20 Inches of Ideal Beauty…All Hollow

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Being autistic can have some rather tragic co-morbid mental disorders. Unfortunately, mine was an eating disorder. A major one.

I was born into a family of big-boned eaters on both sides. My Dad’s side does have a few thinner women, but those thinner women are more the result of post-menopausal bone density loss than eating habits. But for the most part, we’re curvy. We’ve got large frames. We eat. We drink. We’re a merry bunch (when we’re not at each other’s throats for petty familial issues).

Up through high school and into college, I ate when I felt like it, and even sometimes when I didn’t. I was relatively overweight my whole life. Then, after a pretty bad heartbreak that came out of left field, my warped brain decided the reason the boy I was with changed his mind and left me was because I was fat (later, I realized it was because I didn’t have sex with him the first night I knew him). As with having AS, once my mind had set its course, there was no turning back. I began exercising like mad, and developed a system of compensation: everything I ate during the day had to be burned off, or else you couldn’t eat later.

Over the course of a month, I lost fifteen pounds, which was a victory. The weight loss ended up totaling about 60 pounds before I was caught. While I didn’t endure medical treatment (a result of not having enough symptoms of anorexia or bulimia to warrant insurance coverage), I fought long and hard, as well as a warped body image engraved into my head, to fight my fear of food. Today, I am 168lbs at 5’7”, a US size 10, and am still dieting, though under close supervision.

But coming upon a yahoo article about a Romanian model who has a ‘natural’ 20 inch waist while having 32-inch hips is, admittedly, starting to re-ignite that ld spark of self loathing. The article blatantly gives off the message that this impossible figure is, in fact, naturally attainable. I felt like my lunch of snap peas, a hard-boiled egg, and a cup of grapes, was suddenly excessive. And did I need that low fat creamer in my tea at all?

But I can’t help but notice, for as much as this model brags about being natural, and pigging out on kebabs and pizza, that you don’t see a single photo of her bare midriff. Were she all natural, wouldn’t she do a bikini photo to prove it?

Then I got the answer: tight lacing. She’s a fake.

For those of you who need a definition: tight lacing is the modern-day, Western equivalent of foot binding. It’s a fashion trend that involves immense suffering in order to attain an exaggerated version of an ideal of beauty, resulting in an unnatural-looking body part. In spite of the grotesque shape attained, it is worshipped as epitomizing discipline as well as beauty. Tight lacing is a trend where the participant will lace herself into a steel corset, wear it night and day, pulling it tighter and tighter over the course of years, until her internal organs realign in such a way that the waistline can shrink below 22 inches. Her bust and hips remain the same size, sometimes even expanding to accommodate the evicted organs. The most desperate of tight lacers will even undergo surgery to remove the lowest ribs of the ribcage to make even more room.

Looking at the photos of this woman, I cannot logically see where she has those natural proportions. Evolutionarily speaking, this woman cannot possibly be able to bear children, therefore making it harder to attract a mate (even though this particular woman does have a husband).  

So why was this article published?

I find myself, as an Average Jane regarding body type and size, being constantly attacked and degraded by articles like this, as well as women like this. Society is reverting back to the medieval adoration of ‘lily feet’ (the term for Chinese women who successfully underwent foot binding). Only instead of lily feet, it’s the willow waist. And for a country that likes to brag it is on the cutting edge of social progressivism, that seems pretty backwards to me. And, as with foot binding, only the most privileged of women can afford to undergo the procedure. So, at the end of the day, it’s the insane ideals of the few that dictate the standard beauty laws of the many.

And it hurts. A lot. Especially someone like me, who cries when she passes a mirror. Who deprives herself of pleasure because she knows she’ll punish herself for it later. Every time I stick my finger down my throat, an editor of Vogue Italia smiles and cashes a check.

Also, perhaps it’s just me, but the fact that a tight lacer’s waist is as thin as it gets while having nothing but spine inside is an ironic testamant. Nothing inside. No purpose. No subtsance. It’s all about the shell. Same with the lily feet…they may be tiny, but they all but completely lose their function of helping the body they are attached to in moving from point A to point B.

This is my plea to the world: for the sake of a young woman who wants nothing more than to define herself by something other than a dress size, make natural beautiful again. Don’t insult the starving billions in third world nations by making their suffering the ideal.

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Supposedly the little boy/main character is autistic.

THECOLORMAGE

Bullock brings a home truth

by Bernard-Charles

I am a die-hard fan of any and all things Sandra Bullock. My mom introduced me to Bullock’s skill and talent a very long time ago with her favorite movie Practical Magic (1998). Sally Owens, a mom of two, lives in a modern world where witchcraft still frightens people and resorts to denying her powers.  The only magic that wakes her up from this denial is the power of self-acceptance.

Bullock’s talent in Practical Magic woke me up to see that my mom is a person just like Sally Owens. A whimsy and mystical woman with great potential to heal the ones she loves, yet goes through self-sacrifice in order to recognize an inner power.

In Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2012), Linda Schell (Sandra Bullock) copes with the loss of her husband (Tom Hanks) and the struggles of her son…

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Why Does No One Think of the Children???

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**WARNING: This post contains a personal political opinion. This opinion belongs to no one but myself. If you don’t agree, don’t bash.**

I have always been a child at heart. Indeed, that in of itself makes me a walking, talking cliché.

But in all seriousness, even though I have since left childhood behind, I’ve always found myself, at the core, a child advocate. I get angry at how mass media portrays children and teenagers in such unrealistically unintelligent light. I deem people who dismiss youth and children as ‘not important’ to be brainless jerks. And when a child’s mental well being is threatened, especially for the sake of some adult’s petty whim, I get so enraged I could possibly be considered a threat to society…at least adult society.

So, naturally, when I heard the news this weekend that some obscure Presidential candidate has purchased Super Bowl ad time in order to air graphic, gory, and upsetting images of dead fetuses (fetii?) in order to convey his pro-life stance…I wrote another name down on my list of people to maim before I die.

The Super Bowl (of which my beloved Giants are playing in this year thanks to one of my many husbands, Eli Manning) is one of the biggest televised events of the year. It is a staple of American sports, and a tradition that has only surged in popularity as time has gone on. It is also a rare time where young children can participate in the festivities just as actively as adults. I remember being allowed to stay up late in order to watch my father’s Ravens win in 2000 and thinking I was in heaven. 

So someone who has a heart of pure granite decided to air their political agenda in the form of disgusting photos of aborted embryos and fetuses during a time where millions of children and youths will be watching…and probably high on sugar-laiden snacks (because who eats vegetables during the Super Bowl?). The result, undoubtedly, will not result in converted voters so much as a surge in demand for child therapists.

The numb-nut mastermind’s name is Randall Terry, and he is a Democrat who has about as many brain cells as an earthworm (my apologies to earthworms everywhere). He is attempting to boot Obama out of the Presidential race (even though, you know, he’s already President and all). His main issue is abortion. As a pro-lifer, his only claim to political notoriety at all is that he is particularly fond of airing anti-abortion ads that have more blood and dead things in it than a Quentin Tarantino movie (with about a tenth of the substance).

It’s one thing to shamelessly spend millions of dollars for a thirty-second ad attempting to push your political agenda on the masses during a sports game (cough cough TEBOW cough). To do so without even thinking that perhaps some children might be affected in a negative way is nothing short of condemnable.

I notice that when your views are opposite of what the government has in practice, that’s when you’re much more crazy in expressing those beliefs. Politically active pro-lifers are among the people I fear most in the world. These are the people who believe murdering ‘abortion doctors’ and blowing up clinics is legally justifiable. These are the people who believe old rich men should have the rights to womens’ bodies, and that if a woman makes a choice for herself, she should be prosecuted for it. These are the people who place the political rights of a being who’s status as being alive is highly debatable about the political rights of living, breathing, tax-paying, intelligent (sometimes) humans.

And these are the people who believe it is perfectly alright to air gory depictions of dead unborn babies  during a time where kids will be watching and highly impressionable, as long as their message is loud and clear.

Every time a child gets corrupted, Eli Manning gets closer to destroying you.

The desperation groups go to these days is intolerable. I think, pro-choice, pro-life, or pro-Patriots, you cannot justify doing such a disgusting thing in order to show that you believe something. It gives me a headache just thinking about such extremists and how they are allowed to do this in the first place. Does CBS have no standards? Did the fact that Randall Terry was able to wave several million dollars in front of their face blind them to the severe breech of ethics involved?

I weep. I weep for the children who are going to see the ad in two weeks. I weep for media’s decline in ethic standards. I weep for self-righteous psychos like Randall Terry.

I just hope to high heaven that CBS has the intelligence to not only place a blunt warning pre-ad that the commercial is disturbing and graphic, but to strategically place the ad so that child viewership might be a bit lower (either at the very beginning before the game gets interesting or at the end when the sugar highs have worn off and 3/4ths of the kids are asleep).

At the end of the day, I just wish people could accept other people’s opinions, and keep the political discourse for the debates on MSNBC.

Xenophobia: A philosophic theory

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Noun: an unreasonable fear or hatred of foreigners or strangers or of that which is foreign or strange. (dictionary.com)
 
I have a theory about fear, so bear with me. I believe that every fear in the universe can be traced to one of two root fears: the fear of pain, or the fear of the unknown.
 
So many people fear death because no one knows for sure what happens to one’s consciousness beyond taking that final breath. Fear of the unknown. Many people fear hospitals because of the establishment’s association with illness and surgery (fear of pain). A child fears the dark for the reason that the dark creates a sense of unknown. Said child fears monsters because monsters could cause physical harm and pain to them. People fear war for reasons of both fearing pain and the unknown. People fear other people for their fear of the unknown.
 
This, my friends, is where I believe the foundation for fundamentalist religion and social prejudices occurs. People fearing people. People fearing the unknown. Therefore, fearing the unknown and unfamiliar is the root of so much unecessary animosity.
 
Every religion has a fundamentalist branch. Usually, such branches represent a vast minority of the religion’s population. But oftentimes, it is this small extreme base that yells the loudest and the longest. I think that it’s not an offense mechanism. It’s a defensive mechanism. It is the fundamentalist Muslims (the ones who are willing to strap on bomb belts for their god) who fear those who don’t share their beliefs. Perhaps they fear their beliefs being destroyed by outside religions. I cannot speak directly for them, of course. Regardless, this fear of the outside coming in to ruin their way of life is apparently enough of a motivation for them to sacrifice their lives in order to take out so many other lives.
 
Fundamentalists Christians follow a strikingly similar way of thinking (ironic, seeing as many fundamenalist Christians come with a heaping sidedish of Islamophobia). Only their defense is not outright murder (not counting if you’re gay or an abortion doctor), but infiltrating a public government that is meant to serve everyone of ever race, gender, and creed, and using said influence to preserve what they value. Fundamentalist fear their traditions being rendered obsolete, and as such, they fear what will happe to them on a societal level if their traditions cannot back them up. As a result of their atempts to infiltrate government, Congress bickers and can no longer come to a unified cause of helping their people, which is, what one would think, a democractic government would be for in the first place. The entire country suffers.
 
Bullies in schools cause others pain in response to their own fear of being socially ostracized. Being seen as vulnerable is scary for anyone, because no one knows what pain that could bring upon someone until they experience it.
 
You get my drift, yes?
 
I see xenophobia as the sole element that can destroy humanity. Fearing what is different from yourself (and, as such, fearing the unknown). What is the one force that can truly defeat xenophobia? Education.
 
You can’t always agree with other people. The world has over seven billion people, and as such, there are seven billion different ideas about the world and how it works floating around. But what one can do in order to inch that much closer to world peace is learning about that which you do not understand. Turn on the light and rid yourself of the dark unknown. Perhaps you’ll see that there aren’t any monsters in your closet waiting to eat you.
 
But so many people see violence as their only defense, even when education can be a much stronger defense, that I can’t see this rashness as anything but human nature. It is human nature to fear.
 
Maybe I’m starting to ramble a bit, but I just don’t understand why fundamentalist zealots can’t pull up information on those who they see as ‘their enemies.’ What is remarkable is how they all share the same thought processes, just switching the tiny details. Perhaps in discovering this, SOMEONE can show a little bit of empathy.
 
There’s your first step towards a better, more peaceful world right there.

Five Things I Learned After Reuniting With a High School Friend

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Recently, just before the holiday, I met with Julie*, an old friend/acquaintance from high school. She was the first person-to-person contact I’d made with anyone from my high school years since 2008, when my former ‘best friend’ had found Jesus and subsequently deemed my company unsuitable.

We made contact on Facebook, and after Julie moved back into town, we decided to get some take out and gush over my cats for a few hours. It was a pretty average afternoon, but one of those times where, looking back, had a lot of potential for some philosophic feedback (yeah, only I would find philosophy in cats and Chinese food). We obviously caught up on our lives, and my story was, of course, typical: I thrived in college, made my true friends, found my calling, and am currently pursuing said calling.

Julie’s post-high school story is chock-filled with drama, and apparently I haven’t even heard the worst of it. I found her story to be the example of taking a little more time to grow up, but nonetheless, provided a lot to learn from. She married within a year of graduating to a man she’d known for years online. They moved to the other end of the country, and by the time I was throwing my cap in the air for my college graduation, their marriage was falling apart, and she moved back home to await the divorce proceedings. She is going back to college and still deciding what to use her degree for.

After our pleasant afternoon of Chinese and catching-up, and driving home after dropping Julie off at her house (only down the street from mine), it occurred to me that while I expected to be practically meeting a stranger, it almost seemed like no time had passed at all. I spent more time than I should thinking to myself later, and a few things came to me I wish more people realized:

1-      You aren’t the only one who wants to put those years behind you.
American media in particular seems to have this fetish for being young, and it always seems like the high point of experiencing youth is, of course, high school. I guess it’s really easy to romanticize high school, considering it still does embody the core of a young person’s life, while at the same time offering enough maturity to bring change, such as the end of puberty, the beginning of romantic and sexual pursuits, and being ‘adult-like’ without being old.

I find, however, that the media takes high school one step too far in that, from Grease to The Breakfast Club to Superbad and beyond, the high school experience is this be-all-end-all event that should be looked back upon as the best years of one’s life. For the vast majority of America, Danny Zuko never shows up, people don’t dance during detention, and you can’t get away with buying beer with a fake ID naming you ‘McLovin’. Therefore, high school turns into a major disappointment.

Listening to Julie talk about how she doesn’t miss high school any more than I do (and god and goddess knows I wasn’t a social butterfly in those days), lifted my spirits a little. In school, I was forty pounds heavier, didn’t know how to handle my mass of curls, couldn’t socialize worth a damn, and hated just about everyone outside of my immediate circle of companions. Not exactly the “Shermer High Experience.”

Essentially, high school was where I needed to be in order to get to where I wanted to be.  Now that I’m where I want to be (gainfully employed in a job I enjoy with real friends waiting for me at night on Facebook), the fact that I didn’t go to my senior prom doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore.

2-      Silly high school things are even sillier afterwards.
I apologized to Julie at one point. “If there was anything I said or did back then that might have gotten on your nerves—“

Julie cut me off. “Oh no, you didn’t. If you did, it was so insignificant that I forgot it quickly.”

College did a lot for my social skills. Before that, I was probably about as socially clueless as a two year old at the White House Correspondants’ Dinner, as befits one with Aspergers. As such, half the time I couldn’t guess if what I was saying was offensive or not.

Alas, any fights that came of my social mishaps (and believe me, there were plenty), have indeed long since been discarded, and people have moved on. Those fights, at the time, seemed like the end of the world to me. It was a refreshing thing to hear that they were just as silly as they had been four years ago, if not more silly now. High school has a way of blowing small trifles out of proportion. It’s about misjudged priorities and how even the most insignificant choice of words can cause hell to rain down upon the world.

Even more basic, it’s about growing up and maturity. As much as you like to admit it, you aren’t 100% mature in high school.

3-      Our perception of time is screwy.
Julie herself didn’t seem to change too much. She was still petite, perky, and so gosh-darn adorable. She was still as nerdy as I was, and had that air of someone who has issues that bug her, but was glad she could forget them for a few hours while we conversed.

It only occurred to me that I was the one who had changed, and that I was the only one who could be the judge of that.

Yes, I learned how to style my hair so that it was tame but still an eye-catcher. I did shed some weight (ignore, temporarily, the fact that most of it was shed via eating disorder). I did learn how to properly socialize and have fun while not losing control of myself. But the true change lied within my growing up. Who I am as an adult is not even relatable to who I was as a sixteen-year-old. As a sixteen year old, I was boy-crazy, obsessed with fitting in but too lazy to do anything about it, and highly, highly defensive. Someone threw a single sarcastic remark my way and I’d beat the living hell out of them.

It’s amazing how four years can simultaneously seem like no time at all and an eternity. Reflecting on my changes, it certainly feels like the latter. But talking to Julie erased that somehow it was as if the last time I saw her four years ago was yesterday.

But then she tells me that one of our friends is married and recently bore her second child, and suddenly those four years multiplies by ten again.

4-      Moving on and looking back can make you laugh.
Yes, this is much like #2, only the point differs. Sometimes, looking back makes you cringe with humiliation even when they were no big deal. But not all embarrassing memories are bad.

Julie has a twin brother named Jack* who was also a member of my social circle throughout high school. In spite of the few little affairs I had here and there, and the stupid trysts that turned into painfully melodramatic nothings, I found a certain strength in my enduring crush on him. It lasted for three of the four years of my high school career, and it only got more potent each year. We did have our times alone together, when absolutely nothing happened. I was sure he didn’t like me in ‘that way’ and I was probably right. I was sure he was going out with someone from another school. He was the type to not fault his personal life, and I ended up letting my nerves get the best of me, and I never grew the pair needed to ask him.

Julie updated me on Jack as well that day: he never had a girlfriend after all, and is even still a virgin.

Hearing this made me laugh (not at his virginity, of course, that’s plain rude). But it made me laugh at how my emotions were on such a rollercoaster in high school that the idea that Jack may have eyes for someone else while I was convinced we’d have an apartment together in Greenwich Village one day with four cats and a Corgi further put into perspective how silly things were back then. I had no trouble confessing to Julie my old feelings for her brother, especially considering they are irrelevant now.

Maybe it’s memories such as that that led me to realize…

5-      Indeed, some things never change, but only the most worthwhile memories last.
High school sucked. No doubt about it. It was a worthless social nightmare that was blown way out of proportion by both my pubescent mind and the mass media, who kept insisting it was the time of my life. But, talking with Julie and the times we did share, made me realize that even the worst of experiences can yield some happy memories. It’s those rare moments that make you realize that yeah, high school is a miserable time in everyone’s life, but it may not have been suffered through totally in vain. I did learn, which, after all, is what high school is all about, and at the end of the day, I would not be the same person had I gone to bed at the end of middle school and woken up a college freshman.

So I guess I have Elmcrest High* to thank for that. So thanks. I hate you still, but thanks.

And also, thank you to Julie for being my inspiration for these thoughts.

*names have been changed.

A Coming-Out Tale (Kind Of)

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I suppose no blog written by someone labeled by broader society as ‘different’ would be quite complete without a coming-out tale. Here’s mine.

I’ve known about my AS for twelve years. I’ve been public about it for three months.

I blame my deep desire to be ‘normal’ for this. It was so deep that it was my obsession for a long time. During the early stages of my therapy and social skills training, this proved to be an amazing asset. But it became a liability as soon as I began feeling like I was lying to others. AS wasn’t something to be proud of for me during my youth. It was a dirty little secret I would do anything to conceal and ignore. 

I grew up in a relatively conservative suburb. It wasn’t as cookie-cutter as the town in Edward Scissorhands, per se, but it definitely was an area where image took precedence over expression. From my experience, neighbors kept to themselves, and their children preferred to try out for sports instead of the school play. There were many churches of every denomination conceivable, but the only art gallery in the county was in the city to the south of where I lived. The town shut down at 7PM every night.

So naturally, anyone who stood out in this microsociety was an undesirable. And no one took this philosophy to heart more than my school district.

In my high school, the GSA had approximately five active members during a good semester. The budget cut the art program back every year so that the football team could have fresh uniforms every fall. You’d think the school was the setting for Mean Girls 3 with all the extreme cliquing off that was going on. Being alone not only meant being bullied: it meant hell from the administration as well as the student body. The school was already overpopulated (my class alone had nearly 800 students), and teachers and staff didn’t want to accept the possibility that a teen was more than an ID# or another row in the grade book. Because would require extra concern.

Even the drama kids, whom mass media likes to portray as the ‘accepting’ kids, were mean, self-absorbed, spoiled, and exclusive.

I did have a small group I was accepted by. Among them were the otaku, the fringe artists, a few Goths, and a few neutral teens who didn’t want to belong anywhere else. But even among them I felt like a flamingo in a flock of pigeons. I was hiding my thick pink feathers underneath my baggy hoodies and peasant skirts, even from these ‘friends.’

And, as an aside, I am in contact with a grand total of one of them as of late, and even that contact isn’t solid.

It was socially bad enough that the athletic kids mocked me behind my back, and the academics thought of me as ‘beneath’ them. I couldn’t tell the world I had a diagnosis, mild as it was. I might as well stick my own gum into my hair.

It wasn’t until college that I began to feel comfortable in my own skin for the first time. Comparing it to the 800 other students I graduated from high school with, my university had a grand total of 500 enrolled students (yes, that accounts for all four years of undergraduates). Being at a smaller school meant that you were naturally more likely to stand out. But my school was an open-minded place (generally), where students didn’t care who you were, what you liked, and how dorky you may have been. I thrived. I found true friend. I even found a few love affairs while there. It was heaven.

I still kept quiet about my AS.

Perhaps it was my upbringing in Podunk, USA, or just a matter of being conditioned to shut up and listen, but I was still afraid of coming out.

To this day, despite being ‘out’ to many of my friends, my loving boyfriend, my family, and even most of my co-workers, and not experiencing any direct setbacks as a result of having AS and being ‘out’ about it, I’m still holding back, just a little bit. Maybe part of me still clings to the hope that there’s a truly average, non-diagnosed person inside of me waiting to come out. The other half of me is ashamed for feeling this way, I should be proud of who I am, should I not?

I suppose more soul-searching could do the trick in resolving this last reservation I have about myself, but you can’t just ask for revelations to fall out of the air and into your lap. I just hope it will come with time.