and he felt that DJs should only be male. My definition of feminist is somebody who values, respects, and appreciates that women should have the exact same rights as men. I’m not standing on street corners burning my bra or refusing to shave my legs (though quite frankly, if women want to do that, go for it. (And shaving your legs totally sucks, so I can see the appeal in that,). I once saw a quote that said that all people born from women should be feminists… and I agree.

As I near the end of my pregnancy, I’ve had some time to reflect on body image and beauty standards for women. When other people see you are pregnant, they feel they have a free pass to comment on your appearance as it now pertains to two people: you and a baby. I’m used to rude comments on my appearance as a woman of size, and thankfully while I don’t experience it often (apparently I “carry it well”, another thing I hear a lot), I’ve noticed that as I have just under 4.5 weeks to go, the comments about the size of my body, appearance, and bump are picking up. I also heard comments about my food choices in my early pregnancy, but anyone who dares comment on my dietary choices now might receive a swift kick to the head. I don’t want my daughter to be walking through the mall hearing teenage boys make “oink” sounds behind her back. If she chooses to become pregnant one day, I also don’t want her to have to hear “Wow, you still have four weeks to go? You look ready now!”. I don’t want her to hear about the size of her breasts, how she has such a pretty face, or how things would be better “if only” she lost a little weight. However, I’ve accepted the sad reality that because she is female, she will hear these things. In Amy’s Schumer’s movie, Train Wreck, the main character’s sister shares that she found out her unborn baby is a girl. Amy shares her excitement and says something to the extent of “That’s wonderful!”. Her sister immediately says “No, it’s not! She’s totally screwed!” and Amy says, “Yeah, you’re right, she’s screwed.” The actual dialogue in the movie is much more succinct, but basically the gist of the scene is, yeah, she’s  a female, she’s already got a few challenges stacked against her just because of her gender. While I am thrilled to be having a baby girl, I admit I have some of the same hesitations. I’ve lived an amazing life thus far, but have I experienced sexism or problems because I’m female? You betcha. We all have… and I’m sure even men have experienced things that suck because they’re guys.

Jennifer Weiner wrote this letter to her daughters, and it made me sniffle because it sums up so eloquently what I want my daughter to know. As we’re just weeks away from meeting her, I want her to know it’s ok to be a girl. It’s ok to love the color pink, and it’s also okay to hate wearing a bra. It’s ok to be a feminist. It’s ok to question the status quo, to be angry that she may be reduced to her appearance rather than the sum of her parts. I haven’t even seen her yet and I know that she is beautiful, not because of what she looks like, but because of who she is. She will be courageous, and strong, and intelligent. She will be creative in her own ways, independent in her own ways, opinionated in her own ways. And she will grow up with a mom and dad that encourage her to be herself, and to raise her hand when a teacher asks if she is a feminist. And with any luck, hopefully she won’t be the only person in the room to raise her hand.

A walk down Alyssa’s memory lane: From blonde hair to… darker blonde hair.

People often ask me if I’m a natural blonde. I reply yes, because I am. However, do they need to know that my actual, natural blonde is probably the darkest blonde you can be without being brunette? Naaaah. I was a towhead from birth (and always thought that was actually spelled TOEhead, for the longest time), and my wispy white blonde Children of the Corn hair lasted me until I was about 10.

That's me on the left, with our brother in the middle, and April on the right. Look at me rockin my double chin!

That’s me on the left, with our brother in the middle, and April on the right. Look at me rockin my double chin!

Then, my hair became more golden and grew interesting cowlicks and stubborn waves, until it burst into mermaid-esque ringlets. In high school I messed around with all kinds of hair dyes, I was fond of pink, and at one point had a yucky purple that turned gray. Me and my friend Lisa (Hi Lisa!) would spend hours in her bathroom working out the perfect punk rock highlights. Then, one year, I went auburn. I quite enjoyed that color, and thanks to the powers of Facebook, a friend recently found this picture documenting my redhead hue.

Me on the far left. I was so skinny!

Me on the far left. I was so skinny!

For about the past ten years I’ve been a home dyer, and stuck to a golden blonde shade that needed touch ups about every five weeks. I had the best luck with the $2.99 box of Revlon ColorSilk Dye, and did it by myself on random weeknights, being careful not to touch my head as I putzed around the house for 30 minutes smelling awful.

Golden Blonde by Revlon

Golden Blonde by Revlon

For the past year, I’ve been an “ultra light” blonde, which is pretty much platinum. I had a  lot of fun with this color, but it had some significant drawbacks. The first being that I needed to do my roots about every 3.5 weeks, and I’m lazy. The second drawback was that it really washed out my face, and if I didn’t put on blush, I looked like a walking q-tip. Given that I work from home I wear very little makeup, but when I do go out, I’d rather kids not point to me and ask their parents how a cotton ball learned how to walk. The third drawback was that since it’s basically bleach, the color was killing my curly texture and making it a limp wave. It was time for a change.

Photo by Lynnette Joy Photography from three weeks ago at my best friend's wedding

Photo by Lynnette Joy Photography from three weeks ago at my best friend’s wedding

I’d been hemming and hawing about going back to my natural color for a few years, but was always too chicken. The closest I ever came on my own was during this era, which was a “Dark blonde” box dye that I felt was too red. I lasted like this for about two weeks before running for my blonde safety net.

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Reddish blonde.

Over the past year, I’ve been lucky enough to meet a wonderful hair stylist who really “gets” my hair. Curly hair is a pain in the butt, because it changes day to day depending on the weather, the water texture, your shampoo, your stress level. George at Floyd’s Barber Shop in Encino is awesome (and so is Mikki!), and he’s been cutting my hair the past year. At our last visit, I asked him what he would do to my hair in terms of color. He won me over with a description of a multi-tonal mix of highlights and low lights, that would allow me to grow my roots out and have a very low maintenance of about every 3-4 months. I was in, and this Friday, we went for it!

Why yes, I do post terrible before photos of myself on the internet. In the name of science! Photo collage by George.

Why yes, I do post terrible before photos of myself on the internet. In the name of science! Photo collage by George.

I really love the new look! It was a little bit shocking at first to see the newer, darker me, but I knew I liked it. I’m still not 100% used to it, but I’m already loving the fact that I feel like my face looks slimmer and I don’t need as much makeup to look “alive”. I’m also looking forward to my low-maintenance new hair routine. So, ‘fess up – is your hair your natural color? Do you dye? If you do, would you ever go back to your roots?

The after of my new 'do

The after of my pretty new ‘do

April’s bikini day at the beach

I did it.

I finally wore a bikini at the beach.

I had done it before as a child, I’m sure.

But as an adult, my stomach had never once felt the cool sea air upon it.

bikinibeachI’ve always wanted to try wearing a bikini. If I just didn’t have that horrible fear of what everyone there would think, I bet I would have done it a lot sooner. However on this day, once my friend and I had successfully walked the farthest away we could from people, I decided to strip down just to the bikini I had worn there with fearful anticipation of actually showing it. My friend easily sensed my embarrassment as I peered around to see just how far away everyone was, standing with my hands in my shirt ready for lift off. Luckily, as the awesome guy my friend is, he knew to say all the right things to make me feel better. Compliments about me being hot and “no one caring” eased my anxieties enough to get me to take off my top and plop down with my hands/arms hiding my stomach. With a few more self-esteem boosting words, I let go of my stomach and realized I badly needed to just get over this deep-rooted fear I have about wearing a bikini.

Why is that I could go to Burning Man and walk around with no  top? Or go to an Oregon hot springs and do the same? Why didn’t I feel horrible shame there the way I do at the beach?

A suggested answer came from one of my close girl friends. She pointed out that at Burning Man and hot springs, so many people are naked and “letting it all hang out” that the societal pressure to look a certain way just isn’t there. Though at the beach and other public swimming places, it is almost expected that the only women you will see wearing bikinis are thin. I am grateful that these times are changing and more and more women are feeling more secure about rocking whatever they want to at the beach. Sadly, I still haven’t been able to JUST GET OVER IT. I think I’m getting better since I’m even willing to give it a try, but I hate knowing that the #1 reason I won’t wear a bikini to the beach is because of my fear of what complete strangers think of my body.

How freaking lame is that?

So, blog readers, does the fear of what other people think of your body ever hinder what you like to wear?  If it doesn’t, how did you get to that awesome place of complete self-security? I’d love to hear it!

Oh, and by the way, I’m totally down 20 pounds officially from the start of this year. YAY. Thank you 3-day training and food allergies! WOOO!

 

Lots of love,

AprilSignatur

 

 

 

 

bikiki

Proof (at a safe distance for my insecurities).

Burning Man: Helping April get over her fears yet again.

Hello again, readers!

I apologize for my silence over the past two weeks but I have been busy preparing, attending, and recovering from Burning Man. I ended up staying just a few days at the monumental event of around 70,000 people, however, I came home with a bunch of stories and an even more magical embrace of my body image than I had shown up with. Last time I wrote here on the blog, I told my story about my first experience at Burning Man and how dropping my top helped me get over a lot of my self-shame about my body size.

This time at Burning Man, I tested myself even further. I had longed to separate the sexuality aspect away from the ability to just be comfortable in my own skin with no constrictions. My brother Tommy was going to be joining me for this adventure and, you may remember me saying, I was hesitant about getting fully topless in front of him. It just didn’t seem like something I could do. The general American view of women being bare-chested around other people in a non-sexual situation is just not accepted.  Women can barely whip out a boob in a private corner to breast feed her baby without someone gawking at her or making a rude comment about how she needs to “cover up.” As my time progressed on and the desert heat continued to beat down on me like Animal on a set of drums, I started to make small steps in finding my true level of comfort around a sea of strangers. I suggested to Tommy on the second night, “Hey, I have an idea. Why don’t you just walk about thirty feet in front of me? That way, you won’t see my boobs.” My brother would laugh and walk on as I fell behind to embrace nothingness upon my skin.

On Day 3, our final day there, I decided to just go for it. I had left to go to port-o-potty land and while walking, I decided to take off my uncomfortably itchy bikini top. Instantly, my body temperature dropped and I felt much better. Once back at our truck, my neighbors offered me some coffee and as I went over to talk to them, I covered up my chest and commented how I didn’t want my brother to see as he was a couple hundred feet away taking down our tent set-up. My neighbors, two lovely people from Montana named John and Sherri,  laughed at me and began what became a few hours of amazing conversation and insight on how to live life. They broke down for me so simply how silly I was being and that if I wanted to do something, I should just do it, and surely my brother would get over it. I also remarked how eventually my brother will probably see a kid attached to one of my boobs so I might as well get it over with now.

After talking to these Burning Man angels of wisdom, I decided to approach Tommy. I went up to him all confident and stated my claim, that I wasn’t going to be afraid today to just let it all hang out. As the amazing brother he is, he said something that gives me happy tears as I write this. He said, “April, I’m pretty sure the only one who cares about me seeing your boobs is you.” I instantly felt a million times more confident and for the rest of the afternoon, I paraded around not only topless but just in a bikini bottom and my hand-sewn white hooded cape. I even got noticeably checked-out so that made me feel great too until they would notice Tommy and IMMEDIATELY turn away.

Words of advice: If you don’t want any attention from the opposite sex at a large social event:  make sure you go with your sibling – everyone will think you’re married. This concept also works with friends as well.

Once I got home my ability to just be comfortable with my body didn’t leave. That night, as I laid in bed with Alyssa (who was in town hosting our honorary sister Katelyn’s bridal/bachelorette parties), I didn’t even pay attention to the fact that I was sans-shirt and totally talking to both girls with no shame at all. I didn’t even give it a thought until Alyssa  commented on the noticeable difference I was showing as she knows first hand my insecurity about my chest. Now that it’s been a week since I got home, I haven’t exactly been running around topless in the house, but I don’t seem to be as self-conscious about bits of skin showing. If my shirt accidentally comes up a bit and my love-handles show, I’m not so aggressive when it comes to getting my shirt pulled back down immediately. I went to the doctor the other day and as I sat there in my luxury giant drape of medical paper-towel, my bare ass totally exposed for the doctor to see, I quickly shushed my inner thoughts of body shame and had an epiphany. I realized, if anything, getting to see my lower parts was probably like visiting a princess’s palace in comparison to the hundred’s of different bodies she sees in a year. I may be overweight but I bet she would rather see my bare ass than that of a 85 year old man. So I got over it and left the doctor feeling proud of myself for putting myself in check so quickly.

How are all of you when it comes to nudity in a non-sexualized way? If you’ve breast fed, have you ever had feelings of insecurity about doing it in a public place? Have you been one of the women that has been ridiculed by an unpleasant human uncomfortable with the milk of life? Would you be able to be topless around your siblings?

Let me know, I would love to hear about the way other people view this topic!

Have a wonderful Thursday everyone and thanks for reading!

Love and bare chests for all,

AprilSignatur

 

 

 

 

PS – Here are a bunch of photos from Burning Man for your viewing pleasure <3

 

Two men – both impressive in their own ways – Random stranger, I’m sorry I didn’t get your permission to take this photo but you definitely add to the artistic integrity of this photo.

 

The Temple – A place where people can honor those who have passed on as well as a place to leave behind anything you are ready to release from

 

Our tent battling the wind. This is a wonderful place called “walk-in” camping… a chance to camp with a bit of peace – NOT quiet – sound travels way too far in the desert.

 

Tommy during one of the many quick dust storms.

Art shark.

Art shark.

This is me being VERY brave posting this online. The internet has never seen my stomach before but oh well, this will be a great picture to use as a "before" shot for my future weight loss success!

This is me being VERY brave posting this online. The internet has never seen my stomach before but oh well, this will be a great picture to use as a “before” shot for my future weight loss success!

My favorite art car – CHARLIE THE UNICORN! Click the picture to see the internet video this was inspired from.

 

My brother Tommy and I about fifty feet up on a giant climbing structure!

My brother Tommy and I about fifty feet up on a giant climbing structure!

A sweet art car in the desert.

A sweet art car in the desert.

Bone tree.

Bone tree.

 

And finally, that gorgeous Nevada sky.

 

Kids and the “F word”

People all the use the “F word” differently around children.  Since I’ve worked with probably over 200 young children now, I know directly the impact the “F word” has on them.  I’m probably too over-protective of the word as I go so far that I switch out the words in children’s songs and stories that use it.  However, every family is different and people can make the choice to include it in their daily vocabulary if they want to.  It is just a word, right?

I had a moment tonight regarding the “F word” while working with two of the most special people in the world to me, a girl who turns 6 in three weeks and a boy who recently turned 3.  I’ve been babysitting for this family since the little girl was just nine months old and one of the best parts of my life has been watching these children grow up.

It was bedtime and the kids were rambunctious and rolling around on the ground, begging to play their favorite bedtime game.  We call it  “abalone”  and they curl up into balls and I pretend to pry off them off the rock before baking them in the oven (a big reclining rocking chair) and nibbling at their toes after they’re baked.  Well, tonight I laid down for a change and the kids dog piled on top of me with my annoying low cut jeans and “normal length but too short for a tall girl” shirt both separating on me just like my abalone shell was being shucked apart.  I immediately became so AWARE that my belly was hanging out that it became my top priority to get back up, pull my pants up and my shirt down and proceed with my mission of getting their teeth brushed.  I remember thinking as it was happening, “THEY ARE SEEING MY FAT! NOOOO!  WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?!” and having this frantic moment of body shame as the kids played on, their smiles brighter than the sparkle of any abalone in the world.  These kids weren’t thinking about the fat on my stomach.  They were in play mode, happily living their lives as WE ALL should, unaware of judgement placed on our bodies.

I didn’t have the realization of what that moment all meant to me until I was driving home soon after. I was so happy the way the moment went over.  Sure, it sucked that I had a freak-out of body shame, but the fact that the kids SAW my stomach and didn’t say anything made me feel so much better.  They didn’t use the “F word.”  They didn’t call me fat.

I think I have a lot of body shame around children because, just out of a child’s simple curiosity, I’ve been asked about my weight many times before.  The most common is a child asking if I have a baby in my tummy, likely because they’ve seen other women who DO have tummies similar to mine.  When it first started happening at the beginning of my preschool career, at age 19, I didn’t know what to say to that.  Now I’ll just say, “No, my tummy is just squishy.”   Kids will ask, “April, why is your tummy so fat?” and I’ll make a joke about eating too much soft ice cream.   It doesn’t effect me now nearly as much as it used to now that I’ve worked with kids long enough to know that sometimes, questions that hurt really are just questions of wonder.

But then at the some point soon after those innocent years of toddler time, their perspective on the word fat changes completely.    The word fat transforms from a curiosity of different types bodies to a sharp dagger that can be used at any moment on themselves or other people.  Unfortunately once a kid has a grip on using the word fat, it’s hard to drop that habit and the image of what fat is to a child may be something that carries on with them into adulthood.

 

In a place where fat is all around us, how can we even control the word from changing from simple adjective into the piercing dagger it is known as today?

Is there anything that you do to try to promote better body image to the children that may be around you?   Do you think that as obesity becomes more common in the USA, the way we use the word fat will change?

Besides those DEEP THOUGHTS, today marks the one week of my weight-watchers week!  I weighed in this morning with a loss of 3.8!  Yeah!!!!  This next week I’ll work on improving my habits even more, as this past week I still struggled with my desire for liquid sugar.  My buddy Laura, the woman doing it with me, lost eleven pounds!  I’ll share how we did it in a post early next week!

Until then, happy Friday, everyone!

Love,

AprilSignatur

Melissa McCarthy and Elle: The Scandal Over a Coat. Really?

I’ve been living under a little bit of a self-imposed rock this week, as I’m in the thick of a huuuuuge project launching at work, but when I saw Melissa McCarthy’s pretty face splash across my computer screen a bunch of times, I knew I needed to check it out. I’m a fan of McCarthy; she’s a cousin of Jenny McCarthy, she’s funny as eff, and I think she’s a really talented actress. The scene in Bridesmaids where she steals all the puppies in the van? Brilliant. Anyways, McCarthy is under some scrutiny right now because of this Elle magazine cover:

Why? Because some people are saying McCarthy dodged a huge opportunity to show off curvy bodies by choosing to wear a coat. Huh? When I first saw the cover, the only thing I thought was, “Oh! It’s Melissa McCarthy. Love her.” That’s it. No “OMG SHE’S WEARING WOOL” or “OMG HER BODY IS COVERED UP!” or “OMG THIS IS SO UNFAIR THAT THE FAT GIRL HAS TO WEAR A COAT ON THE COVER OF A MAGAZINE”. While I kinda get where some of these critics are coming from in saying it “covers up” showing off the bodies of those of us who are lovably larger, I think it’s a littttttle bit dramatic. Quite frankly, I think she looks fantastic, and it’s actually kind of nice to see someone on the cover of a magazine WEARING CLOTHES, rather than, well… this.

Screen Shot 2013-10-17 at 9.04.35 PMHow about instead of focusing on what this brilliant, talented plus-size woman is wearing, we focus on the fact that HEY, this is pretty cool that mainstream media is diversifying by even having a talented, brilliant plus-sized woman on a magazine cover. That’s cool stuff. Even cooler? Her headline is about being one of the top women in Hollywood. Not 27 diet tips to help you weigh less than a cotton ball. Not 69 ways to make your man moan in the kitchen. Not 18 ways to make your eyes stand out more, your skin look brighter, your butt look smaller, your boobs look bigger. She’s wearing a coat. Who cares? I wear coats all the time. So do you. It’s fall. The magazine even has a feature on “the Perfect New Coat shape”. Is it the most flattering coat on McCarthy? Maybe not. Is it unflattering? No. She looks great. Who cares? She’s a comedian. She could wear a burlap sack and still make me howl with laughter.

We don’t have discussions like this about men on magazine covers. Can you think of a magazine cover with a dude on it that was scrutinized because of what the guy was wearing? The most recent controversial male magazine cover was this one, because it featured Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and some felt Rolling Stone was celebrating terrorism as magazine covers are usually reserved for “idols”. THAT’s controversial. Not a coat. So my advice to everyone smarming over McCarthy’s chic and oh-so-cozy coat? Focus your energy elsewhere. When we have women of all shapes and sizes on magazine covers EVERY DAY, then we can get picky about what they’re wearing. For now, I’m celebrating the fact that she’s hilarious, awesome, talented and lovely, and Elle recognized it. (Side note: I once saw her husband at a local bar here and reaaaaally wanted to go up to him and tell him I loved his wife, but I figured that might be kind of a jerk thing to do considering he’s an actor and all, too!)

What do you think? Is all this uproar over McCarthy’s coat a crock of wool baloney, or is it justified in that she may have missed an opportunity to promote bigger, beautiful bodies?