Being In Charge Of Your Sexuality: Yes and No at 43

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When you’re a 43 year old single woman, the first thing people talk about is how you’re probably having sex with everything that isn’t tied down. People assume there is some string of lovers aged legal to retired, and ranging from truly single to married who are keeping the cell phone burning up with booty calls. Maybe that’s true for some people. Probably mostly true for women on reality shows and tabloids, but certainly not for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally hip with being in charge of my own sexuality and enjoying a healthy sex life, but part of being in charge means I also get to decline if I wish. Right now I find myself in the midst of a mindset where being alone just seems more desirable than tending to the sexual needs of a partner.

Folks call me crazy for that because these periods of chosen sexual solitude often extend more than a few days or even a few weeks. They can last months, but keep in mind, it’s by choice. This is what I want, so no pity necessary.

Once when I had just turned 40, I had a partner tell me I was in my sexual prime; that I couldn’t possibly be faithful because my hormones, paired with my angst of aging, wouldn’t allow monogamy. His words. Not mine.

I get it, though. That’s the stereotype about women of a certain age. It’s no different from women assuming men this age have a midlife crisis. Thing is, it just doesn’t happen to everyone.

Even though I’m not at all dealing with that hormonal onslaught in my life, I do feel like I’m certainly at the prime of my life emotionally.

I’ve finally reached a point where I’m in complete control of my emotions and what I want from life. That control allows me to have more sexual freedom than ever before. I realize I do not need to be in the context of a relationship to have really great sex. I’ve also finally figured out that being up front with someone doesn’t make me a “whore” or a “slut”. I can just simply say “I want to be friends with benefits,” or “I don’t want any more than sex,” and more importantly, I’m not afraid to say “I’m not at all interested”.

To me, having the power to choose is the most freeing part of being my age. I’m no longer stuck in the confines of what I think relationships should be, but rather, I realize what they really are. I know that as long as everyone is up front about their involvement in a relationship, sexual or otherwise, no one gets hurt, no judgement is necessary, and everyone can go home happy.

All that being said, I’m an introvert. Isolation is like vacation to me. Too much social interaction throws me into a state of anxiety I’m only just learning to deal with. Anxiety is a new thing I’ve started being honest with myself and others about, and it, too, is often judged. I just no longer care if I’m judged, but I digress.

I’m learning to nurture myself, protect myself a little, and make sure I’m able to keep out of the muck of depression too much anxiety can throw me into. So, sometimes I just stay home alone.

I love sex. It’s a very important part of life, but I’ve learned that for all the judgement people will throw you either for having or not having sex (people always have a damn opinion), few people really know how to handle their own sex lives. Many people have sex out of obligation. Some are doing it to feel loved, but few are really in enough control of their sex lives to realize whether they partake or decline is no one else’s business—providing no one is getting hurt, that is.

So here I sit in what many would call a “dry spell,” but what I call my “realignment period”. I’m happy. I’m comforted. I’m recharging my battery so I can be the best me possible.

If there’s anything being in my 40s has taught me, it’s that I own me. No one’s opinion about me or my sex life should be as important as my own. No one else owns my body or my sexuality. I thank feminism for helping me come to that realization.

It has been said (by Woody Allen-pardon, but he did have a point) that masturbation is “with someone you love.” It should be. You should be the sexual partner you love the most, and when you need a moment to collect your sanity, you can enjoy some time with the one person you can never break up with: yourself.

The Problem With “Fat is Beautiful”

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I’ve lived most of my life under the supposition that power is held by a group of white males we learn in college to call the “patriarchy”. What it took me many years to realize is that real power and control do not lie in an establishment. A group of males does not hold the greatest amount of power. Real democracy and power do not live in Washington DC. It lives out in the hands of people just like me who have the ability to change the flow of our social stream. We citizens vote. We decide where to spend our money. We decide what social mores and laws to follow, and which ones we will rise up against. We control them, not the reverse—something many seemingly forget.

Life hasn’t always been that way for all of us, of course. My foremothers fought for me to have the right to vote. They put some of that power in my hands, and just as my predecessors gave me solid ground to walk upon, I feel like there is an issue we need to resolve so that we may pass the power on to our successors.

I can barely glance at social media without finding an article declaring that fat is beautiful. I agree. Fat is beautiful. The articles, however, are extremely divisive.

Fat, obese, overweight—however we decide to call being large, is nothing that should be hidden from the view of others. No one should hide their heads in public because they have extra pounds, but so is every other body type.

Here’s the thing, one body type is not universally beautiful, nor should it be. Skinny women are beautiful. So are in between women, short women, tall women…

There is no end to what is beautiful. Beauty lies in a beating heart and thinking mind, not in aesthetics.

What many seem to mix up is being a “beautiful person” and being “sexually attractive”.

Most of us can probably agree that most humans are beautiful people in their own way. Where we disagree is whether or not someone is sexually attractive—aesthetic beauty.

Not all people will find everyone aesthetically pleasing. Some like blondes. Some don’t. Some like tall, muscular people. Others prefer short, smaller built folks. Some people are attracted to heavier people, and some are not.

I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with finding different variations of body type attractive or not. We simply like who we like. Telling someone they should be attracted to one type or another is as absurd as telling everyone they must like strawberry ice cream.

The real problem we women create by dividing ourselves into only body type—the sexually attractive categories—is that we relegate ourselves as no more than sexual creatures. We no longer say “We’re all beautiful”. We say “We come in different colors and flavors, and XYZ is the best”.

When we divide ourselves, and are complicit with the patriarchy in that we are nothing more than sexual creatures, we give away our power.

Thinking about the Civil Rights Movement, there was an internal aesthetic battle underlying the main cause there, too: Colorism.

Because of slavery, some people believed that different shades (lighter or darker) were better than others. This basis for discrimination still lives on today. However, during the movement, it was put aside so that the whole group could benefit. Being divided left room for internal conflict. The exact same thing happens in the Women’s Movement today.

We get so busy at first trying to uplift a group whose been viewed negatively (such as overweight people have), that we don’t even realize when uplifting them becomes overlooking others.

I’m a fat girl. I wasn’t always. I was once a small, athletically built woman. Lifestyle and childbirth changed that for me, but I’ve lived as both relatively skinny and obese. Let me tell you, it doesn’t matter what your body type, someone will not approve. Someone will make foul comments. Someone will laugh at you.

I was beautiful then. I’m beautiful now. Someone didn’t like me then. Someone doesn’t like me now. The only thing that’s changed is the size clothing I buy.

What I cannot do is let my body shape and size take the focus away from the bigger picture. At the end of the day, I’m a woman. I am uniquely me, and that in and of itself is beautiful.

If I can put away my pride and obsession with being aesthetically pleasing to others, I can retain my power to fight those who would love nothing more to own my sexuality for their own profits. I can share my power with other women—even those women who are equal, but totally opposite me.

We are all beautiful. I don’t think I’m the first woman to utter this mantra, but I say it with fervor. WE ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL!  Do not let some group who claims to own our sexuality, who claims to have more power than we, who finds join in keeping us self-conscious keep us from being united. It will only be when we stop dividing and start uniting that we win for good.

(image source:http://www.girlsaskguys.com/girls-behavior/a8065-it-is-okay-to-think-you-re-beautiful)

Shit My Sisters Taught Me

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I don’t have sisters, technically. Somewhere, in my family lineage, are two step-sisters, but we don’t talk. I don’t have brothers, either, but that’s another anecdote for another time.

Blood or marital connections are not the only thing that can make folks feel like family. I know this, because 90% of the people I have strong connections with are not related to me in any sense of the word. They are closer to me than my technical extended family, and I’m grateful for them every day.

Growing up without sisters was okay, I guess. I mean, I don’t have any point of reference other than observation of others’ lives with siblings, but I don’t think I missed out too much. Can fighting over make-up or boys be all that great?

One thing I was always envious of was the tight relationships my sister having friends had with their girl siblings. Luckily, I’ve met some gals throughout my life who’ve embraced me enough that we can interact like sisters, and so, what I missed in my youth, I’ve made up for in adulthood.

What I’ve learned from these ladies is sisters aren’t just shopping partners, or people who come for dinner. Sisters smack our hands when need be. They teach us lessons—sometimes gently, sometimes not so gently, but always with our best interest in mind.

Here are some things my adopted sisterhood has taught me:

Stand Up For Yourself-

I know how menial this sounds, but my gals really did teach me to quit being such a pushover. Probably born from them being sick of hearing me complain, they finally just said “Make a stand for yourself or no one will”.

Shut the Fuck Up Sometimes

Look, we all get lost in the spiral that is social media sometimes, and before we know it, we’re just saying stuff without thought. I thank the universe I have women in my life who love me enough to jerk me out of the spiral, and tell me to sit down and shut up. They say it because they know I’m a better person than that. They say it out of pure love.

It’s Okay to Put Yourself First

So, so many women live their lives only catering to the wants and needs of others. We’ve been programmed for generations to live this way. Having women like I do, who tell me that I’m no good to anyone if I’m not good to myself, is important. They know what it means to have a sense of self-worth, and they’ve passed that on to me.

You Own Yourself

Whether it’s a decision regarding work, or my sexuality, the women I call sisters have let me know never to sell myself to someone else. I keep control of my life, and then no one has so much power over me as to abuse me. My independence is worth more than anything else if I want to be happy.

You Will Be Accepted

This only applies to when I am interacting with these gals, but no matter what, I have a place to come where people love me enough to tell me the truth, yet not judge or harm me. It’s my soft place. It’s the place where I can fuck up royally, and it will all still be okay. They may kick my ass and tell me something isn’t acceptable, but they’ll also help me figure out how to make it right. That’s real acceptance. That’s saying “We love you enough to help you not fuck up,” which is so much better than fake acceptance or utter rejection.

Sisters have a way, man. We come together. We bond. We make life tolerable with hugs, coffee, and maybe even shrimp (Inside joke. Play along, please.). Together, we help each other traverse the chasms life tries to divide us with, so that we’ll all succeed.

Success of the Group—Not Just One

That’s what sisterhood is really about. Everyone succeeds. Everyone cries, laughs, and rejoices. So while the rest of the world couldn’t care less, we couldn’t care more for one another.

It’s the way humanity is supposed to function: Caring, loving, supporting.

Thank the stars, the Goddess, whomever or whatever sent my sisters my way. I can’t imagine life without them.

sisters

(Image source:https://www.pinterest.com/floridastateph/sisterhood/)

Confessions of an Anorexic’s Daughter

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You only have value if you’re skinny. This is what I believed growing up. My formative years were spent hearing how my mother never wanted to be fat. I was raised hearing that fat people were unhealthy, lazy slobs, and they were no more than the brunt of the joke. No one, she made clear, likes a fat person.

These teachings were reinforced by a step-mother who told me, an already active teenager, I should work out more, and missing a few meals would do me some good.

Never mind the facts I was a healthy size for my age, I ate healthy foods, and I was active. I was not rail thin.

I assume this fouled teaching comes from the fact these women came of age in the time of Twiggy —during the 60s and 70s, when having hips or curves was something not allowed in our society. Regardless, other generations suffered because these women taught us that we should always scrutinize our bodies, and that our shapes and form were subject to public judgement if we didn’t fit the right criteria.

Pointing fingers at my mother, or making her feel less than because she had body image issues is hardly my point. In fact, I think she was as much a victim of the way society tends to try to regulate acceptable body types as anyone. Yet, the reverb from those decades that complicated the teachings of peace and love with skinny or not accepted is felt still today.

It was hard growing up in a household overhearing my mom constantly criticizing her own body. I looked at her thinking she was the most beautiful woman in the world. When she lamented how ugly and fat she was, I somehow transposed that onto myself thinking “I must be super disgusting, then”. I just knew I didn’t want to be all the things she said were horrible, but I also watched her hurting herself to be something she thought was the definition of beautiful.

During my teen years, I ran the gamut between trying on mom’s anorexia/bulimia for size, and trying to just be super athletic. I was also obsessed with the new wave of exercise programs on stations like ESPN during the mid to late 80s, and I really liked the look of the muscular, healthy women. Thank goodness. They were probably what saved me from full on anorexia/bulimia. Today, I am thankful girls can see the role models of Laila Ali and Rhonda Rousey instead of only models who are often making themselves sick to fit fashion industry standards.

By the time I was in my 30s and early 40s, I had outgrown the need to harm myself to be skinny. I’d spent years watching my mom take laxatives like candy, telling me stories like “I’ve had a hysterectomy, so I don’t have a uterus to support my intestines, and I have to have laxatives”—a story I believed when I was young and naïve. I watched her become sick and weak when she hadn’t eaten, nearly passing out. She never had energy, and was nearly always too tired to do anything. Mom was frequently sick, and I realized it was because she wouldn’t eat.

The irony in all this lies in the fact Mom always equated being fat with being sick, when it was her trying to be 100 pounds or less with a 19 inch waist that was making her sick. What mom never understood was the fact that body size and type does not in and of itself determine health. I know heavier people who are actually quite healthy and athletic, just like many of my very small-built friends. I also know many smaller framed people who are just as unhealthy as many overweight people—especially those who have lost weight in unhealthy manners.

Still to this day, mom equates being fat with being unattractive, sick, and lazy. She still makes jokes about heavy people when she sees them out. She’s also still anorexic. Her bulimia has seemingly stopped, but she still only eats very few calories a day aside from her soda intake.

Now that she’s older, the toll her eating disorders have had on her are striking. Mom has dental issues. She’s losing muscle tone all over her body, making her look older than she is. Osteoporosis is now a reality for her, causing her to have to be on prescription medication.  In short, she’s frail and susceptible to sickness more so than other people her age, and there is no talking to her about it. She denies her illness, makes excuses for not eating, and still seems proud when the number on the scale continues to drop.I realize now, she doesn’t just hate the way she looks, she hates everything about herself, and that’s the worst part of all.

I feel horrible for her, but it’s also maddening to watch someone still committing slow suicide, even with loved ones begging her to stop. It’s infuriating to watch a woman in her mid-60s who still thinks if she gains an ounce she’ll be disgusting. What’s more, it’s very difficult to know she thinks I’m a fat slob because I don’t fit her ideal body type. Even at her age, she cannot see the falsity behind the idea that people are supposed to look a specific way. It hurts me to see her not realize how much of a beautiful, intelligent, fun woman she is. It hurts me that she has never realized her own value, and that her value, as well as that of others, is defined by more than curves and the numbers on a scale.

So many of us my age were raised by people who thought exactly the same way as my mom. We’ve battled our way through food guilt and the humiliation of not looking exactly like we’d been taught we should. Many of us fought one food disorder only to end up on the other end of the spectrum, using food as comfort.

Had our parents taught us that healthy eating and exercise are all that’s important, that eating a piece of cake or pizza is fine occasionally, and that no matter what, we’d always be loved and accepted, many of us would be far healthier and happier than we are. How can we blame them, though? Society never taught them, so how could they teach us?

According to South Carolina Department of Mental Health 

  • Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness
  • A study by the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders reported that 5 – 10% of anorexics die within 10 years after contracting the disease; 18-20% of anorexics will be dead after 20 years and only 30 – 40% ever fully recover
  • The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old.
  • 20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems

Eating disorders can be deadly. The psychological effects from believing the lies that lead to them can be long lasting, and lead to death. If you or someone you love suffers from an eating disorder, please seek help, and let us not forget, eating disorder affect all genders. Anyone can suffer this tragic disease.

(Image source:https://www.google.com/search?q=anorexia/bulimia+images&espv=2&biw=1366&bih=643&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=ZFpqVav-Bc2VyASg9IKoCg&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAQ#imgrc=7NKpvR70mGbC_M%253A%3BiaEls5VDDYM10M%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252F25.media.tumblr.com%252Ftumblr_m6bfo348iz1r78eeno1_400.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Frebloggy.com%252Fpost%252Fdepression-edits-thin-fat-anorexia-bulimia-ed-myphoto%252F26058720679%3B400%3B327)

A Fat Girl’s Aside

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While you’re busy judging me by the size of my behind, I thought I’d make your job easier. You see, I’m real honest about who I am.

I’m short and fat. I have gray hair popping through if you could see beneath the artificial color.

My face shows the wrinkles of 43 years. My eyes a small—squinty they’ve been called. My feet are closer to those of Fred Flintstone than a super model’s.

I have cellulite and dimples, and love handles make my hips wide.

Sometimes I laugh too loud, and my voice is big if I’m excited.

I’ll never be a showpiece, not that I care. I know none of what I’ve said matters if you can be real, too.

If you look into my squinty eyes, deep down beyond the surface, you will see the outside is like the façade of an old curiosity shop housing what you’ve really come for.

Looking deep within, the shelves are lined with me. They house who I really am. There are books for each wrinkle, like the time I lost my job, or the when my son fell from the tree.

Laugh lines around my mouth have their stories, too. The births of my children, and the day I first held my grandchild are accounted for somewhere up front so all can see.

There are the symbols representing all which I hold sacred.

Pictures of my family—they sit right there at eye level.

My pen and paper are displayed on an antique desk.

Somewhere in there you’ll see a man holding me as a child in a print shop, the smell of printing ink defines my childhood.

You’ll see the time I decided it was better to live in a small home than sacrifice my time raising my children, and all over the floor you’ll find paw prints of the furbabies who have given us joy.

There aren’t curtains or closets. Everything is open for you to see, for there is nothing to hide.

You’ll see the good and the bad.

My divorce, my stupid choices, my successes, and the things of which I’m proud.

Here and there you’ll see my shortcomings—my hang-ups and pet peeves, but if you can look past those, you’ll see my sacrifices—the times I gave so much to so many.

If you look close enough, you will see a kind, intelligent, strong, loyal, independent soul who is mature enough to know that what I take with me into the beyond is not beauty, but my connections with others.

So while you’re busy counting numbers on my scales, you haven’t begun to see what lies beneath—the person you will overlook for someone who gives your arm some bling.

That’s okay, though, because whether you like me or not, I still love me.

(image source:http://www.celebquote.com/5733)

I Can Dress Like a Girl, Too.

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My mind is drowning in thoughts of racism: why it still exists, what we can do to end it, and knowing that somewhere in America tonight, especially #ferguson, a person of color is having their civil rights violated while I sleep in my cozy bed. I’m not sure anyone understands how deeply this disturbs me. We’re all uniquely wonderful. Can’t we just celebrate our diversity and love one another?

On the other hand, these thoughts are consuming me, as maybe they should, but my developing anxiety helps no one. If and when I can help, I’ll be ready. Until then, I’m just going to show my support as best I can, and not make the conversation about me.

That being said, the other thing on my mind is that I’ve sort of reclaimed myself a little.
I like to think of myself as neat, but casual. The problem is I’m almost too casual. I don’t own a dress or a skirt. This isn’t a real problem, I suppose, except that sometimes I’d like to wear “girl” clothes like I did when I was younger. Now, I’m not talking about micro-mini skirts and super high stilettos. When I think of a dress or skirt style now, I entertain thoughts of A-line dresses (pin up style) or maxi skirts. I’d most definitely wear the maxi skirt with awesome boots, a kickin’ hat, and a beautiful scarf. Funny though, I’d have never given a long dress a second thought 20 years ago. Even 10 years ago I would’ve declined. Things get weird as you get older.

Thinking back to when I was in my 20s, I still didn’t love my body much more than I do now. Although, I sure as hell flirted with loving it then, and looking back, it was pretty awesome. Why did I spend so much time body shaming myself? But I digress.

In some strange twist, even though I’m older and less in shape, I’ve come to accept my body much more. More importantly, I’ve learned how to mask the flaws and celebrate the good shit. So, maxi skirts it is. The pin up look is rockin’ too, but that’s some serious I’m-goin’-out business right there.
I love neutral colors accessorized with pops of brights. It sort of matches my personality. After some discussion and sharing photos of different looks with my besties, I think I know what’s going to fit me best. I’m really lucky because they’re so honest, but again, I digress. I finally think I can pull off dressing in something other than jeans again.

What really worries me isn’t just how I’ll look, it’s the looks and comments I’ll get. I’m always so awkward when receiving compliments and I hate when someone is like “Wow. You’re dressed up.” Like I’ve been walking about in a potato sack or something. “Hey! You clean up real nice.” Thanks for the backhanded compliment, jerk. Now move along.

Being a girl in a visually centered culture is tough. Being a woman in her forties in that culture is even harder. But it’s alright.

See, I may put myself down here and there, but mostly I know I’m fucking fabulous. I’m going out there and owning that shit, right down to the coordinating lipstick!! Forty isn’t the end. It’s only the beginning.