Grace.

Sometime between graduating from college and starting my first real life adult job, I  became overwhelmed by the idea that I had to “adult” immediately. I was, in many senses, not a girl, not yet a woman. Every part of me felt like I was still a college kid, but the world saw a grown up with a salary who was supposed to be able to keep it together. Or so I thought. Turns out, most recent graduates have all the same concerns I did during that time; What Now?

I had a degree, I had a job, I had my student loans on Auto-Pay. But, I still didn’t feel like I was doing it right. Everyone around me was coupling off and I’d been warned that the avalanche of engagements was on the horizon. Soon, all my friends would be getting married and I hadn’t even had a relationship last a full calendar year. So I did what every desperate 22 year old does in any given scenario: turn to the internet.

2012-2014, I went on a lot of Tinder dates. Like, a lot. Most of them were average. None of them went anywhere past date 1. My favorite story is about an Air Force pilot that got embarrassingly drunk on a Tuesday while I sat at the bar and quietly (and soberly) watched the Hockey game. But, that’s not why I’m here. I’m here because of a story I’ve only really told a handful of people. In fact, maybe only one.

I told a good friend, but mostly kept this story private because it was embarrassing and it made me feel weak and not in control: the two things I work hardest not to ever be. But, the other day I read a story of a girl who had an encounter with a celebrity that reminded me a lot of these evening. In fact, it reminded me so much so of my story and it struck such a chord with the Twitterverse and all my fellow Feminsists, that it made me a little anxious. Ok, a lot anxious. I started wondering had I dealt with what happened to me appropriately? Was I assaulted? Where are the lines between aggressive, creepy and assault? Was I wrong to be embarrassed?

I wasn’t and still am not sure of the answers to most of those questions, but I do know that I’d like to share the story to let  “Grace” and other people who might be struggling the same way I am know that I get what she feels and I’m sorry she now has a story that will live in the back of her mind for a long time like mine does.

In early spring of 2014, I was 23 and, honestly, lonely and scared of facing the adult world alone forever. I had been talking to several men on various dating sites – all of which might as well have been tinder. None of them seemed especially remarkable but one had passed all of my pre-date tests. He grew up on Long Island, went to school for TV, was a diehard Mets fan and we seemed to have a lot in common so I agreed to move on to an in-person date. He asked me immediately if I’d like to go to a Mets game. I was unsure because Baseball games are long and first dates are typically uncomfortable. But when he said he’d be taking the LIRR and I knew I’d have my car, coming straight from work, I acquiesced against my better judgement and against the advice of my coworkers – more than one of whom volunteered to go to the game in my place thinking this guy would enjoy a date with Dennis or Brandon much less than with me.

I truly don’t remember this man’s name, but for the sake of argument let’s call him Brian. I met Brian at the stadium and everything was fine. He seemed polite and had paid for our tickets in advance. We sat up the left field line in a section that was mostly empty. It was a night game fairly early in the season and was cold. Also, it’s the Mets so attendance on a weeknight is unimpressive in general.

True to who I am, I was not dressed for the weather. I tried my best to hide the signs of how cold I was, but the goosebumps on my arms gave me up. Brian moved in closer to put his arm around me. I was wary, but he seemed nice enough so I let it happen. And soon after, Brian had kissed me.

This was an aggressive first move for someone who seemed so shy and polite on the surface, I remember thinking.  But, of all the guys I’d gone out with recently, he had the best chance at a date 2 so far. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings and he was nice enough so I let it happen, regularly going out of my way to turn my head back to the game.

It finally became evident that I was too cold to make it to the 9th inning so he suggested we get out of there: He, to the LIRR. Me, to my car. I agreed I was ready to go.

He continued trying to aggressively kiss me in the stairwells at CitiField leading out to the parking lot. In general, I’m not a super huge fan of PDA (Ask my fiance) so this was an immediate turn off. But again, not wanting to hurt his feelings, I gave in and allowed myself to be kissed and then would continue down another few flights until it happened again.

Finally, after what felt like an eternity, we reached the parking lot and I went to say my goodbyes. He hemmed and hawed about how long he’d have to wait for a train since the game wasn’t over yet and how cold it was getting. He lived further out on the Island, but it became abundantly clear he was looking for a ride. I told him I had work early in the morning and couldn’t make a drive so far East, but could at least drive him to a train station on the proper line so he wouldn’t have to wait for connections.

Driving to the train station, he was all hands. He kept trying to hold my hand on the gear shifter. Hand on my leg, hand on my shoulder. The likelihood of a second date was declining rapidly.

By the time we pulled into the parking lot at the train station, I was fairly disgusted. I wanted nothing more to do with this guy and I wanted him out of my car.

When we finally reached the station, I parked the car and waited for him to leave. He unbuckled his seatbelt and grabbed my arm, attempting to move my hand to his pants. A bold move. When I resisted, he again began aggressively kissing me. I moved my hand back to the gear shifter. I was not enthusiastic but I didn’t know how to tactfully withdraw consent and clearly, my rigidity wasn’t slowing him down.

I immediately became very aware of the fact that we were the only ones in this parking lot. While my physical frame is less than delicate – standing 5’8″ weighing, at the time, around 170lbs – I still would’ve been no match for this guy who was easily 6’3″. He was kissing my neck while I looked around the empty parking lot, growing more anxious by the second.

“Hey um, maybe we should slow down. I like you and I don’t want to rush things”

I was never calling him again.

He took a beat and within minutes, was at it again, hunched over me. I was literally cornered. I needed to get him out

“We need to chill out.”

I was now officially afraid. This time he didn’t take pause.

“Ok, get out of my car.”

This stopped him.

“Sorry, I just really like you. I’m having a hard time controlling myself.” he replied.

“That’s fine. I need to go. I have work early and this is getting carried away.”

He apologized again and let himself out and I breathed a deep, deep sigh of relief. And, when I got home, I cried.

The next day he messaged me on Facebook and asked to get together that night. I tried several times to say I couldn’t hang out without flatly rejecting him, still not wanting to hurt his feelings. When he wasn’t catching my hints and even offered to come grocery shopping with me if it meant spending time with me, I decided I had to be an adult and just tell him I wasn’t interested.

“Look, you’re a nice guy but I don’t really see anything happening between us. I’m sorry. I wish you all the best, though!”

He messaged me multiple times a day for a week asking what he did wrong until I finally blocked him at the suggestion of a coworker.

Still, after all of this, I felt bad for letting him down. I had led him on, allowing him to kiss me. I was sending mixed signals. After that whole ordeal, the person I was most upset with was myself. I was deeply embarrassed of my naiveté, that I’d allowed myself to be put in that position and so I told one other living soul the entire story until right now.

When I read Grace’s story about her encounter with Aziz Ansari, it hit me in the gut. I felt defensive because what I had chalked up to a bad date but never felt 100% at peace with was being painted as assault and I wasn’t a victim. I stood my ground. She should’ve done the same. But, if I wasn’t a victim, why was I keeping this story in the shadows and avoiding it? Why was I still embarrassed?

I was embarrassed because, in retrospect, I should’ve spoken up for myself earlier. As soon as I was uncomfortable I should’ve walked away. But whose fault is that? Mine? Society’s? Brian’s?

Grace’s story and the ones like it are important ones, I think. They’re not a story of assault the same way the Weinstein files are. Aziz never leveraged his celebrity the same way Louis CK did. He was aggressive and creepy and disrespectful, though, the same way Regular-Guy-Brian was to me that night in that parking lot. Until I clearly said no. And, that’s why this story is so important.

Consent isn’t always a clear verbal yes or no and that’s confusing in a world where men are conditioned to chase sex like a prize and women are conditioned to put men’s pride ahead of their own sense of self worth and safety. This isn’t my fault, it’s not my parents’ fault. It’s the way the things work and #MeToo and #TheResistance are changing those things for the better, I think. Culture is shifting in a positive direction. I am confident that if this ever happened to me again, I would feel more empowered to put an end to it. Maybe that comes with age, or maybe these movements are really helping. Maybe a combination. I certainly am not an authority.

If I could tell Grace anything it would be that her feelings are valid and I believe her. She’ has the absolute right to feel violated and disrespected. He acted like a total creepshow and truthfully, I can see how easily that whole scenario could’ve escalated. And that’s terrifying. But, the fact that it didn’t escalate is what ultimately separates Ansari from Weinstein and Louis CK and all these other monsters, in my opinion. It didn’t get there. He called her a car and allowed her to go with some dignity still intact.  I would tell her that she’s more than this and she’s more than one man’s approval – whether he’s a celebrity or a random Brian. And I hope the next time she finds herself in a situation that doesn’t feel quite right, she walks away and finds her voice to tell him to get out of her car (or the appropriate equivalent).  I understand the female impulse to do the “nice” thing and be considerate of your date’s feelings. I have literally been in her shoes, but at some point you cross a line from “I don’t want to hurt his feelings” to “I’m in a situation that is potentially dangerous”. And as soon as she crosses that line, I hope she can speak up and not rely solely on nonverbal cues to help herself. And, I hope that for myself and all the other young women out there as well.

While writing this, knowing my Dad will read it kind of stings a bit, but I no longer feel responsible or embarrassed by that night and that story. I also still don’t consider myself a victim of assault. It was a really shitty night, but not the worst night of my life by a long shot. What was taken from me that night was nothing in comparison to what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown as a result.  In learning what I don’t like and what I find unacceptable, I learned what I value in a relationship and about myself.

Shortly after this incident, I swore to stop focusing so much on meeting someone and spend more time feeling better about myself. I had no reason to be sorry for that night and I no longer wanted to feel like I had to chase men. I didn’t want to have to settle or put myself second anymore. Shortly after I stopped dating, I met a wonderful man outside of the interwebz who is so respectful of me and my body that when we started dating, I was unsure if he was even attracted to me. He asked me to marry him and I hope we get to raise kids in a more enlightened world where these things won’t be so difficult to navigate. I hope to teach my sons that they’re owed nothing and women are their equal peers. I hope I raise my daughters to have voices they aren’t afraid to use and to never put their date’s pride ahead of their joy or safety for politeness’ sake.

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Preventing Future Massacres

I saw my first live concert in 1996. It was the Spice Girls at Jones Beach on Long Island and it’s an experience I’ll never forget; one of my earliest true, complete memories. I have been a regular attendee of concerts and, for the sake of argument, Sporting Events, ever since. Some (my boyfriend) might argue that I see more live events per year than any average person does or should. My concert-ticket spending problem is real. And, like any addiction, the reason is simply because I need it.

Some people have drugs or alcohol, some people have church. Live music brings ease to my soul, however fleeting.

I’ve seen the Spice Girls. I’ve seen Justin Timberlake. I’ve seen Fall Out Boy, Linkin Park and Korn. I’ve seen Miley Cyrus, Snoop Dogg, Blake Shelton, Dead and Company, Billy Joel and Paul McCartney. Taking Back Sunday and Rick Ross. The Dropckick Murphys and Jason Derulo. Antiflag and also The Charlie Daniels Band. I’ve attended CMA Fest in Nashville. I’ve seen Jason Aldean, Thomas Rhett, Jake Owen and Cole Swindell more times than I can keep track of. I’ve been to seven separate Zac Brown Band Concerts over the past 5 summers. Seven.

As I said, I’ve been attending concerts religiously for more than 20 years. That’s longer than I’ve ever done anything consistently aside from eat, breathe and shit. My mind, regularly riddled with anxiety, has never once stopped to consider that I might not be safe in this crowd of like-minded fans, swaying singing and screaming – filled with unabashed joy. On the train to and from events? Terrified. In the event of a drunken fisticuffs nearby? Uncomfortable.  But within the concert venue, never uneasy or unsafe. It’s a post-9/11 world – I’ve been metal detected and scanned 3 separate times. I had to throw my vodka water bottle out at the gate. I’ve got no worries.

Until May of 2017.

Shortly after the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, my cousin approached me and asked me if I thought his newly-teenage daughter was old enough to see Fall Out Boy at Madison Square Garden with a group of friends. I saw my first Fall Out Boy show with my friends when I was 14. I attended my first Rangers game at The Garden even earlier. This new teenager is a city native and, on paper, nowhere in the world should be safer than Madison Square Garden. Her parents would undoubtedly be waiting at the doors following the concert, guiding her lovingly back to Brooklyn. But, my heart ached as I hesitated.

Could a parent save her if some psychopath decided to repeat the Manchester attack on US Soil? No, probably not. But I know at 14 (and even now at 26) having my parent present during a moment of chaos and abject terror would provide some small level of comfort.

“Eh, I would wait a few more years, probably” I told him.

And then, what felt like moments later, some insane human being opened fire in Las Vegas on a crowd of Country Music Fans, much like myself. A crowd of my peers: my friends and family, just there to see a show; to sing and sway and scream and let go of this living nightmare of a world for a few days. As a result, 59 people are gone forever and hundreds, if not thousands of lives are permanently different than they were before.

I moped through the day after Las Vegas with sadness and fear. How does this keep happening? My thoughts have been echoed over and over again within my own social media bubble, but I would keep quiet this time, I thought. I’m 26 years old and I’ve lived through 3 separate “Deadliest shootings in US History”: Virginia Tech, Orlando and now, Las Vegas. The death toll just keeps increasing and nothing happens. This is, apparently, just our new normal.  I’m so tired of thinking and praying and sending love to cities and victims and families. Why isn’t someone doing more? Why can’t we stop them from dying senselessly?

If Sandy Hook didn’t change anything, why would Las Vegas? Patton Oswalt begged of twitter.

“Now’s not the time to talk about Gun control”
“Don’t politicize this tragedy!” They cried from The Right.

But, if not now, when? What is the suitable amount of time after a tragedy to address the solution? Because we don’t go more than a few weeks between anymore.

Speaking up is hopeless. 

I went about the next day as normal. I dragged myself out of bed and gazed upon the face of Michael Strahan on Good Morning America as I drank my coffee and got ready to leave for work. Business as usual.

And then, Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos, two of my favorite morning people, launched into a segment about the challenges of “Preventing Future Massacres”. It sounded just like the conversation we’ve been having for years. In the wake of tragedies like Manchester and Las Vegas, what are the extra steps Police and security can take to make sure citizens are safe? Dump trucks full of sand to stop cars from plowing into crowds? Snipers on roofs of nearby buildings to take out the shooter before they cause maximum damage? Guns in classrooms?  How can we police these “soft targets”?

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Do you know what would not make me feel less anxious while gathered en masse? Visible snipers.

Well, I thought sarcastically to myself, Concerts aren’t guaranteed by the constitution so to save lives, maybe we should just stop having concerts. Because we’re sure as shit not going to stop selling guns that can kill 59 people in the matter of minutes, apparently.

Then I realized I had no audience to my witty observation. And I was infuriated. My blood began to boil. Why does utter failure by Congress to do their job result in more work for first responders, who are already risking their lives every day and continued danger every single day for the American people? Nowadays, you’re almost as likely to be killed by gun violence as you are by a traffic accident. Why isn’t the only reasonable solution left to take away the fucking guns?

Calm down, BillyJoe. You want to go hunting on the weekends with your bros? I won’t be joining you but I respect your right to do so. However, if you need an AK47 to put down that 9 point buck for your creepy trophy wall, you suck at hunting and (I don’t like using this word as an insult but it’s the only one that fits) you’re a pussy. Also, just FYI if you don’t eat what you kill, you’re a garbage human.

You feel the need to protect your home? Yep, I’m with you. My dad has protected our family home for as long as we’ve been there with a single rifle that’s safely tucked away in a gun safe where, honestly, I couldn’t find it if I was literally under attack. I am 26 and I’ve seen it fewer than five times in my life.

If you feel like you need an M16 to protect your home, I advise you move. Or build a moat. What kind of threat are you under?

If you really, really want one M16 because you think it’s cool – I have a lot of questions, but ya know what? If you can answer all my questions reasonably, pass a thorough background check regardless of where you’re purchasing it and prove you’re not violent or mentally ill, ok. But I’m gonna say you definitely don’t need more than one.

If you’re legally not allowed to fly or vote (looking at you, convicted Felons), you probably also shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun.

When the founders of our Country wrote the 2nd amendment, Guns fired one round at a time. You had to lug your cannon and musket to war by foot. Up hill. Both ways. They could not have foreseen this. This is not an original argument, I know you’ve heard it before.

There will still be illegal guns, you say? Gun control isn’t the answer? Why not knife control? Lots of people are stabbed to death, you say? 

  1. I’ve never seen a knife take down 59 people from across the street in the matter of minutes.  If that comes up, we can definitely talk about regulating knives, as well.
  2. I don’t know if you guys remember a time before we legislated the amount of toothpaste that could be brought on an airplane, but we’re doing our damnedest to police that, aren’t we? And, by that argument, why even have any laws? People are always going to break laws. Yes. That’s why we have a judicial system and prison. But why are we just not making any attempt when it comes to firearms regulation?

This is not a planned out, organized and researched proposal for a solution. It’s a lot of feelings and a lot of sound logic.  It’s just a call to someone to do anything. And, if you think owning these guns are your God given right but healthcare is a privilege, please open your eyes. What are we doing?

 

 

 

 

PS That constitution you care so deeply about protecting the sanctity of, apparently, was written in protest. When our Founding Fathers disavowed a flag and a government that had kept them opressed politically, socially and financially. Just a reminder.

 

Words for When I’m At A Loss

When I was a freshman in college,  I was having a hard time adjusting. My once stellar academic record was circling the drain. My aunt invited me over for dinner. My older cousin had gone through a similar experience, as I know now, most High School Over Achievers do, his first semester and she just wanted to chat and touch base. During conversation, I mentioned off handedly that when I had kids, I hoped I didn’t have girls. I found girls mean, catty and I wasn’t confident that as an adult-parent I would be able to lead a female through the hellish adolescence I experienced. I don’t remember how the conversation led there, but I do know this wasn’t the first time I’d said or thought that. In fact, I felt strongly that I would only birth boys someday. Girls were too hard.

My aunt, the mother of two men, considered what I said and replied with the following:

“I think it’s harder to raise boys. As a mom, it’s my job to make sure they grow up to respect and value women and fully understand the ideas of consent and equality. Those things are a lot harder to teach.”

At 18, this went over my head. I spent very little time thinking about consent or equality. I grew up as the only girl in a family of what seemed like hundreds of boy cousins. I was never undervalued or treated as less than equal. I was supported and encouraged to pursue my dreams in sports and later, in the male-centric fields of film and broadcasting and media. I had full autonomy over my own body. I’m almost ashamed to admit it now, but I even thought of feminism as unnecessary; an idea that brought us important things like suffrage and Title IX, but now something society had outgrown a need for.  Surely, the ideas of consent, equality and respect were no longer things we had to teach our boys, they were innate in the society we lived in.

I have long since left my precious, private, liberal arts bubble where I was so equally valued. I’ve been grabbed by strange men in dark bars and honked and whistled at on the short walk from my car to my office. Strangers demand I smile, as if they have any authority over my feelings or face.  This has all been written off as “things men do” and I’m told I should be flattered. I’m too familiar with the feeling of darting to my parked car at night, keys firmly gripped between my third and forth finger, ‘just in case’.  I’ve been made to feel unsafe by the very idea of walking anywhere alone. I question what I wear before I leave for a night out, because God forbid I look like I’m “asking for it”.  I hold my hand over my drink and always carry it to the bathroom with me. ‘Pretty’ is my rent to pay for existing. My thighs are too large and I feel guilty for eating foods I love.  I know my male peers will earn more money than I do over a lifetime and eventually, I’ll be expected to make a choice between a family and a career because it’s only the exception to be able to truly have the best of both worlds.

I know the consuming fear and worry of maybe, possibly, accidentally conceiving a child with an exclusive, loving and committed partner that we have no means of supporting; the idea that taking a pill a little late one time could derail my entire, carefully planned life. I’m lucky enough to know the immense relief of finding out there was no fetus in me – that I wouldn’t have to navigate a complicated bureaucracy to facilitate a medical decision concerning my life, my family and my body. I know the shame that comes from having to look a parent in their face and tell them you made a mistake that could potentially ruin everything we’ve worked so hard for.

I know now that I am lucky my cousins were taught about consent and respect and equality, because as it turns out, that’s not innate and some of our men think they can digitally penetrate unconscious women behind dumpsters and get away with a slap on the wrist. It turns out, they’re right. Other’s think they can grab us by the pussy without consent and they can still be elected President of the United States. Turns out, they’re also right.

The gravity of what my aunt said to me that evening at dinner never really weighed on me until we were deep into this election cycle. And now, I get it. White American Men are so uncomfortable with the ideas she and my uncle worked so hard to instill in their boys, that they will elect any alternative.

I am lucky. I am a white, suburban middle class Natural Born American citizen. I will continue to have less than because I was born with a vagina, but hey. That’s standard, as we can plainly see. I am afraid for my friends. I’m afraid for my friends who don’t meet the heteronormative standard. I am afraid for my friends who worship the Koran. I am afraid for my friends whose parents did what they needed to do to get to America and support their families. I am afraid for the world who have previously seen America as a place of hope and refuge. I am afraid because a nation who elected our first Black President is now voting at a majority percentage in line with the KKK. I’m afraid that we’ve made it OK for people to hate openly.  I’m afraid because this all seems eerily familiar to a story about a girl hidden away in an attic in Amsterdam that I read in 4th grade.

I have never been sadder and I have never been more hopeful that I am wrong.

What I’ve Gained From Completing My First Whole30 and Quitting My Second

For basically my entire life, I’d had all of these  seemingly unrelated, semi-chronic medical issues – migraines, anxiety and depression, constipation, acne, heartburn, a constant tiredness, an inability to maintain a healthy weight no matter how hard I worked. A doctor could never tell me why any of these things were going on in my body; some even denied I was experiencing the symptoms I claimed to have. As a kid (12 or 13), my parents rushed me to the ER for unbearable stomach pain. I was terrified. The doctor quickly returned with the results of my sonogram and let me know that I was “literally full of shit”. He asked me when my last bowel movement was and I couldn’t tell him.  After that day, I started on a steady diet of Mirolax every morning in my orange juice. With its help, I went  to the bathroom ‘regularly’ one time every 2-3 days. I was told at least once that it was “bullshit” that I only experienced bad heartburn after drinking beer or eating pizza and bagels – it had to be all alcohol and acidic foods and coffee, and I had to give up all three forever. After one [miserable] month, I quickly decided a life without tomato sauce and beer is a life not worth living. I started regularly taking Nexium to combat my symptoms and eating whatever I wanted.

I took on my first round of Whole30 in October 2015 after reading an article that caught my attention in the NYT health section about the dangers and risks of taking medications like Nexium (Proton pump inhibitors) long term. To be frank, it scared the shit out of me (not literally, I wish though). I had to deal with this problem at the root rather than fight off the symptoms – what was happening in my body to give an otherwise healthy 24 year old unbearable heartburn? I also noticed that lately the symptoms of my anxiety were getting worse and weirder than ever before. I’d always been a chronic worrier, but now I found that I was scared of social situations, which was a first. My best friend from college had recently finished her first round of Whole30 and was singing its praises. And, while it seemed extreme, it sounded like the only “fad diet” I’d ever heard of that really truly made sense and was backed by science and not just caloric deprivation. And I didn’t have to count or weigh anything. Win.  I’d proven to myself time and time again that I don’t do well when I have to eat less. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. It was only 30 days. The first two weeks were horrible and more mentally taxing than I ever would’ve guessed, and then on day 16,  I’d never felt better. I finished my 30 days and was down 24lbs, mostly free of acne, had boundless energy during the day, was sleeping better than I ever had before,  was going to the bathroom once a day, and hadn’t had heartburn for weeks.

Before I started my first whole30, my best friend convinced me to try what I sincerely believed to be another fad-diet-challenge-thing that I secretly thought I would fall off of after a few days. After reading the book (at her insistence) I thought maybe this was different. By day 6, I thought I had taken on something insurmountable. Now, at day 31 I know the last 30 days are only my beginning. What you can [kind of] see here is a person who's down 24 lbs (!!!) and overall 14 inches but what you can't see here is what I've gained: more energy, a better night's sleep, clearer skin, digestive health, stronger mental health and knowledge of how much what I put in my body really matters. My relationship with food has started to change and I couldn't be more grateful for what @whole30 has helped me achieve. Extra shout outs to my parents, @jessdegonzz @djrep1022 and @crossfitjetty for being constant sources of support and motivation. #whole30 #day31 #whole30results #paleo #nowgivemepeanutbutter

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During my reintroduction period, my worst fear was realized: my body hates gluten. After extensive research (mostly because I was hellbent on proving science wrong in the name of Bagels everywhere) I realized all of my symptoms pointed directly to a gluten intolerance, something I had been shamelessly mocking as a farce for years. Karma is cruel. I wouldn’t ever get beer back, but cider and wines are OK. There’s definitely a learning curve to living Gluten Free, but I’m getting there.

The Whole30 changed the way I thought about food and it’s relationship with my body for sure. My favorite line from the book is “The food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy. Those are your options”. That’s how I approach every meal, now. I make conscious choices to sometimes eat things I know my body won’t necessarily appreciate, but I mentally just really want. However, after my first Whole30 ended, the holidays were upon us. I basically ate whatever I wanted and my symptoms came back as quickly as they left. And, I was craving bread like a drug addict. After Christmas, I felt a little bit out of control so I planned to embark on another round in January with my boyfriend but more so for the moral support of my bestie who decided she needed to reset, but was terrified.

About a third of the way through round 2, I was literally crying because I just wanted to put ketchup on my eggs and have a Caesar salad for lunch. I already knew ketchup didn’t send my sugar monster screaming and cheese (in limited quantities) was ok for me. I tested this already, and I knew it. It felt stupid that I was depriving myself of food I knew my body was ok with. I was moody and sad and dreaded eating or preparing meals. I haven’t had the best emotional or mental relationship with food in the past, so feeling this way scared me. I didn’t feel like it was good for me mentally. Treading the line of depravation like that is a scary thing. I was becoming disordered again, after I’d just spent so much time and work organizing my brain.

I decided my second round of Whole30 was not the best thing for me at that moment in time. I definitely needed a reset and to revisit the rules following the holidays, but 30 days was too long. It was hurting my new, great relationship with food. I was no longer making good choices for me, I was following arbitrary rules and depriving myself and craving foods that I wouldn’t have wanted otherwise. The first time around, I never felt deprived. I knew I was making choices to serve a greater good. And, I’m not talking about depriving myself of cake or ice cream here – literally a tablespoon of Ketchup on my eggs. I felt crazy again. I knew I needed to stop.

After I ate that afternoon (a Caesar salad, sans croutons), I felt satiated but I also felt ashamed that I couldn’t follow through on a commitment I made to myself. But after some reflection, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t truly in this for me this time. I didn’t feel like I needed it. After 9 days, I felt totally in control again. I was doing this for my friend and to support my boyfriend. By quitting, I did what was right for me at the time, and that’s what the Whole30 is all about – learning to make the right choices for you. I had to be in this for me, not for Nicole and not for DJ. I support them wholeheartedly and I’m so excited to see the changes they’re making in their lives but I can’t cry over cheese related stress on their behalf. I’ve been there and it’s not a place I want to be again.

I am the biggest advocate of this program. I can’t thank Melissa and Dallas enough for what I’ve gained since I read their books. And, I’m happy to know the rules are there for me when I feel like I need them. But more so, I’m glad to find steady ground where I feel good and in control independently of the rules and like I’m making choices and not sliding out of control into a bag of cookies.

 

If you’re curious about The Whole30 check it out here!

My Birthday Watershed Moment

I am not a big birthday person, due in part to the time of year I was brought into the world. As an adult, I feel horribly guilty asking my friends to spend time and money on my birthday so close to the holidays when money and free time are sparse for everyone. I do not have the same caliber birthday celebrations my summer-baby friends enjoy and I’ve never minded that. I enjoy my birthday dinner with my family and usually a low key celebration with a few friends, or sometimes when I luck out, a Rangers game or a concert that’s in town.

All of my birthdays have one thing in common, though. I, like most girls, always shop for an outfit intended to make me look  extra fabulous on my special day. However, my long term memory and a lack of photographic evidence says I am rarely successful in this endeavor. This is because my body is not built to fit in the “going out” clothes that are carried at trendy mall stores. They are cut small and skimpy and I try my damnedest to fit into them every single year and they make me feel big and weird and uncomfortable. I also attribute this to why I do not like clubs – I have nothing to wear that looks like what everyone else is wearing. This is obviously the very worst thing can happen as a teenage-to-early-20’s woman.

This year, though, I’m turning 25  which is a big one, so I made some plans. Not super fancy plans, but plans that at least require my friends to get on the LIRR and hike to Manhattan 5 days before Christmas.

So today, I went out in search of my enigmatic outfit.

Alone in the Express fitting room, after a lot of failures, I found a top I didn’t hate. Success!  I  then pulled on a pair of skinny jeans. They fit, but they looked bad. Real bad. My thighs have never looked more like sausages.

I didn’t get it. The pants were supposed to fit. I just finished my first Whole30. My body feels strong and healthy. My skin looks great. I’m not tired. I lost 24 lbs without ever feeling hungry or deprived; without associating food with a sense of guilt or shame. I’m working out regularly. I’m in better control of my health than ever before. My naked thighs don’t even make me feel this bad. Thanks to lifting, they’re muscular and leaner than they’ve ever been.  I am self-confident. I am self-efficacious. I won. Why don’t the pants fit? That’s supposed to be part of this deal.

I stared at myself for a long 30 seconds, expecting to feel bad. Expecting to mentally punish myself for everything I’ve eaten the last two weeks, just like every year when I accept that I am not good enough for these clothes and walk away with reluctant acceptance of feeling too big and too awkward, trying to feel fabulous in clothes that make me feel like a giant in the munchkin parade. Except, the mental conversation took a surprising turn. Instead of shame it went more like this:

“These jeans cost $70. You have jeans at home that are not that different that make you feel a lot better about yourself. If you wear these out, you’ll spend the whole night self-conscious of your thighs. You’ve been looking forward to this night, you don’t need feeling lumpy to ruin it”

…Wait. What?

Shocked at myself, I wrestled the jeans off, put my own pants back on, paid for the top and some well coordinated accessories and left.

On the drive home, still very confused by what just happened, I realized I’ve spent my whole adult life trying to fit into clothes instead of looking for clothes that fit me. I once (this really happened) looked for calf slimming workouts to fit into boots that I loved instead of just buying wide-calf boots. Nothing says I need to just complacently accept feeling less than spectacular because these jeans make me feel lumpy. There are other jeans in the world. This moment in this fitting room was the first time I actively rejected the clothes instead of letting the clothes reject me.

I liked this idea.

The truth is, there are cute clothes out there that fit me. I am not plus sized by realistic standards, ask anyone who has ever seen me. I am on the upper end of standard retail store sizes and there’s no shame in that. I’d rather wear a bigger size and work a little harder to find great clothes and feel amazing than try and cram myself into something that anybody else could wear that makes me feel like a balloon animal. My mom has always said to me “nobody can see the size on the tag, but everyone can see you spilling out of your clothes” and it has never made as much sense to me as it does today. Today was the first time I didn’t let a $40 piece of fabric determine my self-worth.

I guess this is growing up.

Moral of the story is, if you have to wear pants, find a size that fits you. Nobody else cares about the number on the tag and you’ll be happier for it.

 

 

Food, Commitment and Me

I have always been a big kid, literally. Since day 1. I essentially came walking out of my mother fully grown. My dad infamously tells the story of how the day after I was born, laying down I reached from the crook of his elbow to his finger tips. He carried me around the hospital like a football until warned several times by a nurse that he shouldn’t be holding me that way.

I was just a big child. I was a big child who was brought home to a family where, simply put, food meant love. As the first grandchild, I was and am very well loved.

I was big, but I was never fat. As a person who has had genetics working against her and who values sleep above all else (except food), I was always a fairly active kid. I am a person who hates running but really loves a runners high. While I never really excelled in any one athletic pursuit, almost all of my childhood to early-teen memories involve me, outside, doing something. I played Softball avidly for most of my young life and loved basketball from the time I was seven until seventeen, when real life responsibilities intervened. I dabbled in team sports in college – holding brief stints on both crew and rugby, but my academic and professional obligations took precedent in my schedule and cut my careers short.

The amount of time I spent running around as kid made it OK that my family never ordered for me off of the children’s menu. I liked food, and even though I was a big kid, I was healthy. I remember more than one time where my tears over one thing or another were tempered by a rice ball or a trip to taco bell; a trip to taco bell where I, as a 10 year old, ordered and consumed all of a taco salad and a burrito supreme which combines for 1,180 calories and 55g of fat. This, of course, was combined with an adult sized mountain dew. This doesn’t make my mom a bad mom. She loved me and nutritional awareness was much less of a thing 25 years ago. She was feeding her hungry child her very favorite food – no more than once or twice a month.

It wasn’t until 9th or 10th grade that my growth was finally outpaced by my male peers. I topped out around 5’9″ and about 170lbs. Even my pediatrician was amazed to hear how much I weighed, because I simply didn’t look it. I was on the upper end of healthy weight but he said all of my numbers were perfect and I had no reason to worry as long as I stayed active.

And then college happened. I stopped playing basketball and softball and lived in a dorm where Subway and french fries and all of the caramel lattes were less than 100 yards away at all times, where naps and alcohol were plentiful and traveling cross campus in the rain to the gym seemed equidistant to climbing Kilimanjaro. I gained around 20lbs Freshman year purely by accident. I went from being someone who rarely worried about her weight to someone who obsessed over it. I had been the same size since 7th grade and then suddenly my pants didn’t fit me anymore.

Early in college, I joined the past generations of women in my family who spent their Saturday mornings at Weight Watchers meetings, listening to other women sob about how the simply didn’t have time in their day for the gym that week or they added extra water to their diet by watering down their coffee (that’s a real thing I heard once). I deprived myself and took diet pills that made my anxiety so bad I once literally lost sleep worrying about a New York Rangers regular season game that hadn’t happened yet. I can’t even think about the irreparable damage I’ve done to myself trying to shed a few pounds. Then The Day happened. I sat through a Weight Watchers meeting with my aunt on a day my string-bean-little-cousin was out of school and attended the meeting with her. At only 10 years old, she was wondering if she needed to diet to lose weight. Why was she here?! She doesn’t need this! I was suddenly so scared for her and her tiny, impressionable brain. On this day, I realized this was the same environment I grew up in and I was severely damaged.

My whole life, every female role model I ever had was always trying to lose 15 lbs. And yeah, I lost 15 Lbs on Weight Watchers and then it got boring and tedious and I gained 20. So now what I know is they were simply doing it wrong. They would weigh in at Weight Watchers on Friday and proceed to binge all weekend only to have to start over on Monday. It is a temporary solution for a permanent challenge. My mom, a diabetic and one of my heroes in life, is an amazing person and literally gives everything and every minute to our family. When I look at her schedule, I genuinely understand her when she says she doesn’t have time to exercise. My greatest wish is she would sacrifice some of what she does for us to make time for herself in a meaningful way.  My mom has never eaten *bad* foods. However, she and for that matter, my whole family, has always simply eaten too much and indulged too often. I watched my mom find herself in a place in life where bariatric surgery was her only real option and suddenly, I was on the same path – too busy to make time to take care of myself and just eating too much too often. I was 20. I knew this would only get worse with age. This is what every woman in my family has ever, ever done as far as I can see.

I sat down and evaluated – I have quit softball, quit lacrosse (after 2 weeks), quit basketball, quit dance, quit crew, quit rugby, quit kickboxing, quit my gym membership – all because other things had taken precedent. I spent years crying because I was always too big for bikinis or I need to buy “plus sized” Halloween costumes. I hated not being able to shop with my friends because stores didn’t carry my size. I hated feeling “big”. I hated the fact that I’d grown to a 200lb 21 year old. I needed to commit to something and I needed to learn to love my body enough to take care of it.

I then tapped in to some insane part of my brain and found CrossFit and my Jetty family. I loved it and I was more committed to anything I’d ever done before. I wasn’t excelling but it was challenging and the people around me inspired me to do more…until I was almost a year in and was seeing no real results. I was more confident and happier in my skin, but I wasn’t losing the weight my peers were losing and I couldn’t figure out why.

I went to my coach to complain and he looked at me and said “Maybe stop fucking eating tacos and drinking beer.”

And he was right. It hurt a lot, but he was right.

I was working my ass off and every night I was ruining my results by indulging constantly. Because in my life and my family, food means love and my parents love me and my boyfriend loves me and I was eating shit non-stop. I was working out harder than I ever had in my life and I was still gaining weight. In summer of 2015, I reached my heaviest ever weight.

So then I realized I needed to make another commitment, break my cycle of quitting again and this time, it was going to be much harder than exercising, a thing I’d always liked to do. I needed to change my almost 25 year long relationship with food and the things I was putting in my body.

So now, I have a fractured thumb so I’m benched from the gym for an undetermined amount of time but I’m preparing to start on a journey to learn how to take care of my body with what’s on my plate. My hopes are that Whole30 teaches me what bad foods and sugar cravings are doing to my body and my mind. I hope it eases my chronic heart burn and anxiety. I hope it will give me the self-efficacy to help me to commit to things for me and my health rather than prioritizing the feelings of others, always.

I hope I can count on the support of my family and friends but I’m ready to take this on mostly alone because it is a change I need and one I deserve.

Start Date: Oct 26, 2015

Why I Stand with Brian Moore and the Police

I acknowledge that the circumstances into which I happened to have been born afford me a tremendous privilege. I’ve grown up in a middle class suburb in Nassau County, Long Island. It is not mostly white, but it is mostly safe. It’s a very well mixed and diverse community and I grew up surrounded by friends and classmates who looked differently than I did and I never thought of them as anything less than my friends. My parents and family never regarded them as less. I am a white female whose upper-middle class family, provided for consistently by her ever-present blue-collar father, has always been there to support her financially and in all other ways throughout growing up. They’ve provided a stable home for all 24.5 years of my life, which gave me the ability to make the most of the A-class public education I was given in Valley Stream schools and throughout my private college education, which I paid for myself with the help of many banks and my Dad’s good name. (I will likely be paying until it’s time for my grandchildren to start thinking about college.) I work every day of my life to be a person worthy of this privilege because I know not many people in the world have it better than I do. Aside from the “female” part of my situation, I have it, basically, the best there is. I want to deserve everything I’m lucky enough to have in life.

I acknowledge that when I’m pulled over for blowing a stop sign in my suburban neighborhood at 2AM in my black SUV with dark windows, I am probably regarded differently than would be my best friend’s boyfriend, who is an amazing person and treats my friend with respect and kindness and loves her, who we share a neighborhood with, who I adore, but who happens to be a black 6’4″-ish male in his mid-twenties. This is very obviously not fair and a problem that needs to be addressed. I don’t have the answer, but I do acknowledge that there is a problem.

I acknowledge that the number of police officers and retired police officers that comprise my circle of friends and my family gives me a tremendous bias on this issue.

I acknowledge that the position I happened upon in life doesn’t give me a great deal of credibility when dealing with issues such as these; ones that concern race and economic class.

I acknowledge that the senseless loss of Black Lives in America is tragic and disgusting and I wish I knew a solution for it.

I acknowledge that, sadly, racism and hate will likely always exist in the world, inside and out of the police force, because we are all people and people are flawed.

However,

I believe that the media is fueling the fire.

I believe that it’s not fair to hold an entire group of people responsible for the actions of one. “The Police” didn’t kill anyone, however, A Police Officer did and the officers responsible should be held accountable, ideally to a higher degree than would be a civilian. On the same token, I don’t believe that all black people are criminals nor are all white people or police officers innocent of undue violence. I, personally, don’t really care what color you are. I understand that others might, and for that, I’m sorry. I do care if you act in a law abiding manner and approach tenuous situations in a smart way that doesn’t put yourself or others in danger. I care if you respect your home city and the property of others. No, a broken window is not nearly as tragic as the loss of an innocent life but breaking windows won’t bring lives back and it won’t get the kind of attention necessary to address and start discussing the root of the problem on a national level.

I believe more cops are doing their jobs for the right reasons than the media and press would lead you to believe. I also believe there are cops out there who aren’t. I wish there was a better way or any way to differentiate.

I believe my cousin and uncle and friends and Officer Brian Moore, who do accept an inherent risk when taking their position, still deserve the right to walk down the street or go to work without the risk of violence incited solely by the badge they wear for their job.

I believe that Black Lives Matter. I believe Police Lives Matter. I believe that the two are not mutually exclusive.

I believe there is an urgent and important series of conversations that need to be had regarding violence in this country in general.

I hope, above all, that things get better.