Monthly Archives: April 2012

Earth Day Recap

Sometimes I feel like I’d handle adversity better if I’d had some siblings to make my life harder as a kid. As an only child, I had it pretty dang easy. Even when my older girl cousins didn’t let me play with them, I was all right because I had Nolan (shoutout to my boy!) to play with. Plus, one of our older cousins (no one say who!) was too compassionate to keep up the bullying for long. She’d come play with us even if the other two would refuse because she couldn’t stand excluding us.

Little did she know that in the future, her compassionate nature would work against her in the form of a rare condition called ‘not being able to break up with anyone ever‘. Once, after a summer of working up the courage to dump a dude she didn’t like at all, the other girl cousins and I watched through a window while she broke up with him. FOR SIX HOURS. (We were supposed to watch a movie we’d rented, and we couldn’t start without her.) It went like this:

Cousin explains her feelings with gentle hand gestures.

Dude looks bewildered, makes pleading we-can-work-it-out face.

Cousin shakes her head, drops dude’s hand.

Dude makes pathetic face, sometimes with tears.

Cousin cries while shaking her head slightly.

They hug.

Cousin steps back, makes her case with gentle hand gestures…


But that is neither here nor there.

The point I was making is that I work best when things are easy. When things are hard, my first instinct is not to buck up and deal with it. I’d rather cover my ears and eyes, so I can pretend nothing is the matter. (Working on it.)

When I moved into my apartment in October, I was glad to see we had a backyard…of sorts. It’s a plot of land behind our building with trees and plants growing in it, but it’s just as much an unofficial landfill as it is a backyard. See for yourself.

Trash everywhere! Trash everywhere! Trash-trash-trash everywhere!

I wanted to ignore it, but as soon as I saw it, I knew I had to do something about it. I told Devin and my housemates that it would be my Earth Day project and  tried to feel really excited about it, but it was daunting. I’ve always loved Earth Day, but I’ve never coordinated a big clean-up myself, so I had no idea how I would accomplish it. Would the landlord let me? Would my neighbors help? I wasn’t very optimistic, but I persevered. I figured, best-case scenario: I’d clean it up with helpful neighbors blasting salsa music from a sweet sound system on their fire escape. Worst-case scenario: I’d be eaten to death by feral cats, and my remains would quickly be engulfed by all that garbage never to be found.

Actual scenario: somewhere in the middle. I made a sloppy hand-written flyer to advertise the clean-up, but when I took it to be photocopied, the employees designed and printed beautiful posters for me, for cheap. (Cool!)

Some of the flyers were immediately taken down by a neighbor who did not want the area to be cleaned up because her windows face the yard, and she was worried about noise. (Bummer.)

The landlord promised to send a dump truck. (Cool!)

It never came. (Bummer.)

Devin came from Connecticut, armed with determination and six pairs of work gloves. (Cool!)

Only three of those pairs were used because the only people who came were Devin, a neighbor who stopped by for an hour, and me. Nice weather also failed to make an appearance. I can’t remember the last time I was that cold and wet. (Bummer.)

Still, at the end of the day, we had something to show for our hard work. (Cool!)

The coolest things to come out of this project are actually the promise of bigger, more organized projects. After the clean-up was over, I received a phone call from a womyn in the next building who has lived there for forty years. She told me the neighborhood has never been this littered and brought up the point that it is a big fire hazard and that, if our buildings were to catch on fire, we wouldn’t have a safe place to go because that’s where we’re supposed to climb down and congregate. She’s reported it to her super and her landlord who have both promised to help (much like mine) but haven’t done a thing, so she is ready to take action in a bigger way. We are planning a meeting with more neighbors to get ourselves organized. I also got an e-mail from a group who has been cleaning up their lot and planting flowers every Spring for three years. They mentioned getting together to plan a block-wide cleaning day!

I’ve been looking for ways to be a better member of my community, and it seems like I might’ve stumbled into a way to meet my neighbors, make my neighborhood a safer place to live, and help my immediate environment thrive.

And so, I declare Operation Rise to the (Earth-Day) Challenge, a success!


Hating your body’s just something to do*

I decided in September, in a lovely Park Slope bathroom, looking in the mirror at a face dotted with acne scars incurred over twelve years (and counting), looking down at the rest of my body—a body that gained twenty pounds throughout college and, in 2011, outgrew clothes for the first time in eight years.

I decided, ‘If this is as good as it gets, this is great.’ I decided to stop striving to be any different. I decided to stop treating my body as a fixer-upper project. It felt daring. Like, ‘Really, can I just opt out? I mean, I try to opt out; but can I just opt out completely?’ I tried it out. I said, ‘I like my body just the way it is, and I promise to like it no matter how it looks’. It felt really, really good. Since then, I’ve been committed to sustaining that feeling of self-acceptance and body positivity.

That’s not to say it’s easy. Especially as the weather warms. I love warm weather, but man, does it bring on the body policing. Magazine covers are emblazoned with brazenly fat-phobic headlines:

  • Drop the weight faster [emphasis in original] (Redbook, May 2012)||Message: The underlying assumption is that the reader already wants to lose weight.
  • 5 DAY BODY MAKEOVER + THE CELLULITE TREATMENT THAT WORKS (Harper’s Bazaar, May 2012)||Message: Another underlying assumption that the reader wants to alter her body (wild guess: the makeover is not probably not about gaining weight) + CELLULITE IS GROSS. GET RID OF IT.
  • Feel Great Naked! 9 Foods That Burn Fat While You Eat (Cosmopolitan, May 2012)||Message: The only way to feel great naked is not to be fat.
  • PERFECT SKIN? YES, IT’S POSSIBLE! +THE ONE-HOUR PAIN-FREE FAT ZAPPER (Elle, May 2012)||Message: There is no excuse for not being thin and having flawless skin. Spend lots of money on unnecessary procedures. + Fat is so awful it should be zapped. (ZAPPED?!?)

These are just some of the body-shaming phrases I’ll read on my daily walk to the subway for the next month. And, in a few weeks, covers like this will start popping up.

Plus, the warmer it gets, the more I overhear things like, ‘Ugh, I should not be eating this right now’, ‘Gross, I feel SO fat’, and ‘I am not ready to go to the beach. I don’t even want to go’.

It can be overwhelming for me. I hope it’s not overwhelming for you. Just in case, here’s a list of the things I tell myself to keep sane in a fat-phobic, image-obsessed society.

My body-positive self-talk

  1. Don’t hate fat. Hate anything that teaches fat = bad.
  2. Pay no attention to numbers like weight or clothing size. If you feel bad or weird for buying size [whatever] pants, think of all the people you know who are bigger or smaller than you. Remember how much you love them and how you would feel if anyone told them their bodies were unacceptable. You would be enraged! Your friends and family are perfect just they way they are. So are you.
  3. Never criticize other people’s appearance. Opt out of body policing.
  4.  Never criticize your body, especially in group settings. It prompts others to feel bad about themselves.
  5. Only do your hair, shave your legs, put on make-up, tweeze your eyebrows, wear uncomfortable anything if YOU feel like it. Remember, these are silly, meaningless endeavors that you do for fun. If they’re not fun, why do them?
  6. Consume feminist media and actively critique non-feminist media.
  7. Don’t call little girls ‘beautiful’ or ‘cute’ or ‘pretty’. Remember, girls begin learning that their appearance is the most important thing about them from an early age.

Don’t feel guilty for eating potato chips. NEVER feel guilty for eating something you enjoy. Feel lucky to be able to afford such a luxury. Feel guilty for buying products with body-shaming messages. Try not to buy products labeled ‘diet’ or ‘light’. Tell the companies that use this sort of advertising that preying on insecurities is not cool. (AHEM, TRADER JOE.)

Do you have any body-positive self-talk?

*The title of this blog post is a line from ‘What’s Wrong with You?’ by Bratmobile. It’s one of my favorite riot grrrl songs.

It’s springtime in Brooklyn, and I have the Instagram pictures to prove it.

I'm head-over-heels for my new tote bag. Can you say 'arm candy'?!

One of my neighbors is a secret gardener.

Across the East River lies a magical land called Manhattan, where cartons of orange juice cost at least $2.50 (according to the man who charged me $1.75 for a tiny carton of orange juice in Brooklyn).

If you must go to that overpriced borough, take the East River Ferry. That way you can get a closer look at the Williamsburg Bridge.

Speaking of Williamsburg, this guy's been driving around. Score one for subtle advertising.

Tasha's style is having no trouble with the winter-spring transition.

Meanwhile, I'm trying my darndest to delude myself into believing I can pull off tennis shoes.

That’s all for now. Cross your fingers that I get to see a podiatrist soon, so I can go back to wearing tennis shoes only when I want to wear tennis shoes (i.e. never!).