Heavy Issues.

Original article published on Xojane.com

I WAS CONFIDENT WITH MY BODY UNTIL ALL MY FRIENDS LOST WEIGHT

There was something so insidious, so darkly threatening about those words: “the biggest.”
It started when the dress didn’t fit.

Now, dress sizes don’t faze me. It’s just a number. If a dress doesn’t fit, it’s not because I’m too big –- it’s because the dress is too damn small.
But this particular dress belonged to a close friend, H, who had always been roughly the same size as me. We had shared clothes before. I sometimes had trouble squeezing my G-cups into her tops but this dress wouldn’t even come over my thighs.
I’ve been lucky with my group of friends. The five of us have stuck together since high school. We’re like the Babysitters Club but with sex lives and wine. At one point, we lived in five cities on three continents and still managed to stay connected.
For years, my friends and I were a Lego set of different shapes and sizes. It was a point of pride. Other girls went out in peroxide-blonde size-2 packs but we all had our individual looks.
I was the confident one. I wore a bikini no matter what state my stomach was in. I never stressed about what boys would say if they saw me naked –- “Hallelujah” was the only response I’d accept. I rarely thought about my thighs unless I spilled something on them.
No one but the shallowest of frat boys would have called me fat. But neither would anyone describe me as thin or skinny or any of the things girls are meant to be.

Our culture likes to remind us that “medium” actually means a big fat fail. Jennifer Lawrence is praised for her “realistic body”, despite being skinnier than 90 percent of America. Magazines targeted at women are all about getting toned, shifting pounds, tightening up. Co-workers talk about dieting as thought all women do it. “Have you ever tried paleo?” they ask, then shift awkwardly when I say I’m not looking to lose weight.
I used to fight this negativity head on. When friends hesitated on dessert, I told them to eat what they wanted. When they were uncomfortable showing their legs at the beach, I told them to be less self-conscious. I rejected fad diets, rolled my eyes at boot camp. I preached my message far and wide: Love yourself. Love your body. Love your life.
Yet there I was, battling with a dress, trying to remember my own message of love and self-acceptance. It’s just a dress, I told myself, and took it off before the seams burst open.
H was giving away clothes before moving overseas.  I knew she had recently discovered veganism. She looked amazing and had that healthy, energetic glow. I was happy for her. But I had missed the transition where we went from roughly the same to me being two sizes larger.
Looking around, I wondered if my focus on body positive messages had blinded me to changes in my friends.
Another girl, C, had come to visit from interstate. She had looked more or less the same to me, pretty, blonde and the life of the party. It wasn’t till I looked at her properly that I saw the massive impact of her steady efforts to get fit. She was tiny. And positively radiant with self-confidence. I was thrilled that she was happy, but a nasty thought was creeping up on me.
All my friends were now thin and I was not. I was the biggest girl in the group.
It didn’t change my feelings towards them. We were still the same people. But there was something so insidious, so darkly threatening about those words: “the biggest.” I was already the shortest in the group and the loudest and least employed. Now I also had another label and I couldn’t get comfortable with it.

For the first time, I poured over group photos, comparing the thickness of my waist to theirs. I became aware of my stomach pushing against my jeans, my thighs spreading out when I sat. I was fretting and fretting meant eating and then feeling worse about how I looked.
I had always firmly believed that weight loss was a false ideal. This idea of “skinny = happy” was a conspiracy by the patriarchy to make women doubt themselves.
Yet my friends seemed happy. Maybe losing weight could make me happier too? Plus what were they thinking as they watched me tuck into a bowl of chips? Did that seem disgusting?  Did my confidence seem like a joke? Were they judging me? Were they judging my body?
The answer, of course, was no. They were my friends who loved me. This was in my head and no one else’s. The negative thoughts fed off each other, creating monsters out of air.
Then I started to ask myself: Was weight really the problem? I had just turned my back on a career in law. I was moving to a new city. My new medication had all sorts of weird and wonderful side effects.
“My friends are all thinner than me” really meant “I feel bad about myself.” And as soon as I realised that, I realised changing my weight would not fix any of the issues in my life.
For some people, their weight is holding them back from some great life goal. Achieving that goal genuinely gives them personal satisfaction. But for many of us, focusing on weight lets us avoid all the other issues in our lives.

Instead of counting calories, I got my shit together. I got a writing job. I worked on my blog. I made an effort to get to know new people. I started running because the one thing I truly envied was how C could bound up stairs without panting.
I may still be the biggest girl in the group, but it matters less when no one’s keeping score. I’m once again at peace with my body.
But when I have the urge to tell someone to “love their body” or “stop worrying,” I bite my tongue. Body acceptance requires letting go of a lifetime of cultural and societal influences. It means waging a constant war against the forces telling you to be “bikini ready.”
It’s not a matter of being confident or not. It’s an ongoing process. Some days we feel a million bucks. Other days it’s like being a St Bernard in a room full of Greyhounds. Good friends understand and support you; they don’t admonish you for being self-conscious.
From now on, the pep talks are out. All I’m offering is genuine empathy and a sympathetic ear. We’re all fighting our own battles –- all we can do is have each other’s backs.

Glamour and Contemporary Culture

There are many adjectives used to describe generation Y. We are often called lazy, self-absorbed and accused of having the attention span of mosquitoes. However one phenomenon that is generally overlooked is our generation’s obsession with wealth and fame. Unlike our parents, generation Y never experienced any wars or economic depressions. Yes we have experienced “recessions” and threats of fiscal cliffs collapsing, but overall we all grew up in abundance and we have access to a lot more things than our ancestors had access to.

bijou

 

Our social circumstances have made us a generation who is extremely preoccupied with glamour, status and celebrity. Everything from the way we dress, to the way we socialize and even the way we are portrayed on television revolves around elitism, jet-setting and luxury goods. There are currently more high-end brands on the market than there are mainstream ones. Brands that sell handbags that cost more than a lot of people’s monthly rent, and yet have waitlists for the aforementioned bags. This means that these products are not only available, but people are willing to pay for them. We have also witnessed how regular everyday products such as sneakers and t-shirts- given that they have and expensive logo- have become luxury items that can cost us the same amount of dollars as an evening gown.

balmain

 

Luxury has infiltrated itself so much into our rhetoric that tv-shows like the 90’s sitcoms have become obsolete since our generation only wants to see tv-shows about people who live extraordinary experiences. This is why shows like Gossip Girl and Downtown Abbey, who have the two most expensive wardrobes on any television series, are so successful. They portray a certain lifestyle that us mere mortals will never have access to. This phenomenon has also contributed to the success of “it-girls” such as Olivia Palermo and Alexia Chung, who are not famous for their careers but for living a lifestyle that us common mortals can only aspire to. We admire glamorous lifestyles so much that people like Paris Hilton and the Kardashians have become the new celebrities even though they are not famous for doing anything in particular other than their last names. The worst part is that we choose to ignore the fact that their fortunes come from parents and grandparents who worked really hard and probably had humble beginnings.

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Our generation gives high-end clothing brands and the status achieved through them such importance that some brands have seen themselves forced to magnify their logos in order to increase their sales. Our preoccupation with luxury experiences is what has made websites like Gilt and RueLaLa, who offer these experiences at discounted prices, so successful. Generation Y is always looking for front-row access, even if they don’t necessarily have the economic means to do so. Its hard to think of a way to overcome this phenomenon that has struck our generation, since we want the best of everything yet we don’t know how to work for it, and our sense of self-importance is only heightened by social media. Instagram and Facebook have served to create a carefully curated gallery of our fabulous lives. We live in a constant competition of who lives the most over-the-top experiences, and who is most “liked for it.”

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Peter Pan Syndrome

peter pan

Peter Pan syndrome is quite common among our generation. It affects people who do not want to or feel unable to grow up. It is funny how as children we are always in such a rush to grow up, and miss a lot of the magic of those years thinking that everything will be better once we get older.

peter pan2I can help but feel foolish when I think about all the times I wished to graduate back when I was a freshman or a sophomore in college. As I write I am living the first week of the last time my life will ever be measured in semesters, an I can’t help but wish that I could live in this moment eternally.

Monday Motivation From An Unlikely Source

Please do not scroll down to find out who said the words you are about to read. You are in for quite the surprise since one would never expect these words to be from this person.

I have forgiven mistakes that were indeed almost unforgivable. I’ve tried to replace people who were irreplaceable and tried to forget those who were unforgettable. I’ve acted on impulse, have been disappointed by people when I thought that this could never be possible. But I have also disappointed those who I love. I have laughed at inappropriate occasions. I’ve made friends that are now friends for life. I’ve screamed and jumped for joy.

I’ve loved and I’ve been loved. But I have also been rejected, and I have been loved without loving the person back. I’ve lived for love alone and made vows of eternal love. I’ve had my heart broken many, many times! I’ve cried while listening to music and looking at old pictures. I’ve called someone just to hear their voice on the other side. I have fallen in love with a smile. At times, I thought I would die because I missed someone so much. At other times, I felt very afraid that I might lose someone very special (which ended up happening anyway).

 But I have lived! And I still continue living everyday. I’m not just passing through life…and you shouldn’t either. Live! The best thing in life is to go ahead with all your plans and your dreams, to embrace life and to live everyday with passion, to lose and still keep the faith and to win while being grateful. All of this because the world belongs to those who dare to go after what they want. And because life is really too short to be insignificant.

and the writer of these beautiful words is…

charlie chaplinI bet you weren’t expecting that one huh?

Happy Monday!

Una Reflexion Escrita Por Un Joven Venezolano

Viví en Caracas durante dieciséis años.
Caí preso en las marchas estudiantiles del año 2007 a favor de la libertad de expresión, fui víctima de un secuestro Express y meses después víctima de treinta motorizados, los cuales, además de darme una golpiza, destruyeron mi auto.

Después de estos hechos desconcertantes, decidí tomar un avión sin boleto de regreso.
Ahora trabajo en un bar. en un lugar perdido de Europa, día a día, sin descanso… La gente que pasa me pregunta si extraño a mi país y si algún día volveré.
A todos les respondo que no, que nunca más.
Ante esta dura afirmación, muchos se entristecen y me dicen que soy demasiado joven para sentenciar tal cosa. 

Tomando el consejo que me dan, intento despistar mi adversidad y me pregunto: “¿amo a mi país?”
La única respuesta es un “¿Por qué debería?” 

Retomo apuntes mentales y me pongo a pensar en mi infancia y mi adolescencia, en los hechos de mi vida allá y me doy cuenta de que no, de que no lo extraño en lo más mínimo y no volvería con o sin el actual gobierno “bolivariano”. 

¿Por qué? 

Mi país me enseñó que quien trabaja, sueña y se esfuerza, termina mal: la idiosincrasia del venezolano está basada en la picardía. Es alabado aquel que se comporta como un oportunista y el honrado que se esfuerza, es descaradamente rechazado.

Mi país me enseñó que la vida de ningún hombre vale nada: en las calles matan semanalmente un centenar de personas, en el este y el oeste de la capital, con impunidad total, sin estar en guerra, sin justificaciones razonables. 
Mi país me puso una pistola tres veces en la cabeza y tres veces tuve la certeza de que moriría, entregándome a ella, sintiéndome en el absurdo de que moriría como un perro porque así morimos hoy los venezolanos
Mi país me enseñó que es peligroso tener un automóvil propio, vestirse bien o hablar educadamente, con un acento diferente: cualquier excusa es buena para robarte o secuestrarte o matarte.. 

Soy el hijo de un italiano y una venezolana de izquierda. Me enseñaron valores socialistas desde pequeño. 
Más que catalogarlos en una ideología, debería llamarlos humanos. Valores congruentes al humanismo, como que todos deberíamos tener las mismas oportunidades, los mismos derechos. 
Como que todos deberíamos tener la posibilidad de ascender, porque no es culpa del individuo sino del sistema actual que está podrido.
Mis padres me enseñaron que no todos somos iguales pero todos, de donde sea que vengamos, cual sea nuestra educación, valemos lo mismo y eso debe respetarse para poder vivir en armonía y progresar.

Eso me enseñaron en casa pero mi país me hizo racista y clasista, al punto de que veía un negro mal vestido y con jerga callejera y le tenía miedo, desconfianza. Por lo mismo que parte de la idiosincrasia venezolana, me hizo sentir que todo aquel que era pobre, era un posible criminal.

Trabajando como mesonero en Europa, gano como debería ganar un profesor allá (no como gana). 
Y no tanto lo que gano sino el poder adquisitivo que existe: un sueldo mínimo me ayuda a vivir en una habitación con servicios pagos y comer bien durante un mes, cosa que allá sería imposible haciendo el mismo trabajo. 
Un estudiante de clase media aquí tiene una vida digna, con un transporte público que se conecta con toda la ciudad, precios favorables en ropa, comida y materiales de estudio. Cosas tan precisas para el bienestar del Hombre, en mi país ya ni siquiera se proponen. 

Es impresionante. 

Una clase social dividida en extraños estratos: la pobre, que vive en los barrios; la media, que va en extinción y gasta dinero en cosas desproporcionadas e innecesarias, como ir a lugares de moda a no hacer nada; la rica, que sobrevive a los ataques actuales del comunismo bolivariano; y la nueva rica, que acelera su enriquecimiento por parte de los dirigentes del mismo gobierno bolivariano.

Se han perdido valores necesarios, como leer un buen libro, viajar por conocer, luchar porque las cosas cambien.
 Por eso no tenemos ni tendremos nunca un Nóbel escritor. 
No tenemos ya bases suficientes a nivel educativo ni de valor humano. 

Pero la cosa que no le perdonaré nunca a Venezuela Bolivariana es que me enseñó a tener miedo. 
Miedo de salir a la calle de noche, de ir caminando a comprar cualquier cosa. Miedo de reprender a dos ladrones que roban a una muchacha a plena luz del día. Miedo a volver todas las noches de la universidad a mi casa porque, entrando, podrían secuestrarme o asesinarme para llevarse el auto. 

Todo ese miedo que me enseñó mi país, lo convertí en rabia. 
Una rabia amarga e insoportable que me hace no querer volver nunca más. 
Una rabia donde metí mis militancias políticas donde creía que un mundo mejor era posible, donde guardé mis sueños de vivir de playa y ciudad a veinte minutos de distancia, donde dejé solo el cariño hacia mis conciudadanos. Una rabia que me hizo cínico ante cualquier idealismo joven e inocente.

Un cinismo como la imagen del Che, como las canciones de Lennon, las de Silvio Rodríguez, de las Madres de Plaza de Mayo. Tan contrarias a las de la Primavera de Praga, las de las fuerzas Aliadas haciendo Jaque Mate a Hitler, el valor , el rostro de Rómulo Betancourt llevándonos a la democratización, el sentido de mi amado Bolívar, la fuerza de Francisco de Miranda y las ideas del Ilustrismo. 

El Gobierno “bolivariano” acabó con cualquier decencia, con cualquier pedazo bueno que tiene la juventud, ocasionando un vacío ridículo y un cinismo aún mucho más grande. 
Estoy seguro que las cosas allá no cambiarán ahora ni nunca. 
Estaban mal antes de este gobierno. Empeoraron demasiado, pero ahora se empeñan en echar culpas (¡después de 10 años!) de poder total y descomunales ingresos… no les interesa resolver nada, sólo destruir.
Después de esto (suponiendo que exista un después), habrá cada vez más caos. 

Nuestros dirigentes, gobierno y oposición, parten del principio de la picardía y lo que buscan es dinero y protagonismos. 

Ninguno tiene bolas para dejar la piel en el asfalto porque ninguno realmente quiere una República. Aquellos valores de pureza, honor y verdad, están menospreciados. Poreso nuestros militares reciben dinero y cumplen órdenes sin chistar. 

El gobierno “bolivariano” cierra radios y medios de comunicación atentando contra la libertad de expresión para que nadie se entere de la cruda y triste realidad mientras el mundo mira hacia otro lado.. 

La culpa no está sólo en ese ignorante que nos comanda sino tambien en las bases que parten de un mal principio de nuestra equivocada sociedad

Nada de esto lo digo para crear un debate ni para intentar que me cambien la visión. 
No lo digo para que me cataloguen en una izquierda o en una derecha. 
Lo digo como alguien que ahora es externo y a quien no le interesa en lo más mínimo lo que ocurra. 

Dejé de interesarme hace tiempo, sin quererlo. 

Entonces no, no extraño ni extrañaré nunca aquel caos injusto de donde vengo.