Don’t Tell Me My Dress is Slimming

body-positivity-art-by-spooky-femme

For generations, women have based their wardrobes on the clothes that they have been told are flattering for their body type. We’ve worn black because it makes us look thin, we’ve worn A-line dresses because it’s the most flattering for our shape. We hide our arms because we don’t want people to see that extra flab. I used to be this kind of girl; the type that would love when someone would tell me that I looked like I had lost a few pounds, or that my my dress was slimming. I used to look at thin girls and envy them. Then, as I grew up I thought, “Fuck that shit.”

I made the choice that I no longer wanted to be self-conscious about my body, and I no longer wanted to ‘hide’ my flaws. I didn’t want to be the type of women that spent her life hiding under the types of clothes she was told to wear, rather than just be happy with herself and wear exactly what I wanted.

I am a lover of fashion and art, and love to express that through my clothes. I know what looks good on me, only because these are the types of clothes that make me feel the most comfortable in my skin, make me feel the most confident, and make me look in the mirror and think, “Wow I look great today.”

So, when I make that effort to get all gussied up in clothes that express who I am, I absolutely hate when someone tells me that my outfit is “slimming.” All that tells me is that the rest of the time, I look like a fat cow and should hide under a bag. Okay, this might be a bit extreme, but how am I supposed to take it? Saying “that dress is so slimming” only tells me that every other outfit you have seen me in before this made me look grotesque.

Telling me my dress is slimming tells me that you think I should keep hiding. It tells me that my body isn’t good enough to put on display, and that my best only occurs when I give in to all those female ideals that I worked so hard to rid my life of. And to that I say, “Fuck that shit.”

The next time you want to pay me a compliment, tell me I look nice, fabulous, beautiful, gorgeous. Tell me my outfit is fantastic. You can even tell me how flattering my outfit is. But don’t tell me my dress is slimming. My body type and my weight should never enter the conversation.

The fact of the matter is that I will never have a flat stomach. My arms will always be kind of flabby. I will always have wide shoulders, my thighs will always touch and my hips will always be disproportionately small.

And I am perfectly happy with that.

Breaking Apart

ErinandLake

Broken.  2007 was the year I was broken. Crashed, shattered. Broken hearted, broken down and the catalyst, broken bones.

I broke my ankle in three places, it was shattered, dislocated; basically the worst of the worst. It took hours of surgery (resulting in pins, plates and two lovely scars), a splint, then air boot, wheelchair and crutches just to get me back on my feet.  This many years later and it’s still not perfect. I can’t bend at the knees very far, nor point my toes any more. I need ace bandages, wrap tape, ice, heat and elevation This is my life, since 2007.

I never expected it to take me so long to get to where I am. I’ve had to write off all these different experiences. Going for a run? Need to find flat running shoes, use athletes tape to tape it up and socks to hold it all together, even then it doesn’t last very long until the nagging pain sets in. Going shoe shopping? Forget it! I went up a size and it’s impossible to find shoes that I like that have no heel at all.

Still, the time between the break and now has been a learning process. Recovery from something that traumatic will change a person.  I learned that no matter what happens, my family will be always there to help me.  Sometimes, doesn’t matter how independent a girl is, she’ll need someone to help her. Sometimes the best help is from unexpected places and to appreciate standing, in a shower, by yourself.

I think the hardest thing I’ve had to learn, is to adapt. I’m pretty stubborn, so to face this kind of obstacle, you can’t scale it on your own, is difficult to accept. Even little things like accepting I can never wear heels, no matter how much I want a pair of nude Louboutin’s, or lace up Manolo’s. Now I just buy every kind of flat shoes at Target and live in flip flops in the summer.  Walking long distances, you take for granted. Now in the summer I’ll walk everywhere and have the rock hard leg muscles to prove it.

Recovering from any sort of broken part of you is a long process. Nobody tells you, but you can’t just bounce right back. It fundamentally changes you; sometimes for the bad, or sometimes for the good.

Ireland 2011, I went on a solo trip to visit family. We went to a local landmark that I always love going to, gorgeous views and very peaceful. The walk from the entrance to the front of the park to the lake view is around 1 ½ km, and very uneven. I managed the walk without too much pain and as I stood by the lake, I celebrated my accomplishment as even a few months before it hurt too much to walk that far. Then I realized, I had to walk back, and my healing continued. 

A Decade Under the Influence

sad girl sitting

The sky had barely broken on the New Year when I found myself crumpled into a ball crying in your lap. I didn’t want to seek solace in you about this, a topic I deem too personal to even discuss with you, the one I love, but the truth is I am struggling and I feel myself becoming one with the edge. I am no longer sure where to turn.

I don’t remember when it started. I imagine it happened normally and maybe even casually, the way it does sometimes when these things sneak up on you. I don’t know what compelled me to first stick my finger down my throat and force myself to throw up everything until I spit blood. But I did, and after that, I felt, relief. Relief is not the best word for the elimination of self-inflicted ghosts, but it is my word and it is the word that would frame my existence for many years to come.

I had never been thin and for me this was all entirely about becoming thin. At 16, all I wanted was to be thin like the other girls. I became obsessed. I went to the gym, for hours, every day after school. It became a joke around my friends and even my family that I would eat only a granola bar and that would be it for the day. I was busy. Being busy made missing meals passable and even easy. The truth was I didn’t even want the granola bar, but without it I struggled to get out of bed. It was hard to focus and the shaking was noticeable. And somewhere along the way, when I did eat it, I started throwing it up. I wasn’t bulimic. Bulimia is when you intentionally binge then purge in a retroactive form of damage control. I just didn’t want food inside me. Eventually, I decided not to eat the granola bars anymore. At the end of the school year, I found dozens smooshed at the bottom of my bag.

I accepted a job at a fast food burger chain. It was my first actual job that didn’t consist of babysitting neighbourhood kids. I actually like the job too. The people I worked with were fun and I went to school with most of them, which made work enjoyable and social for me. On breaks, as an employee, you would get discounted food while you worked. Many of my peers took advantage of this, a couple of them got jobs there solely because of this, but I ignored it. I worked in a sea of greasy french fries and endless ice cream for almost a year and I never ate there even once. In the meantime, I had started to develop some bad habits. If I was at a party and people ordered pizza, I would spend five minutes blotting the grease off with a napkin before deciding to abandon the pizza altogether. I was getting worse, but my bones weren’t sticking out so, for a long time, no one said a word.

The first intervention came one night when I could no longer remember the last time I had eaten. My parents sat me down and told me I could have anything I wanted and that they would make it for me. Anything. I had lost a lot of weight by this point and my life had changed drastically. I was much more social. Boys were paying attention to me. I was even making out with them. I had discovered alcohol and parties. I decided to choose something random and obscure thinking it would deter their efforts. I remember what I requested: a chicken Caesar salad from Swiss Chalet. They went out and got it for me and I sat there waiting for them to return and I didn’t even move. When they came back they sat at the table to make sure I ate it. I cried the entire time, choking on every bite. I think they cried too.

But after that, it was as though in my mind I was magically recovered. I toned back the restriction, started eating dinner, and assumed things were better, all while failing to notice the signs were still there. When I moved away to university to live in residence, my first time living on my own, I was not concerned at the end of the year when it was discovered I had much more than 50 per cent of my meal plan remaining. Most students added more money to their plan part way through the year. I wasn’t throwing up much anymore so I thought I was fine, but I still also wasn’t really eating. My meal plan was nonrefundable. I started paying for people’s snacks and meals regularly. By the end of the year, I was buying people Fruitopia by the case.

The years after this are blurry and while I never thought of myself as sick, it is easy to see in retrospect that fractured existence of what clearly was—maybe still is—an eating disorder.  My weight continued to be a problem, going up and down like a rollercoaster, taking how I defined my worth and happiness along for the ride. In third year I decided to join an actual weight loss program. This was my first introduction into what would later become an obsession with calorie counting. Within months I was a mess. If I knew I’d be going out drinking that night, I would simply not eat all day long in an effort to never, ever go over my points. Points became the bane of my existence. If you worked out, you got more points, which for me actually meant more alcohol. I started working with a personal trainer at 7 am every morning. It was an impossible time for me, but I did it. One day he was guiding me through an exercise at a machine and the next thing I knew I was sitting in his office being forced to eat an applesauce. What happened? I asked him. To this day I do not remember passing out, I do not remember being taken to his office, I do not remember my first bite of that applesauce.

The program fucked with my head and instilled in me a new weapon in my war on food: guilt. Suddenly there were good foods and there were bad foods. There were foods that would make me fat and foods that would make me thin. There were foods that were approved of and foods that caused shame. When I quit counting points it was because I couldn’t live like that anymore, defining my success and basing my happiness on which silo my foods fell into that day. I had also, in the process, fallen in love and moved to the city. I was a new woman and I was determined to get in control.

Control. Where did that word come from? Control is a word people like to use when describing those with disordered eating habits because it is argued that we use food as a form of control to find order or balance in our lives and maybe even also to provide a scale of which to monitor and maintain power. Restriction and throwing up were never about control to me on the inside, but I can now see they were always about control on the outside. When I ate too much, or more accurately felt like I ate too much, throwing up was an easy way to undo perceived damage.

Things have, in recent months, become entirely about control. On my latest foray into weight loss I decided to try things differently. I didn’t want the blemished skin, the shaking hands, the guilt and the downward spiral I had had so many times before. I wanted results. So 10 months ago I joined the same program that caused me such disarray the first time, quit again shortly after for the same reasons I quit the first (and second) time, struggled with issues of throwing up for several months, then finally found the right balance between eating right and exercising. It was a magical feeling to see that number going down without making myself sick, without depriving myself. I felt truly accomplished and radiant and people noticed. They even said I looked skinny. Me, skinny! It was the best feeling I could have ever imagined.

Unfortunately this is where the problems have started again and in fact I am only writing this to prevent myself from relapsing. The number stopped going down. I stopped losing weight. When I stopped losing weight, I got scared and I have been scared for more than a month now. Suddenly I feel out of control and when I feel out of control I make bad food decisions. For months I wasn’t actually eating enough, and now I am scared I am eating too much. It is haunting me, a dark shadow that follows me around. I am getting feelings I’ve never had before. I am thinking to myself, this is pointless, this isn’t working, I’m not trying hard enough. I make plans and go to the gym for hours, then don’t go for days. My routine is so fucked and my head is so fucked I feel the storm coming.

It’s definitely coming back. But not in the ways I told you about, it’s coming back like it was like it did a couple summers ago—the most brutal summer in the history of my disordered eating. That summer was so bad that by the end of it I actually started looking into getting help. I saw doctors. I saw therapists. I was scared to be awake. I was scared to go out. I hated food and I hated life and I hated myself. My depression was rampant and I was throwing up all the time and my throwing up knew no boundaries: public washrooms, restaurants, bars, clubs, concerts, family functions, anywhere it could happen and everywhere it did. My face was puffy and broken out. I was losing control and the eating disorder was instead taking control of me. I’m not even sure anymore if I was losing weight, but these things can be mean like that. I was able to turn things around then with a lot of determination, therapy, reading self-help books and memoirs, and especially with the help of my boyfriend, who has helped me get through this countless times now. I have learned it is nearly, maybe entirely, impossible to get through these things on your own.

But I’m scared this time. I am terrified of what is happening to me after months of being healthier than I have ever been. I am worried it’s too late to undue the damage of all the calories I’ve tracked religiously in the little app I am always updating. I am worried about what happens next because I’ve already read this story. This is the part when things start to spiral out of control at a time when you really need that control. So you start eating less and start being more restrictive, purging whatever food you deem “bad,” prancing down the road you’ve travelled down so many times before, a deer in the headlights, never learning its lesson. Turning the pages anyway.

Dear Men, Stop Staring at My Boobs

boobs

Two years ago, my friends and I decided to have a low-key New Year’s Eve. Instead of spending our money on tickets to one of Toronto’s many parties, we decided to go out for a nice meal. But, that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to dress up. I wore a little black dress that happened to have a v-neck cut. I was a bit uncomfortable with the amount of cleavage I was showing, so I made attempts to cover myself up with a well-placed safety-pin. I was still showing a lot more cleavage than I am used to, but I figured, ‘Hey, it’s NYE. Why not?’

What I did not anticipate was what happened at dinner. My friends and I were seated next to a family of three — mom, dad and teenage son. The mom and dad seemed to be at odds, perhaps they were even divorced. How could I possibly know that? Well, the man was obviously distracted and clearly not paying much attention to the conversation at his table. He spent the better part of his dinner staring at my chest. Staring is perhaps too light a word. He was ogling. All night. Through his and my entire dinner.

But that’s not even the punch line. He proceeded to take out his smartphone and while pretending to take photos of the restaurant’s decor, he started taking pictures of me. He wasn’t very good at his spy tactics since his phone was so obviously pointing at my chest and I definitely took notice. I turned away from him, which made conversation with my friends a tad bit difficult. They too had noticed the attempted picture-taking and were just as baffled as I was. Eventually, I switched places with one of my friends to avoid the harassment.

And this brings me to my burning questions. Why can’t females show a bit of skin without so much unwanted attention? And when did the possession of mobile technology grant us the right to take photographs of random strangers? (I’m not even going to touch upon the fact that the man was not serving as the best role model for what I assume was his son.)

This wasn’t the first time someone has stared at my chest, nor was it the last. But could this man have been so unaware of his actions that he didn’t notice how uncomfortable he was making me? Or, did he just not care? He certainly managed to have me question my choice of attire and made me wish I was drowning in a very large coat.

I am a curvy female who, on occasion, will wear cleavage-baring dresses. Sometimes I might even show some leg. I am confident enough that I don’t feel I have to hide behind baggy shirts, and no one should expect me to. Yes, my breasts are on the larger side, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be able to wear a cute top or dress without having some guy stare at my bits all night. And for those of you who will inevitably ask, no I don’t dress to gain attention from men or women. I’m a lover of fashion and art and dress only to please myself.

To the guy from NYE, thanks for making my night so uncomfortable. I hope you’ve seen the error of your ways and will teach your son how to treat females with more respect. To the gentlemen of the world, thank you for treating me with dignity and making me feel comfortable enough to show a little skin now and then.

Rosemina is a writer from Toronto, Ontario. She is a lover of music, bad TV shows and all things pop culture. You can read more of her musings by following her on Twitter @RoseminaN

You Probably Shouldn’t Mess With Your Period

Bloog

Every time I fill a prescription for birth control, I feel drunk with power. Not only do they make me feel like I’m having awesome, conception-less sex (don’t mention pregnancy statistics, just don’t!) but they also make my period cramps less painful. Oh, and they regulate my period like a motherfucker.

I mean, when I let them.

A few years ago, I performed the age-old tradition of skipping by the placebos right into a new pack of pills so I’d miss my period and not have to worry about it on a vacation I was leaving for. Flash forward a bit and I’ve become Alice, falling down the rabbit hole of skipped periods and revolting ovaries. That’s what she passed on the way down, right? And like an umbrella?

Using The Pill to skip a period is one of those little secrets I keep hidden away. I tell the few select friends who won’t judge me and won’t pierce my eardrum with a shriek when I tell her it’s totally fine because ‘the internet said so.’ It’s the little secret I absolutely do not tell my doctor because I know she’ll say to stop immediately and don’t be so damn stupid, it’s your period we’re talking about here.

It’s not the healthiest choice, but dammit I did a juice cleanse last month and don’t I deserve to be period free for a bit?

I have to admit, I definitely went overboard with it but the thought of going months without a period was just too irresistible a thought. No tampons, liners or stained accidents? Sign me the fuck up.

Alas…as the saying goes: what goes up must come down. And if you suppress Mother Nature, she will come at you with a vengeance. Believe me.

As we’ve been told since sixth grade health class, having a period is totally normal and healthy and it lets us know that our bodies are doing what they should and everything in there is just dandy. Being given a gift like The Pill that allows us to easily skip a few days of cramps, emotions, bleeding and general gross feelings can be too much to handle for some ladies. Me, obviously. So for a couple of months I used my pills in vain…and I do mean vain.

When I finally relented and paid a quick visit to my doctor, I pulled the old ‘my friend is thinking of…’ and, naturally, she saw right through it and proceeded to tell me that (A) Yes, birth control pills can be used to skip a period for things like vacations and special occasions but (B) She recommended a maximum skippage (my word) of three months, not to be exceeded.

As I was currently in my fourth month, I cringed on the inside.

photo(1)(Being in water stops a period too, right??)

If you’re in the same predicament I was (because I stopped the foolishness) let me just give you a little heads up of what you can expect when your body is literally aching to just have a goddamn period.

-Major cramps that feel like your ovaries are revolting against the rest of your insides.

-A continuous nauseating feeling that prevents you from eating for a few days.

-A bloodstain to end all bloodstains on the bedsheets.

I did eventually let my period come…except by ‘let’ I really mean it came whether I wanted it to or not. And just as suddenly as all my symptoms came on, they completely abated after my body did it’s thing and shed that lining.

Jerilynn C. Prior, MD, professor of endocrinology and metabolism at the University of British Columbia says that having a regular period is beneficial to our bone and cardiovascular health, and now I’m a little ashamed of myself.

“I think that the normal menstrual cycle is absolutely crucial to women’s health.,” says Dr. Prior. “My perspective is that the normal menstrual cycle is incredibly complex, it’s created from the brain, and it serves a general health purpose, not just a reproductive purpose.”

This is a long way of saying that if you skip your period using The Pill (say, as opposed to things that are specifically made for it like a contraceptive implant) your period will have its vengeance. And if you’re as unlucky as me, it’ll take its revenge in the bed of a super cute guy and you’ll wish for the elegant death of a piano dropping on your head. Or you’ll settle for a good cry in the shower.

*Of course, this could all be a moot point as I’m on Yasmin and could die at any time.

Bianca Teixeira is a freelance writer and radio personality. She writes on post-its, napkins, her hand and scrap pieces of paper. Occasionally, those scribbles make it online.You can follow her random musings at @TheBiancaT.