I was miserable in my life when this photo was taken.
I wouldn’t admit it to myself or to anyone else at the time.
The misery stemmed from so many things. I wasn’t doing any real work on myself (although not for lack of trying, I couldn’t afford a therapist in New York City where insurance rarely covered the good ones who charged $200 per hour).
My fears around intimacy had me isolating more and more until most of my relationships were distant and untended.
I buried myself in my work instead of facing my uncomfortable emotions like anxiety and depression.
Looking back, I think a lot of that anxiety and depression stemmed from me feeling like I didn’t belong.
That I was misfit for being a "pretty" girl who didn't want to get married.
That I felt annoyed when I was objectified when I did dress up and go out.
That I was strange for voicing my irritation about how women were treated in our culture.
I can't remember what I was thinking when this photo was taken right before my sister's wedding. But I'm sure it had something to do with how I struggled to act however I was supposed to act while wearing a lot of make up and a clingy dress.
Am I supposed to be more flirty? With the guy chewing food with his mouth open and bragging about his money.
Am I supposed to be more ditzy? With this group of people debating nutrition based on what they read on the Internet.
Am I supposed to be more accommodating? Fuck that.
There is a lot of power in beauty in our culture. I’ve only come to appreciate that as mine is now fading.
But there is also a lot of power in rejecting it too.
There are freedoms to walking around in my baggy clothes, no make up, wearing glasses and a hat which is why I've done it for years now. I can interact with the world without the boobs or the ass getting in the way.
It is liberating - and I find it also a lot of fun - to hold conversations with all kinds of people from all walks of life.
If I walked around in full make up and a fitted dress, the world can shrink.
Often to the d-bags that wouldn’t otherwise talk to me.
That’s not to say that I’m not hyperaware of the privilege I’ve enjoyed most of my life. That I can walk into most public venues and ask for something special and get it.
Believe me, I know that it’s opened doors to opportunities.
I’m no fool.
But it comes with a price.
Our culture loves to typecast women. I rarely find a multi-dimensional female character on television. Liz Lemon on 30 Rock was one of few. Bitch Cop. Martyr Mom. Party Slut. Studious Prude. I just read about an interview with a black actress that discussed the stereotypical roles black women have had to audition for years. Sassy Mama. Sassy Wife. Sassy This. Sassy That. The stereotypes and limitations for women to represent the wide array of different people that exist on the planet is everywhere, but especially noticeable in Hollywood.
I enjoyed a new show called Teachers recently. Everyone single character is a stereotype AND white. EVERY SINGLE ONE. The show is from last year.
I guess I always felt so uncomfortable dressed up, particularly during that time in my life because I never knew how to reconcile being my usual goofy, nerdy self while so dressed up.
Some of this confusion stems from our culture not encouraging and representing multi-dimensional role models.
And a lot of was my own artistic angst and overly neurotic self that always felt confused how I ended up in that body.
My only wish now is that I would have enjoy that healthy version of myself while I had it. One of my biggest regrets is not traveling during that time. In 2008, I had a nice nest egg (before I dumped it all into my cookbook) and was in between apartments. I wish I would have taken this body to Thailand and the rest of Asia, danced on tabletops, made out with cute Swedes, ate tons of food from all over the world, sat on the beach without shriveling up and had a fucking BLAST.
Instead, I was beating myself up daily, worrying about my financial future (ha!), trying to write a book, and hammering down on myself with negative messages all day long, “you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough, you’re not good enough.”
I see now that I was just repeating what I’d be told over and over again in our culture with impossible standards, perfectionist goals, and unrealistic expectations - about
More than anything, I’d fallen into the trap of thinking that if my outside looked like it was supposed to, then I was supposed to act a certain way - and feel a certain way on the inside too.
I wish I'd been more gentle with myself. More reassuring. I wish I could have seen the good, instead of focusing on what I perceived as "bad" in our culture. We're told that "different" is bad. But different is what makes us INTERESTING. They make us human.
It is only now, with my tangled insides and my fading beauty - which in a very cool way is kind of liberating - that I’m beginning to see how futile it is to listen to messages from our culture. How unwise it is to put off our dreams. How sad it is to think that adjusting our outside will ever, ever make us feel better on the inside.
So go on that trip around the world.
Save money on overpriced face cream and donate it to a non-profit instead.
Do what you need to do in order to get that "you're not good enough" tape from our warped culture to quit playing forever.
Because it's 1000% WRONG.
You're everything right. You're everything right. You're everything right. Now repeat that to yourself over and over. Because THAT is truth.
And when you’re offered that special treat that you’d normally say no to, say yes. For me. For yourself. For all the people that aren’t still alive to say YES, I WILL HAVE THAT TREAT AND NOT FEEL BAD ABOUT IT FOR ONE SECOND. And savor every fucking second of it for me, ok?
Life is about living. This is all I know.
PHOTO #1. This post is part of a series celebrating my life before I lost four organs to three cancers in 2014. It is an “online memorial” honoring the person I was, in the hopes that I can make peace with the disabled person I’ve become. Every day for 30 days until my birthday, I will challenge myself to write a post inspired by the photo I’m sharing. I will not plan the topic or write ahead of time. I will merely look at the photo and write whatever it inspires. Thanks for reading! #julesfor30 #happyrebirth