Body Positive

by Lindsey

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while. This seemed like the right week – a week filled with nude magazine covers and advertising debacles (both of which are happening more frequently) – to share the mental notes I’ve been collecting for the past few weeks. This post is personal, and I imagine it will be for many of you reading it. Let’s just dive in to the self-esteem/body image pool of doubt together, shall we?

First, I’ll tell you a little about me, just to get my baggage out of the way. Mmmm, baggage.

Since puberty, I’ve been chubby (though I prefer the term curvy). I’ve never seen my abs. My thighs have never had a gap. My face is round. My hips and breasts are full. I don’t look like the rest of my family, including my co-blogger Kelsey, who is 6’1″ and thin

We Solomon sisters, in all our diverse-bodied glory.

Solomon sisters, in our diverse-bodied glory

(though she often doesn’t believe me when I say that). I’m told I resemble more bosomy great aunts, but they aren’t around for comparison. I’ve always loved food and hated working out, but I try to eat semi-healthfully and exercise a couple of times a week. In the past year, I was put on a medicine that made me gain quite a bit of weight rather quickly, so that’s also fantastic.

I also come from a family ripe with their own insecurities, which I’m sure is common. And this is no fault of theirs, it’s just to make the point that we learn from our surroundings. My parents have fluctuated in weight all their lives, and they talk often about gains and losses. At big family holidays with my dad’s family, my very thin uncle will drink half a beer to avoid calories and needle my dad in a brotherly way about his weight, though he’s (currently) in the normal range. My aunts compare gym tips and talk fiber and how they look great for their ages (which they absolutely do). I am the only – and have always been the only – overweight cousin in our tight knit group of seven. The difference is there, but the negative feelings I internalize about those differences are my own doing.

The real low point of my self-esteem issues happened not at my heaviest, but at my most insecure. I spent years – that’s not an exaggeration – feeling like I wasn’t good enough to even attempt a move on one particular guy because I was heavier than him. That’s the honest truth. I would make excuses to myself and others, saying, “Oh, he just doesn’t like me that way” or “I don’t want to ruin our friendship.” Both of those statements were (I believe) true, but it doesn’t change the fact that the biggest thing holding me back from the attempt was my belief that I was big. As a feminist, nay, as a person, I’m ashamed to admit this act of self-esteem-based cowardice.

So, that’s me. I know I talk a lot about family and fitting in, but we all know that’s not the real problem. We’ve all been trained to think a certain way about beauty. Look at the most recent Victoria’s Secret “The Perfect ‘Body'” controversy, in which an advertisement with that slogan featured ten thin, “perfect bodied” models in Body by Victoria bras. It certainly did not represent every body, let alone even a smattering of body diversity. Luckily, VS got the memo, but, as they only changed the words of the ad, it still looks much like they only care about dressing those blessed with society’s favorite beauty standards. I appreciate brands like Dear Kate who have responded with a more diverse representation of models.

(Side note: I once went to a yoga class titled “Yoga for every body!” I thought it was a beginner class. People were doing inversions within the first fifteen minutes of the class, so Victoria’s Secret isn’t the first to pull a switcheroo with this particular turn of phrase. The class should have been called yoga for people who are already really good at headstands. But I digress…)

When I tweeted something about said controversial ad, someone accused me of shaming the models for being thin and working hard for their bodies. Calling attention to the blatant irony of the image and phrasing is not thin-shaming, which is just another side to the multi-faceted body-shaming coin of misery. Even women I’ve met in the real world who look as close to model-esque as I’ve ever seen often don’t feel like they look like models. The thing that I’ve learned from my thinner friends, or, well, just my friends in general, is that we all have our hang-ups.

Honestly, if anything deserves shaming, it’s the overuse of Photoshop. I’ve looked at fashion magazines since I was very young, and I don’t blame anyone for wanting to look their best on a glossy cover. It’s when those general standards of brushing off zits moves to enhancing waists and cleavage and butts and lips that things go too far for me. Let’s look to two celebrities in contrast, both of whom don’t need editing. Keira Knightly recently went topless in a photoshoot to counteract all of the enhancements that had been made to her body over the years, showing her small breasts as they are. In contrast, Kim Kardashian showed off her very heavily Photoshopped assets (pun intended) on the cover of a magazine, offering up the kind of Disney-princess trimmed waist that is all but unattainable. They’re both beautiful, and I have no problem with nudity. They both look really great in their respective photographs. The contrast between their approaches deserves attention, however, in that one is actively fighting against the Photoshopped mainstream, while the other builds her brand around “perfection.”

Speaking of celebrities, I was taken aback with I found out Diplo was shaming Taylor Swift’s booty on Twitter today. (And I was taken to laughing when I saw Lorde’s response.) There’s a special kind of meanness that comes with insulting a person’s appearance. I’m not saying I’m above it – we’re all mean to each other. I’ve made comments I regret. You’ve made comments you regret. We’re probably the meanest to ourselves. To quote Lena Dunham’s Hannah on Girls: ““Any mean thing someone’s going to think of to say about me, I’ve already said to me, about me, probably in the last half hour!” And this is where we get to the part about making things a little better for ourselves and others.

As much as we all struggle with our self-image, self-esteem, self-pity, etc., we have to remember that things are changing. The fact that images like the one from Dear Kate exist is a testament to that. That there was such an outcry against Victoria’s Secret over their mislabeled ad is a point in that direction, too.  Slowly, clothing brands are taking notice that we aren’t all straight sizes – we are curvy, tall, petite and everything in between. It’s not that we don’t have a long way to go, but things are moving forward toward inclusion.

Another personal step in the right direction is to expose yourself to the many body types that exist in the world. I find Instagram especially useful for this. I follow accounts from models and actresses, yes. I also follow accounts that are all about showing body positive examples of all shapes and sizes. One of my current favorites is self-proclaimed “self-love advocate” @honorcurves, who started the #HonorMyCurves hashtag. It may sound hokey (and sometimes it is), but you can’t read some of her posts without being inspired by the beauty of your own body and the bodies of others.

Finally – and this is the ultimate kicker – we have to work to own our own bodies, our own shapes. Though I’ve definitely not overcome my hangups completely, I’m not trying to hide who I am. I’ll wear what I want to wear, horizontal stripes be damned. I’ll buy the size that fits me, not worrying about whether the smaller number makes me feel better about the physical space I take up. I’ll try to exercise more for the sake of health, not weight loss. I’ll work not to attach my worth to my waist size. Most of all, I’ll try to be kinder to others and especially myself.

The Case for Owning Cats

by Lindsey
KelseyandBinx

Binx, Kelsey’s cat scarf/needy little dude

Last week, I came across an article from Vox that made a case against owning cats, saying in the (clickbait) headline that cats are “selfish, unfeeling, environmentally harmful creatures.” Well, well. Since I am a self-professed cat lady* and a person who generally likes to hear both sides of a story, I’m here to offer a rebuttal…and more!

  1. “Your cat probably doesn’t love you”
    • To “prove” this point, Vox cites scientific research that observes
      how dogs and cats respond when their owners abandon them in a room and later return. According to their conclusions, “compared to a stranger, the dogs become more disturbed when their owners leave, and interact with them more when they return.” Cats in the (as yet unpublished) studies do not respond in the same way. I feel like this is a shallow way to measure affection, but the cats in my life have responded much the same as dogs. When I leave for the day, my cat follows me to the door with a distressed look on her face. When I return, she greets me (loudly). My parents’ cats welcome them home by begging for belly rubs. Kelsey’s cat wanders around her apartment meowing until she picks him up and carries him around with her. How is this different that a dog’s behavior in a similar situation? (I will agree with Vox that cats do not usually come when called. Oh well.)
  2. “Your cat isn’t really showing you affection”
    • Cats do mark things/people with their scents by rubbing them, but to say that it’s only a means to that end is ridiculous. Comparing how a cat rubs/greets its owner with how it rubs/greets a stranger shows this. Cats and dogs both beg for food, so I’m not sure how the manipulative nature of meowing or purring can be shown as a negative for only cats. Plus, in cats I’ve known, purring occurs largely away from food, when they’re relaxed or being petted. Which also gets to the point that Vox makes about cats not enjoying being petted. Some may not, but most do, as shown by their (sometimes annoying) insistence that you pet them. Check out this article from the Dodo for more info about how cats show affection, including the “slow blink.” It makes you look friendly to cats and stupid to other humans, so double-bonus win! Plus, Wired says cats care, so boo-yah, Vox. (In other news, I’m very mature.)
  3. “Cats are an environmental disaster”
    • Yes, cats kill birds and mice, etc. The simple solution to this? Keep your cats inside. Dogs, which Vox admits also hunt and spread disease, do not have this option. Kelsey makes the point that, if this logic is applied, every carnivore in the world is an environmental disaster then. People have traditionally kept cats around for their hunting skills alone. Hasta la vista, rodents.
  4. “Your cat might be driving you crazy”
    • I don’t have enough medical knowledge to give my opinion here. I will say that I’ve had cats all my life, and I don’t think they’ve contributed to my crazy.
    • Kelsey had some rather strong feelings on this particular point, too, saying: “My cat might be driving me crazy? Well, perhaps. But on the other spectrum, dog owners are the ones who tote their drooling counterparts around, regardless of size, friendliness or general appropriateness to every beer garden, party, park, outdoor eatery or any function ever. My cat may be driving my crazy, but at least I’m not a chauffer/it’s more inconspicuous than the dog crazies.”

      LindseyandStella

      My Stella, performing her morning cuddle bomb routine.

  5. And more!
    • It has long been my opinion that cats are the introverts of the domestic animal world. Dogs, of course, are the extroverts. Cats generally give affection in a quieter, less boisterous way than dogs. As an introvert myself, I can identify their behavior that is sometimes construed as anti-social or less forthcoming. Yes, I know cats and dogs aren’t on the Myers-Briggs spectrum. I still think it’s worth considering the differences in base temperament for each species. Also, cats are smart.
    • Cats really don’t need more bad press, and I’m disappointed that Vox would distribute a one-sided article about our feline friends. Cats are the darlings of the online video world, but they’re met with vitriol in real life. It’s been my experience that when people dislike cats, they REALLY dislike cats. They have a reputation for being the bane of allergy sufferers, evil (especially dear black cats like my Stella), sneaky, uncontrollable and unloving.  It’s not that all of those are untrue, but it’s disheartening when those negative qualities are magnified and expanded by folklore and press. Plus, has a woman ever been dissed as a dog lady? Not to my knowledge. Whereas, my reputation as a cat-loving lunatic has now been cemented into the minds of every unlike-minded reader. I like to wear my cat lady status on my sleeve (more on that later).
    • If we’re going to equalize reputations here, I would say that dogs are smelly, require grooming and bathing from humans, are dependent to the point you can’t leave them alone for a couple of days, must poop outside in winter and are capable of killing people. And I like dogs! If I had a nickel every time someone said one of the following sentences, I’d have lots of nickels: “Oh, our dogs will win you over to their side!” or “We’ll get you to like dogs, yet!” or “Aww, maybe you are a dog person!” Favoring cats doesn’t mean you can’t like dogs, I just don’t want the added trouble (see above complaints about grooming and outdoor trips) that comes with them. This article isn’t meant to slight canines, but to take up for my beloved felines.

The moral of the story? Don’t lump cats into one category, and don’t piss off the owners of loving cats everywhere. #NotAllCats

 

*Please note that I’m speaking from my own experiences with cats. I know not every cat is the same. Some may be just as aloof and heartless as Vox would have you believe, just as some men are jerks, some women are crazy and some dogs are violent. Damn you, stereotypes!

This Just In: Savory Oatmeal Exists

by Lindsey

In place of our usual Lazy Links, I’m giving you some recipe links for, you guessed it, savory oatmeal. Brunch it up, y’all!

When Kelsey and I went to Chicago, our friend Aubrie casually mentioned that she likes to eat savory oatmeal for breakfast. Our immediate reaction was, “Wait, what?” It might seem surprising that girls who love to eat – breakfast especially – had never heard of such a thing. Well, consider our ignorance corrected.

The only iteration I’ve tried so far is oatmeal, goat cheese and dijon mustard. It doesn’t sound great, but it wasn’t bad. If I’d had broccoli or a soft boiled egg, the taste and appearance would have vastly improved, I’m certain. If I’d had those items, you’d see an image to accompany this post. C’est la vie.

I’m planning to continue my exploration of this breakfast phenomenon by perusing the following links. Journey with me.

 

Love/Hate: Chia Seed Pudding

– by Lindsey and Kelsey

Readers, we’ve found another thing to disagree about, so it’s Love/Hate time again. This week’s installment? Chia seed pudding.


Lindsey loves.

It looks like I just love everything, doesn’t it? I’ll try to be on the hate side next time, just so you don’t think I’m some blob that lacks discernment. I really do like chia seed pudding, though.

Honestly, I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of it, because I think it looks sort of like the grossest thing in the world that I really can’t think about or talk about because I will get sick to my stomach. (I quickly attached that link and closed my eyes.) When I ignored that part and just ate the stuff, I liked it! The only recipe I’ve really tried is chia seeds, almond milk, unsweetened cocoa powder and honey, but the options are endless. I want to try a lemon version with raspberries. You have to get the ratio of milk to seeds right for your tastes, so just know that things might not be smooth on the first try. Things could also be so smooth you’re just eating spoonfuls of liquid peppered with seeds. Whatever. Keep trying, because I heartily endorse any healthy recipe that allows me to eat chocolate for breakfast.

Kelsey hates.

And I don’t hate everything. I mean I’m a pessimist/realist, so I’m naturally more skeptical.  But I mix my own muesli and don’t eat fried foods (on a regular basis); I don’t loathe chia seed pudding because it’s “healthy.” I hate it because it’s  disgusting.

First off, for anyone that has never downed a chia seed: when exposed to moisture, the freshly saturated chia seeds become mucus-y and slimy. Two words that do not typically describe foods that I eat on a regular basis. (And I love some tapioca pudding. Chia seeds are NOT like tapioca pudding). I do not want to add milk to something naturally slimy by nature and then eat it. I do not.

But I did. Peer pressure. I mixed up my lactose free milk (tastes just like regular milk, people, no judgment) and Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup (because chocolate is the only things that could save this equation), leaving this mixture + chia seeds to chill in the fridge overnight. I tried to like it, I really did. But I cannot get past the texture. Also, spoiler alert, if you eat this, you will have 1 million chia seeds in your teeth, and their delightful texture makes them prime for sticking to bowls. Your dishwasher doesn’t stand a chance.

I’m sticking to tapioca pudding.


Mmm mmm good/bad.

Lazy Sunday Links

by Lindsey and Kelsey

We’re in the Windy City for a long weekend of friend time, sightseeing and, mainly, eating, but we did not forget you, our lovely lazies. This week, we’re sharing a bunch of random favorite things of late. Enjoy these bits and bobs, and we’ll be back with some Chicago goodness for you soon!

S’well water bottles: We’ve both purchased these beautiful bottles recently (thanks for the “hey – these exist” alert, Design*Sponge). We’re both slightly hypochondriacs, so the whole even-BPA-free-plastic-bottles-may-be-killing-you-slowly-thing prompted us to look for some metal containers we love (that we’ll probably learn will also kill us next month). Anyway, these are gorgeous and functional and safe (for now). Just don’t put the lid down on a table where your cat might find it, because it’s gone.

Banjolele: I enjoy picking/strumming on my beloved guitar (Thanks Youtube for Iron & Wine guitar tutorials and and video games for accumulated muscle memory dexterity!). I’ve been toying with the idea of learning to play the ukulele (probably because of The Descendants), but I still haven’t given up on the idea of learning to play the banjo, either. And the world ushered forth the Banjolele — my choice: Firefly Banjo Ukulele.  See one in action in this wicked cover.

Girl power books: Not that we were ever against girl power books, but they’re really on our respective radars right now. I (Lindsey) talked about Bad Feminist here, and I’ve also recently acquired #GIRLBOSS and Women in Clothes (post about this one coming soon). With high school students these days making video games to talk about menstruation, I feel like I have some catching up to do on my feminism, you know?

Side note (still Lindsey): If you look at my Amazon “recommended for you” list, you’ll see books about female empowerment (especially in business), books about true crime and matcha tea. This is who I am.

Side side note (now Kelsey): if you look at my Amazon “recommended for you” list, you’ll find 87 eyeglasses cases because I lost just the lid to mine this week and spent an hour searching for the finest glasses case in existence. This is who I am.

 Imaginary moving: Imaginary moving is my favorite, second only (I imagine) to real moving. Approximately 80% of my limited brain capacity is spent on fantastical scenarios where Lindsey and I move to a wonderful new city and live on either side of a duplex, fostering a cookie company by day and enjoying take-out and Netflix bingeing by night. This is a misanthrope’s (speaking for me) fantasy.

 

 

 

 

 

Binge-worthy: British Mysteries

by Lindsey

This week, the whole world’s atwitter about Gilmore Girls coming to Netflix in October. I’m looking forward to some quality time in Stars Hollow, too, but there are several weekends to fill between now and and then. Me? I want to fill my Saturday nights with all the British mysteries. Some of these are BBC and some are Netflix originals, but all are full of great accents, dry humor and lots of…murder. [Insert evil laugh here.]

Agatha Christie’s Poirot: For me, this is the gold standard British murder mystery. David Suchet is an adorable penguin of a Poirot whose third person references show just how smart he thinks he is. Then, he’ll solve an unsolvable murder and prove he’s right to think so highly of himself.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 8.36.53 PM

So many mysteries, so little time.

Inspector Lewis: I’m a recent fan of this show, which is a continuation of the Inspector Morse series. I really like the dynamic between freshman and senior detective, especially when you get into the personal life of the younger Sergeant Hathaway. These are hearty shows, too, with 90 minutes of exciting twists.

The Fall: This is a great little Netflix Original series starring Gillian Anderson (X-Files!) and Jamie Dornan (yes, Mr. Grey). Dornan is a bad, bad man (not a spoiler – you learn that pretty quickly), and you’ll likely feel conflicted about your attraction to him. Join the club. Also, there’s one season so far, and it ends on a cliffhanger. Come on, Netflix!

Luther: Idris Elba is a commanding, conflicted detective, who works a little more on the fringes than those listed above. He’s more volatile than Poirot, for sure. I really love this series not only for Elba, but for the fantastic Alice Morgan (played by Ruth Wilson). She’s otherworldly and unsettling and they make a weird, wonderful “team.”

The Bletchley Circle: I love it when ladies join the detective game. This group of women – former code crackers – works outside of the law to solve crimes. For all the male detectives I feature on this list, this series really shows off the intellect of this secret society of friends. #girlpower

Sherlock: You’ve probably already watched this. If you haven’t, there’s probably nothing I can say to convince you to do so.

Others on my to-watch list:

  • Prime Suspect
  • Call the Midwife
  • Happy Valley
  • Midsomer Murders

That should keep us busy, eh? Pip pip cheerio and happy watching!

Lazy Sunday Links

by Lindsey

My fellow lazy people, today I bring you…games!

Farm Hustle: Long, long before Candy Crush was born, a college student that shall remain nameless played this game to avoid homework. This is a hard core, no saving, no holds barred animal matching game. Get ready. Plus, sooo cute!

Tampon Run: Oh, this baby has gotten a lot of press recently. I love the story behind it, and I love that the creators wanted to help normalize periods. They really aren’t that scary, dudes. Throw some tampons, and maybe you’ll understand.

What Type Are You?: This isn’t really a game, but you can find out what typeface your personality best fits. It’s also a heck of a lot cooler than any similar quiz you’ll take on BuzzFeed.

All for now. Play on, playa.