“you’re so pretty”

I spend hours each week applying makeup, primping, redundantly straightening my already straight hair, making sure I look “pretty”. I am not conventionally attractive but I try to do everything I can to make myself presentable to the world. I like to feel “pretty” but I think for a long time, I placed a lot of importance on the way that I look. It’s mostly an insecurity thing rather than a vanity thing but the point is, “You’re pretty” was one of the nicest things you could say to me. Me? I’m pretty? Tears would gather in my eyes at the kindness of the person who thought that me, plain and simple Tasha, was pretty. I tell other girls and women they’re pretty as well, including my 3 year old daughter. Pretty, gorgeous, cute… Those are the words I throw around regularly with her in hopes of making her feel beautiful in her skin. And I think it’s important that she feels that way, don’t get me wrong. But such a high value is placed on being attractive that being intelligent, funny, kind, thoughtful and other much more important traits are thrown by the wayside. Here is what really sunk in this weekend as I was fretting over my tired eyes and dark circles: I don’t have to be pretty. I exert so much effort into making myself “pretty” but the fact is, being pretty isn’t the golden ticket to my everlasting happiness. There’s actually a lot going on in this brain, if I do say so myself, and that’s what makes me who I am, not how I look. It’s nice to feel pretty and I enjoy the messages that countless commercials (Dove, anyone?) try to send our way (“Everyone is beautiful in their own way!”) because self-love also means loving how you look or at least accepting it but IT IS NOT THAT SERIOUS, YOU GUYS. We often base our entire self-worth on how we look and it just doesn’t make any sense. I look fat in this dress. I look too bony in this dress. My face is ruddy today. I am so ugly. I can’t do anything right. I hate myself. I’m not going to be all, BEAUTY COMES FROM WITHIN, but seriously. It does. I’m not here to please the eye or stun people with my looks. I’m not here to fit into society’s beauty standards because, let’s face it, as a woman, you honestly can’t win. I’m here to spread a message and write and learn and help people and raise my children with values and love. And that is more than enough for me.


ray rice and the nfl’s reaction to domestic violence

TW: domestic violence
The recent video footage (Warning: extremely graphic. I could barely watch it in its entirety) of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his then-girlfriend-now-wife, Janay Rice, has caused public outcry and rightly so. But why has it taken months for this to happen? Why did the NFL support him all these months up until the new video surfaced? NFL commissioner Roger Goodell even said in a statement, “…Seeing that video changed everything. We should have seen it earlier. We should have pursued our own investigation more vigorously. We didn’t and we were wrong.” He went on to say that Rice had earned the benefit of the doubt due to his contributions to the NFL. Let that just sink in for a moment. He earned the benefit of the doubt. The initial video obtained back in February, when the assault occured, showed the aftermath of Rice’s assault– him dragging his unconscious girlfriend out of an elevator and dropping her limp body on the floor like she was a sack of potatoes. Why that video wasn’t enough to cast doubt, I have no idea (actually, I do and I’ll discuss it later). When are people going to realize just because you “know” someone and they seem to be successful, contributing members of society doesn’t mean that behind closed they are that same person? In fact, they can be quite monstrous. I am reminded of the Woody Allen ordeal and how certain celebrity friends chose to remain silent about Dylan speaking out while remaining supportive of Woody Allen. Even the media questioned her and her motive because hello! Woody Allen is an Oscar winning director and doesn’t he look so meek in his little sweater vests and his little glasses? He’s so unassuming; he couldn’t possibly have done the horrible things she is accusing him of.

The NFL has failed yet again at handling domestic violence in their league. Over and over again, they have shown that they do not consider this behavior worthy of more than just a slap on the wrist. Rice, who was initially suspended FOR ONLY 2 GAMES, was suspended indefinitely, but the league made sure it was clear he would be welcome back if he took steps to address his problem. They say “We won’t tolerate domestic violence” but they are sending a very different message loud and clear. It says that maybe it was her fault. It says it isn’t that big of a deal unless surveillance of the assault is released to the (outraged) public. It says game is more important than a battered woman.

There is no other side of the story. It doesn’t matter what she said or did. Beating her to a state of unconsciousness will always be his fault.

It is not her fault.
It is not her fault.
It is not her fault.

on animal experimentation

When I finished We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, I clutched it closely to my chest. It’s rare to find a book with words within that are life-changing. And that’s just what this book was for me: Life-changing. One of the issues that the book brought forth is the morality of animal experimentation. To say that I haven’t really given this much thought before would be an understatement. I mean, I’ve questioned the ethics of zoos and the like but never really felt a definitive way. It’s not that I hate animals or anything; I actually like them a lot. I think a major problem is the hush-hush nature of the subject. Animal research teams are notably silent on their practices and experiments and we gladly accept that. We don’t want to know what’s going on behind the scenes. If we shut our eyes tight enough, we can almost make- believe abhorrent things aren’t happening every day to thousands of animals. But, like with everything else, just because we pretend not to hear anything doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Scientists proceed in the name of improving humanity, but at what cost? Animals are poked, prodded, injected with deadly chemicals and viruses, and subjected to other abuses that traumatize and sometimes kill them. Inflicting trauma on the animals is a slippery slope; it begs the question: where do animal experimenters draw the line? What is too far? Behind closed doors and with a lack of transparency, this can be extremely detrimental to the wellbeing of animals. Jane Goodall, famous animal rights activist, was quoted as saying, “[A]nimals have not been as critical to the advancement of medicine as is typically claimed by proponents of animal experimentation. Moreover, a great deal of animal experimentation has been misleading and resulted in either withholding of drugs, sometimes for years, that were subsequently found to be highly beneficial to humans, or to the release and use of drugs that, though harmless to animals, have actually contributed to human suffering and death.”

Ultimately, while I think some experimentation may be necessary TO AN EXTENT, I think reform is crucial. As human beings, we should demand transparency from research institutes. We can no longer bury our heads in the sand while the unthinkable happens to our fellow animals. If we are inflicting pain or trauma onto animals, then the answer should be clear. It simply is not morally ethical to continue. Not when experiments can be conducted on cell structures or paid human volunteers who actively choose to take part in an experiment and who have a full understanding of the risks and dangers. We can’t be blind any longer.

sexism in school dress codes

A superintendent at a public high school in Noble, Oklahoma was under fire for her recent outbursts regarding the students girls attending the school. She publicly shamed girls wearing “inappropriate” attire, calling them sluts and even made girls bend over as a tool to measure if dresses were too short. Yesterday, the school board decided she could keep her job with just a slap on the wrist; she has to seek “professional development”. I was utterly disgusted when the news first broke about this woman, particularly after hearing that she purportedly told one student, “If you wear inappropriate clothes, and you’re bending over in front of a guy in the locker room or something, and he reaches up and touches, it’s not his fault because you’re the one wearing the showing clothes.”

Newsflash: Boys have brains. Men have brains, too. We are doing them a great disservice by perpetuating the myth that they have no control over their impulses. It’s insulting, really. Guys, you should be insulted by the way they talk about you like you all are some kind of animal that goes around, pillaging and plundering because you just don’t know any better.

It’s summertime and the temperatures are scorching and tank tops and shorts provide slight relief from the heat. How about instead of indulging this outdated idea of men not being able to control where their eyes wander, we teach boys to respect everyone. This means keeping your eyes (and hands) to yourself. Girls aren’t “asking for it” just because they are donning a skirt. Let’s cut the slut- shaming shit, please. Your clothes don’t determine your worth as a person, so superintendents et al., please stop masking your sexism by touting your moral obligations and standards. We should be busting harmful myths, not preserving them. This is what school administrators should focus on, not the finger width of a tank top sleeve.

in which i defend miley

I feel bad for Miley. I really do. The poor girl (scratch that– woman) has barely entered adulthood and is constantly berated for every little thing she does. From what she wears to her “twerking”, she is ripped to shreds in the tabloids daily. Society has placed her on an unbelievably tall pedestal from her Disney channel days and while Miley, who has carefully crafted her new image in an effort to shed her child star persona, has long since left those days behind, we can’t let her live it down. “But what about the children?!” Ah, yes, won’t someone think of the children? I think it’s about time we stop trying to substitute celebrities as role models and let them do their job– which is to entertain us. It can be hard not to look up to a celebrity with their larger than life personalities, especially when you are young in this world and your thoughts and opinions are so easily malleable but that’s where you, dear parent, must step in. We forget that we have the greatest influence over our children, more than anyone else. Who is with us almost all of the time? Who is watching me freak out because this idiot in the blue car just cut me off? Who is watching me help this older gentleman with his groceries? It’s up to us to teach them their values, not a celebrity.

Above all, can we please remember Miley (and other celebs like her) is only human? She has lived her entire life in the spotlight and can you even imagine how difficult that must be? She’s also only 21 and to be honest, I would not want anyone judging my 21 year old self. I was kind of a mess. I was still figuring out who I was and I made a lot of mistakes. So let’s cut Miley some slack and give her some props for taking control of her image and becoming extremely successful in the process.

0, 1, 3, 5, do you even know your size?

Shopping for clothes used to be a nightmare for me. I would walk into one store and wear a size x and feel like life was so sweet and then walk into another store and find the only thing that fit me were size y’s. My hands would start shaking as I stared at myself in the dressing room mirror and I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. It doesn’t make any sense, I would think to myself. I can wear 2 sizes smaller in Old Navy brand. My frustration with vanity sizing and my obsession with the number inside of my pants reached such an extreme that I threw them all out in a fit of rage and vowed never to try on a pair again. I can’t bear the thought of putting myself through mental torture again and even though I am in total body positive mode, I know I would crumble under the pressure of the tag. Today I wear dresses full time because their sizes typically don’t revolve around a number and when I finally did break down and purchase a pair of pants, they were the awesome, stretchy kind on Modcloth that come in sizes XS, S, M, L, or XL.

Vanity sizing, the process in which retailers label their clothing with smaller sizes than they actually are, exists solely to bolster the consumer’s self esteem and therefore the consumer is more apt to continue making purchases from that store’s brand. Wouldn’t you feel more confident purchasing jeans from a store where you wear a size 2 than from a store where you are a size 8? The problem is it can be extremely frustrating as a consumer when you are clueless as to what your size is because there are no standardized sizes across the board. It also leads to misconceptions about sizes and people placing value on themselves based on a dress size. People commonly point to a full figured size 14 Marilyn Monroe but due to vanity sizing, that size 14 would be considered a 4 by today’s standards. The matter seems to only be getting worse, as J. Crew debuted its latest size: the 000. I am all for being inclusive to all shapes and sizes but when the average size of a woman living in the USA is a 14 and the average size being ordered by retailers are sizes 4-8, I have to call foul. The creation of these subzero sizes (that most women will never be able to fit in because it simply isn’t in their bone structure) and our society’s obsession with getting as thin as humanly possible creates a toxic outcome. Chalk it up to laziness on designers part for not wanting to fuss over complications that come with larger sizes (with curves and deviations from straight patterns come time and effort) or chalk it up to the stigmatization of “fat”.

Vanity sizing likely isn’t going anywhere for a while so what can we do? Avoid deceptive media that skews the perception of what average bodies look like. Celebrities are anything but average and you have no idea how they attained their bodies. When Kim Kardashian came out as a size 2, I literally threw my hands up in the air. I’ve since learned you cannot trust their stats or pretty much anything else the media throws your way. Stores need to offer a wider selection for their size 14+ shoppers so if you notice a lack of options, take to their social media pages and ask for it. It works.The most important thing that I cannot stress enough is that you understand that your value is not determined by the size (or your weight or any other number) of your clothes. I feel a little hypocritical proclaiming this because I struggle with this as well but there is so much truth to it. Have you ever gotten a job based on your dress size? Likely not, unless you are a model. Upon meeting new people, do they ask for your pants size to determine your friend potential? If they do, I suggest you find new friends. When we redefine the very beauty standards that work to manipulate and control us, we can put the power back in our hands.

mental illness: taking off the mask

Inspired by the other brave bloggers I have seen as of late, I have decided to blog about depression today. I am inherently an extremely private person but writing/blogging opens me up and frees my voice in a way that I have never experienced. I am able to express feelings I never otherwise would have conveyed. Something that is difficult for almost anyone to talk about is mental illness. It’s no wonder. The topic is often misunderstood and because of the lack of general public knowledge, people misinterpret it. As far as depression goes, some think that it is similar to general sadness and suggest depressive people suck it up and be thankful for what they have. There are starving kids in Africa, after all. Of course, depression doesn’t work like that and can be the result of many factors, including hereditary elements and chemical imbalances in the brain, both of which make it hard to just “suck it up”. Because of the stigma attached to mental illness, people who suffer with it fear speaking up about their personal experiences but I think it is critical now more than ever. When we speak up, we are smashing the stigmatization. When we speak up about our suffering, past or present, we are saying to those who suffer in silence, you are not alone. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve been there, too. When we speak up, we are putting a face to a very real illness. You are more than your mental illness. I am a mother. I am a reader, writer, documentary aficionado, volunteer, lover of all things chocolate, movie snob, and I have suffered with mental illness.

My depression developed in my teenage years and was a culmination of negative things that happened to me peppered throughout childhood plus the tribulations of being a teenager. (I will add that depression/mental illness are genetic for me and these very same things could have happened to Suzy Q who doesn’t have a gene for mental illness and she could have recovered just fine. Such is not the case for many people with mental illness.) It was quite visible as I began to dress the part and I also engaged in self mutilating behaviors like cutting my wrists and I would make little effort to cover up my work. I was also suicidal and hospitalized shortly after my son was born in 2007. In the days leading up to my suicide attempt, I was extremely unsettled and felt like a soda bottle that had just been shaken up. My emotions were on fire and I felt like I had lost control of them, so much so that I even began to lose grip of myself at work. Everything was perfectly normal as I sat at my desk but then I suddenly felt as if I was being suffocated. I started uncontrollably crying and rocking back and forth. My eyes darted hopelessly from coworker to coworker. I desperately needed help and this may have been a final call but no one seemed to hear it despite the very public outburst. As I got older, I became better at putting on the mask that people expect you to wear. No one wants to be friends with a sad person. No one wants to talk a depressed sap. I had literally been called a liability before so I knew better than to show any negative emotions. I had to be chipper and spirited and then I would come home and cry for no reason or just collapse on the bed. When I think back to this time in my life, it just seems like a foggy, bleak time. I rarely vocalized my feelings so my thoughts acted like bumper cars in my head, colliding over and over again with no way out. Depression sucked everything out of me. Finding a proper medication was exhausting as well. Everything had a side effect. Then I would be prescribed another medication to offset the side effect of the first medication. It was becoming expensive. Depression and anorexia go hand in hand and when my eating disorder began to take shape, my depression only worsened. It is hard to say if I laid around all day because I didn’t have enough nutrients or if I was too depressed. Probably both. It became such a problem I had to quit my job. The media and entertainment I consumed only served to cushion my condition, like a security blanket I refused to shed. I devoured so many books, movies and music that cradled my depression that it is still a part of me today. I am drawn to melancholy media like a moth to a flame. I finally crawled out of my depression years later and have been secretly living on edge ever since. I am terrified I will fall back over the ledge at any given moment, afraid that any minor setback will cause me to topple into a great and terrible depression. I have finally found happiness but in the back of my head I worry, thinking of its finite resources. When I feel a twinge of sadness, a panic sets in that my days are numbered. I try to enjoy this happiness and it takes work to maintain it that sometimes can be tiring (and I can tell a difference when I haven’t been practicing self-care) but for someone who has grappled with mental illness for much of her adult life, I think it is worth the extra time it takes to nurture it.

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