Category Archives: women

Mirrors

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I’m not sure when I first started avoiding mirrors, but one day, I realized that I was. It’s not that I never look in a mirror – I’m human – I need to see to fix my hair or put on makeup or make sure my clothes aren’t on inside-out or something – which I have failed at twice in the last six months or so (though if it’s dark, I really do avoid them – a leftover fear from my jackhole neighbor boys telling my Mary Worth stories when I was five).

It’s less about avoiding the mirrors, exactly, and more about the way I cringe when I do look in them. I see a face that doesn’t look like me – or like the me I used to be. The me I want to be. I see gray hair and huge pores and bad skin and dark circles. I see tired eyes and sagging boobs. But mostly, I see fat. This isn’t who I want to be – not the fat woman, really (though I don’t want to be her, either), but the woman who hates herself, the woman who hides from mirrors because she hates what she sees.

I try to raise my daughter to never be that person. I never want her to hate herself, hate the way she looks. I never want her to be ashamed of what she looks like instead of proud of who she is. I refrain from talking about how I look in front of her. I teach her about loving yourself and the way you look. I stress to both of my kids that kindness and compassion are important and looks are not. And even though I do all that. I still worry that they will realize how I feel – that I’ll give off some vibe of self-loathing. That’s they’ll be able to read my face; pick up on my looks of disgust in the mirror the way I picked up on the looks of disgust my mom gave me as a teen, even when she wasn’t calling me fat (when I was 104 pounds – a whole other story).

I want to love myself – I really do. Ironically, when I had someone constantly telling me I was fat or trying to force me into unrealistic diets or buying me too-small clothes, I did love myself – it hurt that she said it, but I never believed it. Even after I started gaining weight (and losing and gaining again and again), I still felt strong and confident – I felt better during the “losing” times but during the “gaining” ones, I still had it in my head that I was OK – that I was a good person, that I had something to offer, that I was…well…pretty. But somewhere along the way something changed and I became the tentative, un-confident, self-conscious, self-loathing person that I don’t even recognize anymore – neither by the way I look nor the way I feel. The one who doesn’t show up in photos anymore. The one who wears the same things over and over because she doesn’t feel good in clothes anyway. The one who hides when she sees an old friend – or even worse – an old boyfriend out in public because she is too ashamed (not self-conscious, but ashamed of how she looks. How did I become this person? Where did the real me go?

I took The Girl out for lunch the other day and the wall next to our booth was a mirror and I watched as my beautiful, silly, kind, funny, wonderful daughter spent an hour looking into that mirror. Not looking and sighing in disgust, but looking and loving what she saw. She made silly faces. She posed. She laughed. She waved and kissed and fixed her hair. And she smiled. Something I haven’t done in the mirror in a long time.

I spend a lot of time trying to teach her, but watching her that day made me realize how much she has to teach me.

Vagina!

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I can’t stand Leah Remini. I was never a fan, and then a few years back when she jumped into the Tom Cruise Crazy Scientology Postpartum Kerfuffle, I decided she was an idiot. Or an asshole. Or both. Her unkind and downright nasty criticism of Brooke Shields was insulting and dangerous, not just to Brooke Shields, but to all women. But like any other annoying gnat flying around your face, I soon forgot what and irritating idiot asshole she is. Then this week, she reminded me again.

On Monday, I got a call from the school nurse to pick up the girl. I brought her home, got her settled, and the sat down with my computer to finish my work for the day. The TV was on in the background, and the annoying new show – The Talk – was on. Think The View with more (and more annoying) hosts, one of whom is Leah Remini. They were discussing using the correct anatomical terms for genitalia with children (which, truly, I thought was an issue we figured out sometime back in the 80s). And as soon as the word “vagina” was spoken, Leah Remini opened her big annoying mouth and started screaming. She wouldn’t let anyone else talk, and every time they tried to defend their reasons for not using cutesy little words (she prefers “cupcake.” WTF?!?!), she yelled, “That’s DISGUSTING!”

Personally, I think Leah Remini is disgusting. But I do know that she is not alone in her demeaning, sexist opinion.

Vagina. Why is that word so intimidating to people? Nobody flinches when they hear penis. But vagina? Wooo, that can set some folks off. I’m getting so tired of people reacting to that word like it’s something dirty. It’s degrading to those of us who actually have them. Vaginas, that is. I mean, when it comes to the male anatomy, penis is pretty acceptable. In the mid-eighties or so, when popular opinion changed about using the proper terms for our genitalia, we all felt a little silly at first, but soon penis became a household word. A non-offensive, easy to say, completely correct term. But vagina? Vagina never totally caught on. It was definitely used more, but penis went mainstream and vagina kind of stayed indy. Thus, it’s 2010 and the same person who could work “penis” into a sentence without flinching would blush and stammer and get all tongue-tied at the mere thought of the word vagina.

I was in the hair salon recently (my friend Tee’s place), and a few of us were talking about childbirth and teaching hospitals. I was saying that I don’t mind letting students, etc, in, because they have to learn somewhere (of course, as soon as they find out that I am pro-student, they had half the medical school in with me. It was like a big party that had the bonus of freaking my mother the hell out. Anyway, a few of the women were saying no way, they don’t want all those people in there. In typical fashion, I said, “eh, what’s the difference? By the time you make it to labor, you don’t even care anymore. I let them all in, like ’welcome to my vagina.’” Well, one woman in there got a look on her face like she just smelled shit. The word vagina was so distasteful to her that she looked liked she was about to choke. So of course I said it as many times as possible after that. Vagina. Vagina. VaginaVaginaVaginaVagina. I know, I’m non-confrontational and sensitive to people’s needs like that.

I just don’t get the VaginaFear. I think it stems from the bajillions of years of female inferiority. Before men caught on to their part in conception, women were revered for our childbearing ability. The vagina was a magical, a life giving, mysterious treasure. But as soon as the cat was out of the bag that we didn’t do it alone, the vagina became dirty and shameful, something we didn’t talk about. Back in biblical times, women had to live outside the group in the red tent (if you haven’t read The Red Tent, you should) when menstruating. It was unclean. The bible, written by men (after the realization of their part in conception, of course), has passages about the uncleanliness of women, based on what makes them women: in Leviticus, we are told that menstruating women are unclean, as is anything they touch, and anyone that touches them. In particular, one verse tells us that on the day after her bleeding ends, a woman must take a sacrifice as a SIN OFFERING, so the priest can make an atonement for her.

So, the bible, this book that so many folks use as a guide to life, is telling me that I am a sinner simply because I am a woman (and I know, supposedly, we are all born sinners – whatever. But I have a problem with being somehow more of a sinner simply because I was born with a vagina). And then we have another passage in Leviticus which tells us that after childbirth women are dirty. And if she has a boy, she is unclean for 7 days and must purify for 33 days. But if she has a girl, oh boy, she is unclean for 14 days and must purify for 66 days. And again, a sin offering must be given. Of course, Leviticus is also cited by the crazies when they carry their “God Hates F*gs” Picket Signs of Idiocy and Hate, so you know what? Fuck that noise. And you know what else? Vagina. VaginaVaginaVAGINA!!

And so here we are, thousands of years later, throwing out “cock” and “dick” and “wang” and “schwartz” and “dong” and “prick” and “schlong” like nobody’s business, but let someone utter “vagina” and Aaaccckkk! For Pete’s sake, we’re women. Not demons, not aliens, and certainly not second-class citizens. We’re not dirty or nasty by nature. There’s nothing inherently dirty about a vagina. If a vagina is in fact nasty, it’s directly proportional to the nastiness of its owner. It’s not nasty simply because it is a vagina. And I’m sure there are eleventy-million or so skanky penises out there, too, so shut it.

I’m not saying we have to talk about our vaginas ad nauseam. We don’t have to share vagina stories with everyone we meet. I have elbows and toes and armpits too, but I don’t talk about them constantly either. But we should be able to say the word – “Vagina” – without someone blushing or cringing or wrinkling their nose. It’s not a bad word and yet there are people out there who would rather their kids say shit or damn or fuck than vagina.

And tell me – what are we suppose to say instead? Genitals? Too clinical and non-specific. Pee-pee? I think not. Forget about the cutesy shit – cupcake? Come ON – it’s ridiculous. Somehow I don’t think that the people that are offended by vagina want to hear pussy, cunt or twat, either. It’s a vagina and all women have one and it’s not dirty and it’s just as special and important as your penis and I will be calling it by its true name and GET OVER IT, VAGINA-FEARERS!!

As for male vagina-fearers, suck it up, bitches. It’s the thing you want over all others and you can’t even fucking say it? But somehow, I don’t really expect much more from you. But female vagina fearers (like Leah the asshole Remini)? What in the hell is wrong with you? It’s just a word. A name for something that you and every other woman have. It gives you pleasure, it brings life. It makes you special and you still can’t speak its name?

IT’S A VAGINA, NOT VOLDEMORT!!