In Solidarity with Deliliah: How Society Teaches Us to Hate Ourselves & Other Women

First, you should probably go and read Delilah Dawson’s post. I’ll give the same admonishment here: I’m not posting this for bravery accolades, or to be told I’m wrong, or that I’m right, so I’m asking you to refrain from those types of comments. I’m saying this because it needs to be said.


I first heard of Delilah Dawson at Jordancon two years ago. She was on some panels I attended, and I wondered who this gorgeous woman was with the long dark hair and the big expressive eyes. She was thinner than me, and pretty, and published, and my first honest instinct was to dislike and dismiss her.

I have a friend who’s a volunteer at JCon and she gave me some background: Delilah had had a baby, written a book, and gotten published on her first try. Yep, I was definitely ready at that point to write her off. She was too perfect, too lucky. Then I actually listened to her speak, and I found out that this woman was also smart, and sweet, and as nice as pie. She was literally one of those people who seemed too nice to hate.

After the con, I started following her on social media and read some of her stuff. This was an intelligent, geeky, feminist woman with some wonderful, whimsical work. In other words: completely in sync with my areas of interest. And I’d almost dismissed her because of some misguided notion that there was only so much beauty and success to go around.


 

Society teaches us to hate more than our bodies and ourselves. There is a slow mind-poison that whispers to us that if someone else is cuter, or richer, or more successful, that it diminishes our own value. And even though many of us know it’s a lie, it’s still hard to resist the whispers in our own minds.

Growing up, I was the “smart” one. I was thin, all angles, awkward and gawky and anxious around people. When I was in elementary school, my parents told me they didn’t know where I’d gotten my smart genes, they certainly weren’t from them. So I learned being smart wasn’t something you did, it was something you were. And the first time I ran into a class that was too hard, I gave up, believing I didn’t have what it takes.

When I hit puberty, and started developing, I was bullied for stuffing my bra. I didn’t, of course, and was bewildered that anyone might believe I’d want *more* attention. All I got for that “attention” was my straps snapped, giggles from behind hands, and laughing questions from the back of the bus as to whether I “had a tissue”. At twelve years old, I was called a slut just for being audacious enough to develop a chest.

My whole identity at home was in being the skinny one. My sister was heavier, more athletic, she rode her bike and ran with friends and tanned in the sun. I was the waif: thin and frail and pale, left indoors to moulder with my books. So I spent high school barely eating lunch and skipping dinner on the nights when my parents worked. I took too many caffeine pills on an empty stomach in an effort to be anywhere but inside my own body.

I didn’t know anything about makeup, wore Wal-Mart clothes, and had no idea what to do with my hair besides dye it into a rainbow of colors. I would sarcastically quip that I wore all black because my clothes were easier to match in the dark, but honestly it was from a lack of knowledge of what went well together, and an intense desire to fade into the background and disappear. The worst thing I could imagine was being noticed, because when I was, I was ridiculed, tripped, or lured into verbal traps so I could be laughed at some more.


 

My first boyfriend out of high school liked to eat fast food for every meal. I went with him, and I even footed most of the bills. It wasn’t long before he was admonishing me to finish my plate. When I inevitably started gaining weight because of it, he told me I was too fat for him and dumped me, which mostly meant he hit on every girl in sight while simultaneously telling me he still loved me so I’d have sex with him and pay for things.

I started recovering my self esteem over a decade ago, when I met my current group of friends, including my husband, who has always encouraged me to be healthy while never telling me I was too big to be loved. But between the extra “honeymoon” weight, being cooked real meals for the first time in my life, and hitting my thirties, I am also now nearly a hundred pounds over the BMI my height says I should weigh. Even taking into account that being that slim makes my collar bones stick out grotesquely and I feel healthier at a much more substantial 150, I am overweight.

As much as I tell myself that I don’t care what other people think, I do. I wonder if my friends think of me as the fat one. I wonder if my husband is embarrassed to be seen out with me. Not all the time. Not even most of the time. Mostly just when I’m confronted with a mirror.

Certain people like to make fun of Tumbler “Social Justice Warriors”, but it honestly wasn’t until I joined there that I really started to understand the constant barrage of not good enough that I’d been absorbing my entire life. Magazines that assured me that if I was just thin enough, hungry enough, empty enough, that I would be happy. Articles that said I had to give up everything in bed to be an empty vessel for a man’s fantasies while not even mentioning that I might want to be on the receiving end of pleasure myself.

The love and acceptance of the culture I’ve seen at Tumblr has been a wonderful boon to me. Delilah’s post has been the same. What age and wisdom has imparted to me is that no matter who we are or what we look like, we’ve all been poisoned to believe that we’re not enough. Knowing that even the woman I thought was beautiful doesn’t see herself that way, gives me hope that maybe, somewhere, someone thinks that about me. And maybe — just maybe — they could be right.

We have to be honest with ourselves before we can get better. We have to admit that we’re sick before we can heal. I don’t have all the answers, but I believe talking about it is the first step.

 

 

 

The 2015 Urban Fantasy Zodiac

So a couple of years back, I did a tongue-in-cheek Urban Fantasy Zodiac with a similar structure to the Chinese zodiac. All my respect to the original astrology, and if you’re not familiar with it, this is a good starter guide. I’m not really a believer in any version of the zodiac, honestly, but I’ve always appreciated what these beliefs teach us about mankind’s early attempts to explain astronomy, the world, and ourselves. In any case, for some reason that post has remained one of my most popular. So I thought this year I’d revisit that and give you your 2015 Urban Fantasy fortunes.

Come with me as I look into the stars and give you a little glimpse of what’s in store for you this year. [Don’t know your UF Zodiac sign? Check the original post.]

Created by Waiting for Fairies.com
Created by Waiting for Fairies.com

Sign of the…

Zombie

I won’t lie. This year is going to be challenging for you, especially throughout the summer months. But don’t fall apart! By October, you’ll be back in your groove.

Fairy/Fae

The year is going to start slow for you, but keep your wings busy by helping others. In springtime, you’ll be everyone’s favorite dinner guest. Party hardy, but drink responsibly!

Dragon

January and February are going to be big months for Dragons. You’ll be happiest at home with your horde for most of 2015, but try to get out and about periodically.

Ghost

This winter leaves you feeling pale and wan, so why not plan a summer vacation to somewhere tropical? All a Ghostie really needs is some palm trees and one of those little umbrella drinks.

Griffin

Griffins won’t hit their stride until late in the year, but keep on keeping on! Some people may try to bring you down, but you can soar above it all. Try helping out the less fortunate when you’re down or blue.

Demon

It’ll be a frantic year for demons, and it’s unclear yet whether that’s a good or a bad thing. Brace yourself, because there are mighty changes coming.

Dryad

2015 is going to be a quiet and peaceful one for Dryads. Friends of yours are going to have a hard year, though, so listen up! They may not be upfront about their needs, but you’ll be able to provide just what they need at the right time. By December, your patience and caring will blossom into a great event!

Shape-shifter

This year is going to be all ups and downs for you shifters, I’m sad to say. Just when you think you’ve gotten the hang of things, they’ll change again. Hang in there. Things always get better.

Selkie

Family will be big for selkies this year. Stay close to home and don’t get distracted with things beyond your control. Someone is going to need your advice in August.

Incubus/Succubus

2015 is all about variety for the incubus/succubus crowd. You’ll be happiest when you’re getting out there and trying new things. When the urge to travel hits in April, give in to it. You won’t regret it.

Druid

Springtime travel will be great for Druids. Don’t forget to bring your meds, because you’re really going to need them! Make an effort to be social — you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did!

Vampire

Vamps will be having a great year when it comes to fashion. Take care of your appearance and everything else will fall into place. You’ll be looking cool in September when someone special finally takes notice of you.

[Disclaimer: We here at WFF make no pretense toward having any sort of psychic abilities. Remember, this is just for fun, so don’t take us (or yourself!) too seriously!]

Sick Day

Sometimes, taking hold of the moments means just taking care of oneself. I ran pretty hard throughout the month of December, since Thanksgiving really. Holidays, presents, shopping, some babysitting, and knowing all the while that there were some pretty stressful work things coming up at the end of the month. So when I started feeling run down along about the middle of the month, I knew I was in trouble. It wasn’t exhaustion, not quite. It was more like how a pebble in the river feels as it’s swept end over end toward the sea. I’d been rubbed smooth and shiny but there hadn’t been a moment to touch the bottom, to take stock, to come to rest.

I started feeling it Christmas day. Tired bones and achy-throated, I sat under blankets at home and watched episodes of Psych on Netflix. (If you haven’t seen it, you should. It’s witty.) I woke up last Saturday, the day all of my work ish was scheduled to go down, feeling the real beginnings of not just tiredness but illness also. I struggled through a fourteen hour day (with commute times) and tried to rest up as much as possible on Sunday before heading back to work to close out the year.

Tuesday afternoon, tasks finally finished for the month, I got home and… Crashed. My immune system gave up the battle. Head stuffed full of goo, throat filled with razor blades and broken glass, I huddled under what seemed like thirty seven blankets and tried not to shiver too much of my chicken soup down my front.

After thirty six hours or so resting, I feel better but not well. If the rate at which I am burning through Dayquil and tissues is any indication, there will be at least a few more days of sickness. But I feel much more rested than I did.

I am currently trying not to feel guilty about missing work. I am reminding myself that not wasting my moments also means not rushing headlong into a physical collapse. It’s not really working. I had it drilled into me as a kid that if you could get out of bed then you should be at work. It’s taken a long time of re-training myself to realize that sometimes Being At Work doesn’t mean that the Work is Actually Getting Done.

In the end, I know my immune system will eventually win the war against whichever bug I managed to pick up this time. It always does, after all. It’ll just take some time, and like anyone, I have to muddle through. But for now, I’m going to go make some soup and watch Hellboy and just breathe.  

Happy New Year

Time, like the rules of society, is an agreement we all make that certain things will be done a specific way. Time is all one piece. There are no endings and no beginnings to time, which means that the concept of the New Year is really kind of silly.

It means we don’t have to wait for a specific day of the year to change ourselves for the better. Every day, every breath, is an opportunity for a new beginning. Most of us waste them. I’ll admit – I waste most of mine, too.

So this is my vow for our agreed-upon new year: I won’t waste my moments. My hope for you, dear reader, is that none of yours are wasted either.

Sing the song, write the book, climb the mountain, speak your heart, or just lie back and contemplate the world. Whatever you’re wishing for in your deepest, darkest heart… Don’t waste your moments. Go out and make it happen.

In Honor of May the 4th

Okay, I am about to open up to you all, for realsies. I don’t do this very often because my brain is a scary place, and I don’t want all my friends to run screaming into the ether never to return. But it’s May the 4th today, which in nerd circles is pretty important. (Because what nerd doesn’t love a geek reference AND a horrible pun in the same sentence, am I right?)

So I’m going to tell you a little story, in keeping with the special day.

Two days ago, I overslept my alarm by quite a bit. My sleep schedule has been messed up since at least Jordancon and I had taken some Nyquil in order to (hopefully) get a good night’s rest. Eventually, my husband had to come wake me up or I might not have gotten up at all. But before I did, this was the scene playing out in my dreams….

{Imagine wavery, dream sequence harp music segue here.} 

The scene takes place in a nameless retail store. Probably a strip mall type store, because this one had manual glass doors that you had to pull open. No Automatic Caution Doors* here. It was one of those stores with the little foyer, so you open one set of doors, take two steps, and then have to open another door before you’re actually shopping.

*Don't these things look like they say "Automatic Caution Door" to you, too?
*Don’t these things look like they say “Automatic Caution Door” to you, too?

So now that we have our setting, we can talk about characters. The first character is leaning around the half-open glass door, having a duel with the second character, who is dancing around the foyer area trying to stay out of reach. Now for the contextually appropriate part: the first character is Darth Vader. The second character is a helmet-less Dark Helmet (also known as: Rick Moranis).

Darth Vader, who is pissed off about who even knows what — I don’t read minds, even in my dreams it seems — is trying desperately to cut down the Rumpelstiltskin-esque figure of Dark Helmet with his lightsaber-that-looks-like-the-top-end-of-a-wooden-cane. (Don’t question the dream logic. Just don’t do it.) Except he can’t really reach around the door in order to make death upon his enemy.

Queue a voice-over of Dark Helmet’s thoughts: “I have to stay out of reach of the end of that cane-saber! If I let it touch me, I will disintegrate into nothingness!”

And then, a thought passes over Dark Helmet’s face. You can see it forming like someone who just had thirteen four-bean burritos and is about to have really, really bad gas. The most horrible gas to ever grace the universe. This is a Death Star of a fart moving around the moon and coming into firing position.

“Wait a minute!” Dark Helmet cries. He dances into Vader’s reach, past the end of the cane-saber, and grabs the (apparently safe) middle. Jerking it out of the hand of his stunned enemy, Helmet steps back, whips the end of the can around and presses it to Vader’s arm.

“Ah-ha!” he exclaims as Darth Vader disappears in a puff of smoke. Then I woke up.

And that was how I dreamed that Mel Brooks’ character kicked the ass of George Lucas’ in a fake cane-saber duel.

Enjoy your weekend, folks, and May the Fourth be with you! 

We Don’t Get to Decide

I have been all around the internet tonight, and I have some strange thoughts brewing. Thoughts of racism, misogyny, doxing, homophobia, and the abuse of power. I think it’s interesting that all of these stories have the same underlying theme: power, or the lack of it, and who gets to decide when to use it (and how).

It got kind of political at work today, you see (which is so a bad idea, I know). And while nothing really upsetting happened, it makes me sad when people I know and respect don’t hold dear the same ideals that I do. I know. It’s a basic law of the fucked-uped-ness of human nature that we can’t all agree on the sanctity of human life, or when it begins, or what to do with it once we’re here. I shouldn’t be so surprised when other people have such different values. But, oh. I am. I just can’t help it.

My basic premise, my cardinal rule, the thing I hold most near and dear is this: And it harm none, do as thou wilt. A Wiccan premise for a generally Christian girl, I know. It comes from my being so widely read, I suppose. If you aren’t breaking any laws or actively hurting another living person, I believe in my heart that your business is no one’s but yours. I don’t care what you do in your bedroom or who you’re doing it with. I don’t care what you do with your body, how you worship, or what you say in your own time. Why should I? It doesn’t affect me.

Here’s another thing, too, that most people don’t understand: No one needs my permission either. Be gay, straight, white, black, top, bottom, Christian, Muslim, Agnostic or Atheist -anything in between or any combination thereof. It doesn’t matter. Those people don’t need *my* say-so to exist. They don’t need your say-so either. No one does.

Whether we’re discussing a peaceful gay couple just trying to have a home and maybe a family, or a young woman who decides on an abortion, or a blogger posting a review of a cozy Romance or a Spy Thriller, or a Christian fundamentalist who believes whole-heartedly in their Constitutional right to own a gun. Each has the right and the ability to be a decent, loving human being who deserves to be treated decently and lovingly in return. And that’s it.

My thoughts on the articles linked above, as briefly as I can make them.

1. On Racism: My own desire to dismiss the idea of a wide-spread white conspiracy (whether planned or unintentional) as ridiculous, merely proves that even those who should know better still have issues to work through. Not even the most open-minded of us are immune when we live in the society we do. And I don’t get to decide how minorities feel about white people. Even me.

2. On Misogyny: Hits closer to home than I’d like. Even as I wanted to dismiss the article with a “Wouldn’t it be nice to be beautiful?” kind of thought, I knew that it was unjust of me. Beautiful or homely – I don’t (and men don’t) get decide how a woman feels about her own body.

3. On Doxing: This one sort of stumps me. I do believe that there is no fundamental right to privacy on the internet. I believe that what this guy did was a hideous thing and maybe he deserves what he gets. But who am I to decide? Who was Gawker to decide?I certainly wouldn’t want it to happen to me.

4. On Homophobia: One doesn’t get to decide, based on the edicts of your religion, how other people get to live their lives. Love thy neighbor. Don’t cast any stones, and Judge Not, folks. If you’re right, you can gloat in the next life. Until then, shut your pie-hole, because you don’t get to decide!

5. On One-Sided Relationships and the Abuse of Power: As a writer, you don’t get to decide how a reader connects (or doesn’t connect) to your book. Once it’s in the hands of a reader, I’m sorry, but your “baby” has grown up and has to stand on its own merits. If you’ve raised (written) it well, then hopefully it’ll do you proud. But even if it does, there’s going to be someone who hates it for no other reason than because it exists. As a reviewer, you don’t get to decide how an author responds (or doesn’t) to your review. You only get to respond to their response (or lack of response). Nothing more.

Have I pounded this in yet? You don’t get to decide for other people. YOU DON’T GET TO DECIDE FOR OTHER PEOPLE!

Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it makes  you want to scream. But we don’t get to decide for other people. We only get to decide for ourselves.

I believe that everyone has the right to a home, food, and someone to love them. I believe in a person’s right to own a gun and a woman’s right to choose. I promise you that if you shine a light out there in the dark,  I won’t leave you behind. Hi. My name is Kia, and I’m running for Queen of the World. ;oP

Right now, I’m reminding myself that I don’t get to decide who agrees with me. Or who loves me. But I’m going to post this with love, even for those who may not agree, and pray that I don’t get too many trolls on this.

Reminder: I may not get to decide what other people think, but I do get to decide which comments get posted here.

And right now, my body’s reminding me that it’s time to decide to go to bed.

XoXo,

Kia

Two Conversations About Prejudice

I present to you two conversations I’ve had recently, for the most part without comment. Conversations have been paraphrased to the best of my ability to protect the innocent and/or guilty.

The first was with a co-worker, while we were contemplating potential “some day” career moves (in location, not position). Note that the co-worker (designated as CW) and I are both white.

Me: “I couldn’t possibly convince my husband to move to [southern state known for racial tension]! There’s no way.”

CW: “Why not?”

Me: “You want me to move with my black husband to [state]? Are you crazy? I don’t mean to be stereotypical, but I can’t even get him to go into central Kentucky without being paranoid.”

CW, giving me disbelieving look: “But stuff like that doesn’t really happen does it?”

Me, with my own disbelieving look. “You’re kidding, right? My husband and I have gotten odd looks driving through central Ohio and Pennsylvania. There’s no telling what we’d get [there], and honestly I don’t think I would feel comfortable either.”

CW: “Really?! I can’t believe you’ve had that happen to you.”

Me: “I’ve even gotten comments from a couple of people here in [city]. One woman gave me a clear attitude of  ‘How dare you have married a black man?’ The second was [mutual acquaintance] who lectured me on how interracial couples shouldn’t have children because it makes it too hard on the kids.”

CW, still stunned: “I just can’t believe it.”

I wasn’t upset that my co-worker didn’t realize that these things are a lot closer to home than she might think. How would she know, having never been in the position to experience them? It just made me sad that it probably wasn’t something she would ever advocate for, despite having no ill intentions, because she didn’t even realize it was needful.

The second conversation happened today, in the car with my husband. He had made a reference to one of his favorite old Mad TV skits wherein they praise the “Nice White Lady”.

DH: “Thank you, Nice White Lady.”

Me, jokingly: “But I’m not the ‘nice white lady’. You don’t see me going around saving people.”

DH: “But you are a nice white lady.”

Me: “Yeah, but I don’t have the nice white lady magic. At the end of the day, I’m still poor. Nobody’s giving me a bunch of stuff.”

DH: “Look at it this way. Have you ever been pulled over by the cops?”

Me, laughing: “Yeah, lots of times, you know that.”

(Note: It hasn’t really been “lots of times”, but I’ve had my share of speeding tickets.)

DH: “Have you ever been jerked out of the car?”

Me, thinking: “Oh… *pause* You have a point.”

At that moment, I knew how my co-worker had felt because I had my own little knee-jerk “but that wouldn’t really happen!” moment. Even though I know it happens. Even though I know it happens frequently. And then I felt really, really lucky that it’s never happened to me.

[Note: I have not relayed the first story here as a request for sympathy, as I know that I’m incredibly lucky and privileged just by virtue of having been born who and what I am. This is here as a teachable moment for myself, and hopefully, others. Thanks for reading.]

An Interlude: I Was An Accidental Goth

Hi, folks! It’s “not even remotely related to books” Wednesday! We could also call it, “It’s my blog so if you don’t like it, leave” day, but that’s a little rude so we’ll stick to the former.

So I’m a recent Birchbox* subscriber, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my fashion sense has evolved since high school. Or, I guess I should say “developed” since high school.

You see, about a decade (or so *cough*) ago, I was a wee lass of about eighteen or twenty who would have been termed “goth”. I wore a lot of black back in the day. A lot of black. Black tops, black jeans, black shoes, black eyeliner (LOTS of eyeliner). But I didn’t set out to be a goth girl, you see. My goth persona happened pretty gradually. In fact, I have a confession to make.

The real reason I turned to goth-dom is that fashion is hard.

You see, it’s much easier to coordinate clothes and shoes and jewelry if they’re all the same color. And what color was I supposed to choose? Pink? I’m no Reese Witherspoon. (Also: blech! Pink!)

Black matches everything. That’s just the truth. So everything I bought was black. I used to joke that it made getting dressed in the dark that much easier, because I didn’t need to see to make everything match. (It’s true, by the way. Although you have to watch for getting things inside out. Don’t ask me how I know this.)

To further embarrass myself, I can tell you that I never looked like this:

Creative Commons Attribution Copyright Credit to Flickr user dunikowski.

As a matter of fact, I probably looked more like this:


(Click the picture to be taken to the photographer’s photo stream. It’s quite good.)

Yes, that’s definitely more what I looked like. *sigh*

I’ve gotten a bit more adventurous in my older (not old!) age. I actually have color in my wardrobe now, but there’s still a lot of my staple: black! I didn’t have many fashion role models growing up. I still don’t really. So tell me, please. Who is your fashion role model?

*FTC Disclosure: The Birchbox link is an affiliate link. I am compensated (in points, not cash) only if you purchase something.