Browsing Tag

women

depression, Eating Disorders/Healing, Family, Guest Posts

A Tale of 19 Wet Towels or How I Failed to Shed My Skin

March 23, 2017
towel

By Ella Wilson.

1. Birth

Every time in my life that I have had the opportunity – that is to say I have been in the presence of a huge coming or going or leaving or starting, a massive adding on or taking away – every time I have had the chance to step out, to leave behind, to shed, to transform, to butterfly, to snake – every time I could have showered off the detritus of some time in my life that lay heavy on my skin. Every time I could have grown, instead I wet-toweled.

2. Starting school

Here is how you wet-towel. You take the thing you might have stepped out of, a skin, a time, a loss, a tiny pair of pants, a hit in the face. You take that thing and you wrap yourself in it.

3. Suicide attempt age 12

You shiver at first because the wet towel makes you cold. The weight of it makes you slow. After a few days you start to smell old and nothing seems like a very good idea.

4. Puberty

Shame is sticky and the antidote to transformation.

5. Losing my virginity

Shame tells you to hide, unfortunately the tools it gives you for hiding promote shame on shame. Shameless self promotion.

6. Leaving school

When you would rather not be seen it is preferable to hide in anything you can find.

7. Leaving home

8. Getting a job

9. My father dying

When my father died I did not notice. This is not because I was not paying attention exactly, in fact I paid so much attention, maybe too much. Nursing him from when I was 13 to 22. But something can become normal, like someone being ill, like thinking someone won’t really die. So I slept on his hospital floor for months. I swabbed his throat with little pink sponges. I knew the nurses names. He died. I wanted to stay on the floor. I wasn’t ready not to have a father. I wore his clothes. I didn’t cry. I did not become fatherless. I just became personless.

10. Moving to America

11. Being hospitalized for anorexia

12. Getting married Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape, Vulnerability

Sexual Vulnerabilities: An Education

January 8, 2017
sex

CW: This essay discusses sexual assault.

By Beatrice M. Hogg

After hearing all of the recent media reports of sexual assault and improprieties, I wanted to think, “Glad that never happened to me.” But, like most women in this country, I couldn’t do it. In one way or another, it has happened to all of us. I have friends who have been raped and assaulted; amazing women who at some point barely escaped with their lives from domestic abuse. Some still have physical scars and many others still harbor emotional scars. When I started to think about my own life, I was surprised at all of the incidents that rushed to mind, some that I hadn’t thought about in years.

In my tiny coal-mining hometown, there was a small grocery store, owned by a husband and wife. When I was eleven or twelve in the late sixties, I would walk up there alone with a list of things to get for my mother. I always dreaded when the list included a meat item. That meant that I had to go to the back of the store, where the husband worked behind the meat counter. Almost every time I would go back there, he would come out from behind the counter to give me a big hug. His hugs always included a squeeze or a grope of my burgeoning breasts. I never told anyone. Would my father have believed me? In a town were everyone was armed, would he have gone up there with a shotgun? Would he have accused me of lying? Who was more credible, a shy little black girl or the friendly white grocer who everyone in town loved? As I took my meat purchases to the front of the store for the wife to ring out, I used to wonder – did he do that every girl? Did she know? I was overjoyed when the store went out of business. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, infertility

What The Body Knows

December 10, 2016
compass

By Emily Stoddard

Hysterosalpingogram. There is not enough space in my mouth for the word, yet here I am on the exam table, having the procedure that I cannot say. They fill my uterus with dye. On the X-Ray screen, I watch the fluid expand. I think of it as a sort of carbon dating. We are here to decide how authentic my uterus is.

I remember when I prayed for blood from my uterus. In the back of my middle school journals, I hid a list of girls who had already gotten their periods, according to recess gossip. I knew I was one of the last to start. The knowing held me like a map: You are here.

And now, we are deciding whether my uterus is only a diorama, an altar to something imagined, like those names in my seventh grade journal. We send fluid back, inward. I send small prayers with it. For a new map. Now for different reasons, but also the same reason—to be like the other girls.

The dye flushes deeper, into the fallopian tubes. Fallopian. It sounds as distant as an ancient civilization, until a flare of pain reminds me that Fallopian is within me. Part of my body. I had been tracing the X-Ray screen and wondering what languages they speak there, what weather they have.

The nurse breaks in to report: “Sometimes, we just need to clear the dust bunnies, to get the tubes to behave like they should.” Continue Reading…

Friendship, Guest Posts, Women

A Small Coin For Your Thinking

December 3, 2016
coin

By Liane Kupferberg Carter

“I’m kidnapping you to Italy and this time I’m not taking no for an answer,” my college roommate Pat announces.

Pat bought a vacation house in Umbria, Italy eight years ago, but my husband Marc and I have never visited. We aren’t able to travel together much because we have a developmentally disabled son. “You should go with Pat,” Marc says. “It’s the trip of a lifetime.”

Still, travel is a mixed bag. There’s the pleasure of it, of course. But there is always an undercurrent of longing and sadness too. I so wish Marc and I could travel together. And I feel guilty. Doesn’t he deserve some respite too? Why should I be the one who gets to go gallivanting?

“What can I bring you?” I ask him. “Gloves? A wallet? Wine?”

“An ancient Etruscan artifact,” he says.

“Right,” I say. “I’ll go digging up Pat’s back yard.”

Pat has invited three of her closest friends. None of us knows each other well.  “What if we don’t get along? What if the others don’t like me?” I ask Pat.

“Lynne and Eve said the same thing!” she says. “Do you think I would have put us together if I thought we wouldn’t click?”

So I pack, in my usual anxious way, for every contingency. A first aid kit. A four inch folding umbrella. An Italian phrase book. I’m the kind of girl who always remembers to bring the toothpaste. Continue Reading…

Friendship, Guest Posts

When We Poured Coffee and Dreamed of Men and Horses

November 30, 2016
coffee

By Shannon Spangler

“What if God was one of us?” – Joan Osborne, 1995

I grew up in the middle of Kansas, a place where contrails score the baby-blanket blue of the sky, but only crop dusters land, a place of wind and dust and strip malls, their parking lots littered with fast-food detritus.  Money was tight but my parents were teachers, and we were rich in the currency of education.  My life traced a box, its four corners home, the Baptist church, school, and the public library.

To pay for college, I waitressed graveyard at a truck-stop diner just outside the city limits.  As with any new job, the first task was to learn the language.  “Eighty-six on the fried chicken.”  “Coffees on ten.”  “Hey, bitch,” from another of the waitresses was an endearment, unless it came from Lori.  “Fuck,” at least, was familiar to me (although I’d never actually used it and wouldn’t for many years), mostly as verb and adjective, but here it became a sort of adverb (“fucking running my ass off”) or noun and pronoun (“fuck-wad”). Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, Owning It!

When Girls Make Noise

November 27, 2016
noise

By Kari O’Driscoll

“Do they make noise when you walk?” my 16-year old daughter stands next to me in the shoe store. She and her sister are my fashion experts. I never buy a pair of boots or a purse without consulting them first. I laugh out loud, not because it sounds like a ridiculous question, but because I completely identify with it. In that instant, an image of my two girls playing dress-up as toddlers fuzzes into my mind. Their arms filled with tulle and satin, they ferried outfits from the carpeted playroom to the hardwood floor of the kitchen, emptying the dress-up box trip by trip because that was where the plastic princess shoes made a really satisfying clop, clop, clop.

“Children should be seen and not heard,” was a phrase often repeated in my childhood home, except it seemed as though the boys were somehow exempt. They were encouraged to rough-house and wrestle, yelp wildly through a game of Cowboys & Indians, holler affirmations and pump their fists in the air when they won a game of H-O-R-S-E. The girls were expected to sit quietly and color and if we made any sort of exuberant noise we were shushed post-haste.

By the time my mother and father divorced, I was well-versed in the expectations of silent servitude. My job was to anticipate what needed to be done and do it without protest or inquiry. I learned that chatterbox was decidedly NOT a compliment, that challenging house rules, even in a calm voice, would earn me a belt slash across the backside, and that my charm and value rose in direct proportion to how well I conformed and made peace between my siblings. I was a good middle child but also the oldest girl. When Dad left and Mom went back to work full time, I became the one doing the shushing, reminding my little sister Katy to raise her hand in class if she had a question, perfecting the laser eye that would still her lips at the dinner table, installing an inner monologue in her head designed to help her determine whether her input was important or necessary or if it was just noise. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Letting Go

I’ll Speak To You Here

November 18, 2016
selfie

By Rachel McKay Steele

I’ll speak to you here.

The problem is that you understand everything.

Last night at a party I saw a man who looked like a man I had a crush on, for a long time, a long time ago. I knew it wasn’t him, but it could’ve been him because he had friends at this party. His group of friends are all so attractive and wildly successful in all their endeavors. It’s maddening. I was talking to the husband of the director, he is lovely and kind, and I’ve always loved their love story.

So I text Are you at a bar in K town wearing a straw hat? And later that man breezes past me saying, Excuse me I love Justin Bieber, on his way to the dance floor.

Later, I met a French colorist who didn’t understand what I meant when I said the bar looked like a jalopy had a love child with a Colorado ghost town, but he that he liked that I said it. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Racism

The Natural Step

November 14, 2016
hair

By Trinica Sampson

You can’t remember the day you learned to talk or the day you began to understand speech—language sneaks in when you aren’t looking, and suddenly you can speak, suddenly you can listen as the world tells you that you are not good enough.

It begins with the books you read, with the characters who do not look like you. Next comes television, the bridge to the real world— but it’s a bridge that was never made for you to march on. A million advertisements showing you how to lighten your skin tone with makeup, how to tame your frizzy, curly hair. “7 Hairstyles to Mix Up Your Look!” the magazines shout, but your mixed hair won’t be manipulated like that.

Every Sunday your white stepmother tries to make sense of your hair. You sit in-between her legs for hours as she rips a comb through your curls and strangles your hair into submission with hair ties and gel and sheer force of will. She keeps up a running commentary as she does it, a stream of comments like, “God, your hair is thick” and “you just have so much of it” and “there’s not much I can do with this other than braids.” But you know the language, so the insidious coded message reveals itself to you as bad, bad, bad. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Women are Enough, Young Voices

The Way I’m a Woman

November 2, 2016
feminine

Note from Jen Pastiloff, founder of The Manifest-Station. This is part of our Young Voices Series for Girl Power: You Are Enough. We are always looking for more writing from YOU! Make sure you follow us on instagram at @GirlPowerYouAreEnough and on Facebook here.

By Caroline Hoenemeyer

I love the beat my feet make when I walk, not the high-pitched click clack of some dainty spikes, but the weighted thud of these boots I’ve broken in, blistered, bruised. I love the way the fat padded around my stomach peeks and prods out of my leggings, maybe too tight. I love the way my black bra shows through my sheer laundered-with-sweat white shirt, with breasts heavy because that’s how gravity works and I don’t like to say no to nature. I love to speak with the deep vibrations in my voice—not like a question, whisper, or squeal, not afraid of intimidating men. I love to do the things the Look Like a Lady books tell me not to do.

I love the way I’m a woman and right now that means I love to appear in a way that’s grotesque to The Patriarchy. I am a Virgin and a Madonna and a whore and a blossom. I am a bloody tampon and strawberry lips and the shits after really good pasta. I am dimples on both sets of cheeks and streaks of stretch and a smile like sunshine. I am stubbly pubic hair peeking out of my tight denim shorts peppering my perfect balloon thighs. I am grotesque just as I am a pure white light of feminine energy. I am neither and all and I get to be whichever whenever I want and I won’t bend or break for anyone.

And yet oh, I want a husband. Not now, not soon, but not never. I want a husband and I want to make babies with him; I want a family. Continue Reading…

feminism, Guest Posts, Sexual Assault/Rape

Grabbing Pussy, Flipping the Script.

October 11, 2016

By Tammy Delatorre

When I first saw your videotape, I might say I was disgusted like thousands of men and women were who watched it. But instead, I was obsessed. I listened to it over and over, practically memorizing the words. Why was I fixated?

You said you grabbed women by their pussies. At first, I wanted to understand the mechanics of it. It implies a woman has a handle down there, something around which you can get your fingers; as if the pussy were the first body part to reach for, rather than a woman’s hand to shake out of respect, or her arms to embrace in friendship. It implies, too, that no permission is needed—the reach from a man in power is justification enough. They will let you do it; they will allow you to do anything. That’s what you said.

I’m intimately familiar with the biology of a pussy because I have one, although I realize my pussy is not one you’d want to grab. After all, according to your rating system of women, I’m not an 8—far from it. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, writing

Notes On Not A Memoir

October 2, 2016
memoir

By Janet Clare

The black hearse crossed in front of our car on the way to my first chemo appointment. “Think it’s a bad omen?” I asked my husband, “like a black cat?”

That was nineteen years ago so it wasn’t a portend of things to come. I was, and remain, one of the lucky ones. And, don’t worry this isn’t a cancer-survivor memoir. This isn’t even a memoir. I didn’t have a rotten enough childhood to write a memoir. Not perfect, mind you, but it wasn’t a locked-in-the-closet, raped-by-my-father, thrown-from-the car by a drug-addled-mother kind of upbringing. No alcoholism, no overtly deviant behavior. Misunderstood? Certainly. It was the ‘60’s. Everyone was misunderstood.

It was a time of long hair and dark clothes, of seriousness and hopefulness, unrest and social progress that we innocents thought would never end. The world was expanding and we thought it would go on forever, and ever better. A time when some of our dreams for a more civilized, humane and liberated country actually came true. We never imagined fifty years later it would all go to hell. It seemed impossible. But at some point our country put on the brakes to enlightenment and skid to a frightening stop. Then backed up and went the other way. But this isn’t a treatise on political angst, either. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Sexuality

A Series of Almosts

August 24, 2016
kiss

By Elizabeth Glass

I was ten when I found my dad’s Playboy magazines. I pulled them out from under the bed one at a time and looked at the pictures. I sat in the window box and pulled out the centerfolds, let my fingers go over their breasts and legs, noticed the hair they had that I didn’t yet. The women were perfect—no moles, no fat, no imperfections, which I was full of. When I read the blurbs about these women, they said they had always wanted to be in Playboy. I decided right then I wanted to be a Playboy Bunny one day. I was a chubby kid, so it crossed my mind that none of the women were fat, but I didn’t care. I practiced how to be a Playboy Bunny, which meant stripping in the basement while listening to the 45 rpm record of “The Telephone Man” by Meri Wilson on endless repeat. I moved the Barbie townhouse away from the fireplace and used the brick hearth as a stage to practice my stripping and naked dancing. I wore my ballet recital pink and purple tulle tutus and pastel satin sequined leotards to strip out of. There were poles in the finished basement and I did my own rendition of pole dancing, too. In the magazines were stories of Hugh Heffner and his Bunnies, how they lived with him on his ranch, so I needed to get ready for all the sleepovers I’d have with them. I practiced in forts I made in the basement with sheets and blankets, gathering pillows from around the house to have pretend sleepovers with my friend Mary who lived two doors down. She was fun to do this with, but wasn’t very adventurous. My friend Ellie was, though.

I was at Ellie’s house on a snow day from school. I pulled a Playboy magazine out of the brown paper grocery bag I brought dry clothes in so I didn’t wear snowy clothes in the house while we played. When I was changing, I stopped while I was naked.

“Look.” I pointed at the women, then at Hugh. “We need to be Playboy Bunnies together.” Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Women are Enough

Two Jobs

July 28, 2016
adventure

By Amy Turner

“You must treat career hunt and husband hunt as same thing,” says my Croatian wax lady, Julia.  She is 29 and knows more than I did. At 29, all I believed in was a unilateral work ethic and Henry Miller inspired romantic doom.

“I agree,” I say, shocking even myself. Because if I’d thought about the shitty relationships I’d been in as ‘jobs,’ they were mostly low paying and emotionally abusive.  If I’d have framed them that way, would I have wasted so much time?  One shift at McDonalds and I’d have walked, but at her age, I was working a virtual minimum wage and fry grease trap of the soul.  It was a very anti-feminist idea, this searching for partnership with the fervor of a career, but I liked the possibility that this girl, at 29, was wise enough to design her own feminism. As opposed to clutching Steinem bumper stickers all day and cuddling with rogue charmers at night.

“I like man, in Colorado, handy, lots of tools, good round house,” she says. “But I text him I want to visit and he doesn’t text me back. I don’t know what to do. “ In my heart I want to say, RUN AWAY! DO NOT TEXT HIM! IF HE WANTS YOU HE WILL FIND YOU!! TRUST ME!! But I think she’s really good at waxing and advice is dumb because everyone’s only talking about themselves and every situation is different (BUT NOT REALLY CAUSE GUYS WHO LIKE YOU WIL FIND YOU, BUT THEN AGAIN I KNOW HAPPY MARRIED PEOPLE WHERE THE WOMAN WAITED  WITH THE PATIENCE OF JOB AND UNFLIPPABLE DUDE FLIPPPED SO WHAT THE HELL DO I KNOW?) and kept my mouth shut.

“He said he’d pay for half my ticket. Maybe I text that I bought it?  That he take me camping and that’s the deal?” she laughs. I remember thinking that way. That if he goes camping with you, and your smooth tan legs and your warm single sleeping bagged self, he will never be able to enjoy the natural world alone EVER AGAIN. Buuuuuuuuuuuuut……weirdly, they actually can.

“The camping line is cute,” I say.

“I mean, I’m not defined by relationship, but I want to do some things before I settle down, travel, have career,” she says, “But, the reason I was able to get to better place, better salon, was because I got to live with my ex boyfriend a while when changing jobs.”

I nod, “it’s easier to make changes when we have some support.” These are the things we don’t talk about a lot. How being coupled provides an emotional and economic bravery.  That making Big Life Decisions on your own can be downright exhausting after awhile and at a certain point, one just wants to not make any. Which leads to stasis and a heavy rotation of avocado toast and wine.

“I think most girls are like us now,” I say, thinking of the spectrum of women I know. Everyone wanted some adventure, a strong sense of self, a job that gave you independence, and to fall in love and be committed. The dream, a shared future and the quiet unspoken whisper that one would help the other not wind up living under a freeway underpass. Romance 2016. It was no longer chic to be kept like the fifties (or 90’s if your were a girlfriend of Jerry Buss) or be as ferocious as the eighties ladies. It seemed as if some of the fog had cleared, it seemed as if the most honest feelings, to want both, once deemed selfish (a therapist in her eighties once told me if I wanted to make money and be a wife I was a bit of a narcissist) were now the realest things possible. To give both desires equal weight. This was progress, this ‘both jobs’ idea of hers. It was also the day after President Obama endorsed Hilary Clinton. A woman who, in her twitter bio, identifies first as, wife, then ‘pants suit aficionado,’ and finally, 2016 presidential candidate.

“They are both jobs,” I say to her, as she removes a final strip of wax.

I can’t help myself, I want her to go to Colorado, because she is 29 and she will make love by a river and she will have that moment inside her forever, and that is no small thing. But I don’t want her to waste years waiting for a guy unable to push a few buttons.

“I have a very wise friend who used to say, ‘I can’t wait around for you to figure out how great I am.’ ”

Julia laughs and pulls up the mirror.

“Beautiful,” she says, impressed with her work. My eyebrows perfect.

“I dunno, maybe you should go to Colorado,” I say, remembering my guy in  Montana. The romance in the rearview mirror, worth every bug bite. One week riding horses and swimming in a river and watching him put on chaps for god’s sake. But had the romances blocked other happy vines from crawling in and stilling me, suturing me to one person? They felt like the only thing that fit in those days. But I wasn’t 29 any more, and the exotic now lay in a person who would pick you up from the mechanic, knew how to work the four remote controls, endure the holidays with your family.

“No more wasting time,” she says. Her accent thick and decisive. Resolved. “I don’t think he’s ready for real thing.”

This is the real job, I think.  Defining the real things. Being gentle with your own desires. All of your parts, hired.

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Amy Turner is an author, essayist and TV writer who has published on The Huffington Post. She was a Producer on ABC Family’s “MAKE IT OR BREAK IT, ” a story editor on CBS’s “THE EX LIST” and a staff writer on Aaron Sorkin’s NBC drama, “STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP.” You would like having a Negroni with her. She can be found on Twitter @turnerleturner.

 

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Join Jen Pastiloff in Tuscany Sep 17-24, 2016. There are just two spaces left. This will be her only international retreat in 2016 and is her favorite retreat of the year. Email barbara@jenniferpastiloff.com asap. More info here. Must email first to sign up.

 

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Guest Posts, Surviving, Women

Revolutionary Women: Breaking The Ties That Bind Us

June 22, 2016
women

By Nancy Arroyo Ruffin

When I was about 11 or 12 I saw my cousin Maggie get her face punched in by her husband in front of an abandoned gas station. It was a warm summer night and the normally loud Brooklyn neighborhood was uncharacteristically quiet save for two crack heads getting high down the block and a passing car that was blasting Slick Rick’s “Hey Young World” from the speakers. My mother, sister, aunt, cousin and I were walking home from the annual feast of St. Carmel eating zeppoles and recounting the events of the night. I don’t recall Maggie’s husband being with us. I remember him appearing out of nowhere like the boogey man in a bad dream. One minute we were strolling down the block, and the next minute Chucho was dragging Maggie across the filthy pavement. When she tried to fight back he put one hand around her neck and squeezed. He punched her so hard Maggie lost her breath for a few seconds. Her mouth was open, but no sound came out. She didn’t scream or cry.  She just floated midair, voiceless.  I stood there waiting for my mother and aunt to do something, to say something, but all they said was, uno no se mete en cosas de matrimonio, one doesn’t get involved in the business of a man and his wife.

Although the elements of abuse are universal, a person’s cultural background influences how individuals deal with abuse. What we grow up witnessing as children and how we’re taught to respond in certain situations serves as the foundation for how we will respond to similar experiences when we get older. Our culture, religion, and economic background affect our beliefs, values, behaviors, and how we deal with problems. Continue Reading…