Musings, SAY WHAAA...!

How I Should Think About My Weight (If I Absolutely Must)

CRAPSCALE

Ah, another day, another chance for you and I, as women, to talk, think, and downright obsess about how much physical space our bodies take up in this big, bad world. At least that’s how it’s felt like for me ever since I came back home from Montreal a year and a half ago and started to steadily gain more and more of a circumference spectrum than I’ve had since at least six years ago. See, for the better part of the last six years of my life I never found myself outside of the healthy-for-my-height (173 cm) range of 64 to 66 KG. At my lowest, I was a spry 63. Today, I am a 72. Not a huge amount by any means, still within a healthy range, and certainly not the heaviest I’ve ever been but still way more than I had become accustomed to for the last several years.

And even for my feminist-defined, thoroughly skeptical, shruggingly blasé self it’s been a struggle. I am a mere mortal after all, not Deepak Chopra. Bu I also think it’s been especially difficult because, in my line of work (the media/magazine industry), you can’t so much as blink without being bombarded with some form of conversation or imagery about the subject of weight. The gaining of weight; the losing of weight; who gained/lost what; how they look; how they did it; how you can too; GODDAMNED ETC. But you know what? Screw that. Here’s how I’m going to personally start thinking about the subject of my own weight from now on (if I do at all).

Try it out for yourself if the idea of owning your own body strikes you.

WEIGHT THOUGHT #1: This Is Some Grade-A Crap Right Here

Okay, coming from someone who is thoroughly embedded within the media bubble system, I’ve gotta tell you that, when the media around you starts pushing the idea of perfect people in your face YOU WOULD BE WISE TO BE EXTREMELY SKEPTICAL. Really, the only correct way to consume images of perfectly tailored human beings in media is with deep, delicious, instant doubt. Saying this is probably hurting my rep as a ‘media-person’ (wait, what?) but, hell, it’s the goddamned truth. It’s advertising, you guys. It’s supposed to make you want something. That fact ALONE makes the whole thing AS FISHY AS THE FREAKING ATLANTIC. So when you see those types of images in your various media outlets (so, basically, anywhere) you really should move forward very cautiously (or better yet: not at all). So, instead of letting yourself feel flawed or even mesmerized by the images that are directly and indirectly telling you to shrink yourself away, I suggest you start seeing it as a sad, slightly hilarious, icky, desperate cash grab. Because that’s what the hell it really is.

Feminism, Musings, Running In Heels, Uncategorized

Six Lessons Lana Al-Resheed Taught Me Without Even Realizing It

Photo 4-18-2014, 6 20 02 PM

Mentors are not magic. Your mentor is not your Professor Dumbledore. Your mentor is a human being. They are allowed to have flaws and personality quirks and you are allowed to not like those things about them, and vice versa.

I personally grew up in a family of overachievers and in an environment that inadvertently taught me (or tried to teach me) that I should enter into all things either a) knowing everything or b) pretending to know everything. The more I grew up the more I resented this kind of intimidating and isolated attitude especially when it came to work or school. As a result, I tend to seek out indirect guidance and education from anyone around me who I think is a little extra special, regardless of whether or not they are my superiors in a professional environment. In hindsight, I’ve found that this one trait alone has given me such an overwhelmingly HUGE advantage in my careers as an academic, a writer, and as an editor/publisher. Because I’ve always unconsciously tried to soak up as much professional knowledge as I can from literally every single person around me, I think I can now safely say that I have a very extensive, advanced knowledge base in my chosen fields that most people who are my age don’t have and that usually only develop over a period of much longer, more complex work experiences.

Most recently, I’ve had the crazy lucky fortune of working super closely with known marketing badass and general all around awesome lady-person Lana Al-Resheed who, if you recall, was my debut Running in Heels interview over a year ago. The actual story of how Lana and I met, got in contact with each other, and eventually started working together would have never EVER happened without this humble blog. If you think about it, it’s a pretty strong and beautiful indication of who Lana Al-Resheed is as a person and how much risk and support she is willing to put into someone she believes in and feels a special connection to–even if it was someone she hardly knew like me. The story of how Lana and I came into each other’s lives is one of my favorite stories to ever tell just because it sounds so wonderfully unreal and miraculously fated by God. But it IS real and it’s goddamned beautiful.

Even after having worked with her for almost an entire year now I still don’t know what the exact reasons were for her choosing me and believing in me as much as she did (I don’t even think she knows exactly). All I know is that Lana loves it when she sees things that other people don’t see and she has told me that ‘you are something I saw that no one else saw.’ And, because of that, all I know is that I am lucky and so is she.

From my own experience, mentoring relationships usually end up being some of the most rewarding and meaningful relationships for both the mentor and the mentored, and they almost always develop into lifelong, family-tight bonds, even after the fact.

So, since I think that everyone on Earth needs to, at some point in their professional lives, find their own personal ‘Lana’ (even the Lanas of the world need their own Lanas), here is but a short list of some of the most important lessons that Lana Al-Resheed has taught me without even realizing it. (I actually tried to see if she realized it and asked her to list six of what she thought were her most important lessons for me and she didn’t mention ANY of these, which is, of course, proof that wisdom, authenticity, and versatility are second nature to Lana Al-Resheed.)

Musings

On Turning 25 (and Other Glorious Ages)

20140126-035829.jpg

A little over two weeks ago, I turned 25 years old. And, as does happen to most of us, my birthday (and all the people congratulating me on either staying young or getting old) made me face up to my many feelings about the inevitability of aging. Now, I happen to be blessed with a huge group of friends who vary in a number of age groups, sensibilities, and life trajectories. So, as many of them grow older and reach different stages in their lives at different rates, I tend to notice how they all approach the idea of getting older.

When it comes to most of my female friends (and, for a while, me as well), age was a matter of escalating concern as the years went by. I noticed that, as they grew older (and wiser and stronger), a lot of my female friends were also strangely growing more and more fond of attaining a certain compliment.

The apparent Holy Grail of concerned agers, everywhere: “You look great for your age!

Personally, whenever I hear someone direct that compliment at me or someone I know I find it beyond weird. It’s even weirder when I see how enraptured with happiness other people can be upon hearing that they don’t look like they’ve been on this earth as long as they actually have been.

I mean, if I look great for my age then it’s because the way I look is one of many ways a person can look at 25. That’s one way 25 can look. If you were to round up 100 different 25-year-olds you would get a huge, diverse spread of bodies and faces that vary in accordance to their lifestyles, genetics, and plastic surgeries. But its not as if any of us are going to look 12 or something. At some point, your age catches up. Even if you could realistically find some compelling exceptions to the rule, you can’t deny that aging is still happening on a cellular level to all of us.

On a basic human level, aging just can’t be undone no matter how much you try to customize your lifestyle to accommodate it. I don’t know anyone who looks younger than their age that’s actually fooling anyone–not really. Even the greatest looking, most genetically blessed, impeccably worked on, seeming non-ager on this earth still basically looks about their age. In the most extreme cases of unutterable beauty, some people can maybe buy themselves about 5 to 10 years, give or take a few.

That’s the thing about telling someone they look great “for their age.” It’s weird. And, as I turned 25 a few weeks ago, I’ve had to hear this well-intentioned sentence blurted out at me one too many times for comfort. But, despite how admittedly weird it is, I completely understand why people would think I (and other women) would be delighted to hear it.

I know that for ALL WOMEN ON THE FACE OF THIS PLANET the fear of “losing our looks” is a concerning issue for us all to various degrees. Because the truth is that a woman’s looks are nothing if not currency, and it takes a damn near bulletproof self-esteem to go through your life, birthday after birthday, with enough grace to not care about the inevitable deterioration of that said currency. It’s not like any of us are going to be sad when someone tells us, at 65, that we don’t look 65. Weirded out and  a little confused, maybe, but not sad.

But, you know, as an admitted, completely understanding, formerly concerned, currently ecstatic ager of the world, I’ve gotta say it all sounds like a bunch of crap to me. As I’ve gotten older and as the universe has continued to apply time + gravity to my human body, I’ve realized that nothing will ever quell your fear of aging better than aging itself. Here’s why:

We Actually Age So Slowly That We Don’t Even Notice It Happening

Look, it’s not like you or I or anyone else is ever going to go to bed beautiful and wake up a complete hag. We age so gradually that we only ever notice every once in a while. And sure, those few moments when I DO happen to notice (must use more moisturizer) may offer a pinging moment of mortality, but its hardly a cause for deep depression or concern. Mostly it’ll just remind me that I’m human; that I’m still alive; and that no one lives forever.

Musings

On the Sometimes Horrible, Mostly Hilarious Forms of Hate

JUMP RIGHT IN

Here is an unwavering fact of life: at some point in your life, no matter what, someone (or maybe lots of someones) is going to severely dislike you. They may even dislike you so much to the extent that they will use the word ‘hate’ when describing how they feel about you. Now, before your minds trail off to far-flung pastures, let me just briefly clarify the kind of hate I’m talking about. This is the lowercase kind of hate.

Not violent. Mostly vibe-y. It really just kind of annoyingly hangs around like that errant fly that you just can’t get rid of for several days. I’m talking about super-intense, off the charts dislike. The severe aversion some people may have to all (or most! or some!) of the things that make you you. Either way, it’s pretty much an unavoidable rite of passage in life and growing up, especially if you’ve got any kind of existence online at all. So we’ve gotta learn to deal.

It will probably surprise about 1.5 percent of you that I have some experience being hated. Something about me, especially when expressed in verbal form, just tends to rub some people in all the wrong ways. I have way too many close friends who have told me this. I have a somewhat strong personality and occasionally strong opinions which are, unsurprisingly, a lot easier to hate than your average mild-mannered, get-alongness kind of attitude. Shocker.

But here’s a special caveat that’s important to note if you happen to be one of those people who has been ‘hated on’ one time too many: Not being hated does not necessarily mean that you are a super awesome person. It just means that you are not controversial. ACTUALLY, LET ME CLARIFY: Not being hated ever can SOMETIMES mean that you really are a super awesome person who is consistently wonderful and genuine and just a bucketful of sunshine AND HOW IN THE WORLD COULD ANYONE EVER POSSIBLY HATE YOU, BAMBI’S SECOND COUSIN? But, other times, if you’ve never even been mildly hated then it means that you’re basically human oatmeal. It means that no one has ever even noticed you enough to realize how mind-numbingly blah you actually can be. But, hey, it also means you’re lucky!

And, just because I don’t want to come off as an actual hate-mongerer (i.e. someone who condescendingly thrives on people hating me, i.e. Kanye West), let me just very briefly debunk some common ‘hate-talk’ that I don’t ever actually subscribe to.

Musings

The Complete Guide to Getting Zero Closure (And Being Ok With It)

ClosureGraphLife is a dubious thing. I mean, gosh, even the word itself has this alluring, almost slippery quality to it. Dubious. It’s one of those words that you enjoy reading out loud and like having in your arsenal but don’t ever want to use in a serious conversation about your life. But, lately, dubious things have been on my mind. And for good reason.

Y’see, not in the very distant past (a little over a year ago) I broke ties with a woman who was, in all honesty, an incredibly close friend of mine and whom I had known for many years and shared countlessly personal experiences and stories with. I’m not going to talk your ears (or eyes?) off with the specifics but, over time, it turned into a very dramatic relationship dynamic and I just decided it was no longer a friendship worth salvaging anymore. So we both cut off real communication from each other and the whole thing just kind of tapered off slowly and naturally.

This is a friend who, at one point in my life, I considered one of my very best friends so on occasion my thoughts do return to her and I wonder about her and how she’s getting on in the world. I know that I will always care about her as a person and I do genuinely want good things for her. She’ll probably always be one of those definitive friendships in my life and I’m never going to have the heart to delete her number from my phone. So I figure its pretty normal for people to find themselves recalling these kinds of important relationships from their past at odd, random moments throughout their lives–sometimes on-trigger and sometimes not. Very run-of-the-mill nostalgia stuff happening here. But this friend is a little different.

See, this friend is a fellow blogger.

Now, I certainly will not share any specifics about her or her blog here but, the very nature of the fact that she is a blogger in Kuwait makes recalling her that much more common and that much more uncomfortable for me. Because there’s the occasional social media mention or tag among other bloggers that includes her. There’s the super-awkward, always shocking event sightings. There’s the group emails sent out by companies that find her blog’s name on the list along with my own.

Plus, there’s all the normal human, regularly awkward and slightly baffling social niceties like the ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ and ‘Happy Eid’ broadcasts that I get from her a couple of times a year and which always leave me feeling like I stubbed my toe in a dark corner. Infuriatingly painful and ridiculous.

Point is! No matter how much you think you may be done with a friendship, a relationship, a job, or that annoyingly rebellious strand of unruly baby hair that wont straighten NO MATTER HOW LONG YOU’VE BEEN BURNING YOUR SCALP WITH A HAIR DRYER, it will always find a way to pop back up in your life one way or another. Always. Getting real closure is about as possible as winning the goddamned lottery. We’re all both mystically hopeful of it and deeply annoyed by it at the same time. Because while we secretly know that we probably just threw our hard-earned cash into the wind, there’s always the one in 3 billion chance that we could make beau coup bucks overnight. Usually though we’re just out the time, the money, and the hopeful good vibes.

So, how do we deal with not winning the lottery? Well, apparently, we read. Studies show that people who do not read are more likely to make snap judgements, think stubbornly, and ignore alternatives once their minds are made up. Readers on the other hand have been found to have more agile minds that don’t require “cognitive closure,” don’t hastily judge, and are more willing to consider change and alternate options down the road. So, essentially, readers are just better people.

Bookworms of the world, rejoice! We are justified! All we have to do now is just read read read read read read AND POW! Better critical thinkers!

But I don’t want all you non-readers out there to feel left out of the broad-minded fun (although you ARE reading this blog, so there’s hope for you yet!). With you anti-bookworms in mind, here’s a detailed step-by-step guide on how to be totally cool about getting zero closure at all times.

Kuwait, Musings, Writing

Athnain Magazine: A Polished Thought Experiment

ATHNAIN COVER 3b

So a couple of weeks ago I got word of the fact that one of Kuwait’s most highly anticipated and editorialized magazines, Athnain (Arabic for ‘two’), would be available to order in Kuwait via Tap (I believe you can only access Tap from your smartphone for the time being) and I pretty much made like the wind to snag that sucker!

Now, like many other starry-eyed Instagram onlookers, I was deeply fascinated by the way everyone had covered the launch of the magazine and the way that Athnain itself had created an identity which revolved around the notion of cultured individuals exploring Kuwait’s untapped and unexposed artistic endeavors in a way that was both meaningful and different.

Lofty aspirations? Sure. But, from what I previewed on Instagram and all the other social media buzz, Athnain seemed to have just the right amount of daring confidence and alternative prowess to pull it off. I was honestly the very picture of human excitement when I received a launch invite and all but kicked myself in the shins when the universe so sinisterly kept me from attending.

But after getting my hands on it, Athnain (at least the premier issue) seemed to read more like a polished thought experiment than the purposeful expression on new modes of art, creativity, and identity in Kuwait that I had initially hoped it would be.

And, sure, ‘a thought experiment’ is not an overtly negative term–not by a long shot. No matter what angle you’re coming from, Athnain will challenge or probe your mind in one way or another. That is good for society by any measure and it’s an admirable effect for anyone to have. It just slightly underwhelmed me and maybe that’s partly my fault too (although that would mean I should lower my standards to appease someone else’s ineptitude, so no). And, hell, ‘thought experiment’ could speak for a whole host of different experiences.

So, because I know that different people buy different magazines for different reasons, and because I don’t ever want to come off as a Negative Nancy (I’m honestly not, I just think the key to a good critique is an open attitude), I’m going to briefly tell you guys what to expect from whichever brand of ‘thought experiment’ you’re particularly interested in getting out of Athnain. It goes without saying, of course, that if you’re not super interested in the concept of thought-provoking media (and it’s totally fine if you’re not–I am an absolute connoisseur of reality TV trash, so I’m not about to judge) then Athnain altogether just might not be for you.

Feminism, Musings

When Babies Don’t Happen

20130608-070327.jpg

I have a friend who just turned 36 years old. Another friend who is 34 and another 29. My grandmother has a 40 year old niece. We all have Jennifer Aniston. Some of these women are married, some aren’t, and some are interim. All of them, however, are childless. And they probably didn’t know it would turn out this way.

Because here’s the thing: when you’re young you always just think about having children someday. But then you grow older and you realize more and more as the time goes by that this day hasn’t come yet. And the older you get the more you realize the possible likelihood of the fact that it might never come. This is probably one of the weirdest and heaviest feelings that you could ever experience. For most people going through this feeling nowadays is even weirder because today everyone is “younger” for longer. Vibrant, party-going, ladder-climbing, happy go lucky adults of 25 and 45 are the same. And they are. Absolutely.

Except if you’re a woman, the biological, baby bearing potential of your womb at 25 is vastly different than that at 45. Like every other tired female cliche, fertility is a window that will eventually close and a train that will eventually pass.

Any woman who’s ever had to enter her 30s man-less and child-less or had to endure years in a late marriage without bearing any babies will tell you that they know all about closing windows and passing trains. Whether or not you actually want a child (and its totally fine if you don’t), there will come a point where pretty much every single person on the face of the earth will be staring at you, loudly chanting the words: “BAY-BE! BAY-BE! BAY-BE!”

And regardless of where you’re actually at in your own head, that kind of impossible pressure just gets to you. In those moments, your own life plan and your personal choices disappear and, despite your education, your experience, and your confidence, you are endlessly befuddled.

Take, for example, this literal conversation I had with a friend of mine who is 32, childless, and who inspired this post: “Actually, I want a baby. Actually, I don’t want a baby. Actually, I don’t not want a baby. Actually, I want to not want a baby.” And on and on and on. My friend is an accomplished artist, happily married woman, living in a beautiful apartment, with the world’s cutest puppies, pursuing a PhD. She is the personification of all that a cool, sophisticated, kick-ass woman should be. And even she has the ‘Will I? Won’t I?’ debate playing on a loop in her head.

In the end what my friend is left with are persistent feelings of doubt, hesitation, and fear. That’s it. Doubt. Hesitation. Fear. No matter what she may actually want for herself, these feelings are pretty much there all the time. And it’s the same for so many other similarly baby-less but otherwise awesome women in the world.

You’re afraid of choosing to have children early and then being hampered down in your career or in your other worthwhile life experiences. You’re afraid of not picking the right partner and ending up with a horrible parenting situation. You’re afraid of missing out on the incomparable, lifetime connection and endlessly unique memories that only your own child can bring you.

Of course, what you may or may not realize is that, eventually, not making a decision is the decision. And if a woman does decide to not have children she often has to explain that decision to everyone around her. Which I’m sure can be mortifying.

Still, I know there is a clear difference between a woman who actively chooses to not have children and just waking up one day and realizing that its happening to you. Some women just know that they don’t ever want to have babies. And that’s fine. And some other women love, live, work, and grow only to wake up one morning and realize that they’ve crossed a certain checkpoint in their life. They get up and suddenly they’re in some new territory where everything looks exactly the same, except now you’re that woman who never had kids.

Looking back at your life and realizing this reality is a very strange and unsettling feeling. Because now you have to acknowledge what you are. A woman who is not a mother.

(Doubt. Hesitation. Fear.)

As you watch everyone around you pair up, marry up, and baby up, you start to feel more and more like a straggler at the party. Everyone’s gone home, so what the hell are you still doing here?

And, to make matters worse, in the midst of feeling like a freaky straggler you get to be bombarded with all kinds of mommy propaganda all the freaking time. From the Stalkerish Womb Updates of celebrity culture to Facebook feeds of ultrasounds, first steps, baby bumps, report cards, and the whole lot of it. The decade long tabloid story in which Jennifer Aniston is not a person but a soap opera character who, despite being a successful, fit, happy, and freaking fabulous woman, is actually very deeply depressed about the fact that she is still childless at 44 is a story that will never die down. These are all reminders that if you don’t do what’s expected of you–make beau coup babies–you must be doing something wrong.

Or worse actually. There must be something wrong with you.

(Doubt. Hesitation. Fear.)

But, you know what? Screw that.

What if you don’t have a child? What if you don’t try? What if you’re not sure? What if there are extenuating circumstances? What if you don’t have the time/money/health/right partner? How the hell do you go on anyway?

In a perfect world all these confusing and scary questions wouldn’t be such a huge, social issue. It would be like ‘hey, you do you, and I’ll do me, and everything’s going to be cool, tra-la-la-la.’ Right? Whatever. But that’s not the world. The world is crappy. Because you’re supposed to work hard, contribute, support people, make something of yourself and still, in the end, everyone looks at you funny and goes: But, wait, no kids? (It’s probably even worse when they go ‘no man and no kids?’)

Not having babies, having babies, letting life decide for you, what you want, what you need, unfortunate timing, regrets, the freaking Jennifer Aniston headlines–its a lot and it sucks. Y’know, they say that the unexamined life is not a life worth living. Well, I say that an over-analyzed life in which you obsess over every tiny detail and every past choice is a freaking suffocating nightmare wet blanket. Sometimes you just have to be.

And sometimes its important to get some perspective. Remember that even if you end up staying at this party instead of moving on to the next party, its still a freaking party. A party with plenty of love, late nights, late mornings, good times, travel, shopping, joy, independence, accomplishment, and a million other great pleasures that most mothers in this world don’t have nearly enough of. It may not be the story that all the magazines talk about and that everyone in society obsesses over but it’s there. It exists. And if other people aren’t praising you for living an awesome, childless life, then you praise yourself.

And, for what it’s worth: I totally praise you too.

All my love!