Body and Other Four Letter Words

There are many reasons why I haven’t blogged in well over a year, but today I’m going to address one of the main reasons. One of the main reasons I decided to blog in the first place was simply to address issues most important to me, and with the issues of body image and infertility, I’ve failed to do just that. How do you address something that affects every single aspect of your life? How do you address something so overwhelming that no one, not even those who love you the most, wants to hear it? The thing is that the longer I let these thoughts fester, let these words go unsaid, the longer I wonder if there is something I could’ve done for girls and women dealing with the same issues.

As a child, I can precisely pinpoint the moment when I was told my body wasn’t good enough; it was the day I entered kindergarten. Prior to kindergarten, no one called me fat or felt the need to constantly remind me just how short I was. Sure, I was a “stocky” kid, but I was also active. I played outside constantly with my little sister, cousins, etc. I never felt self-conscious in a bathing suit; I was having too much fun swimming. I never felt the need to compare myself to anyone else. Did I envy my older cousins? Of course I did! I looked up to all four of them (all female), but even as a small child I knew that to compare myself to someone so much older simply didn’t make sense.

Everything changed in kindergarten. In gym, I was always picked last for teams. When we had to line up by height (again, in gym), I was inevitably last or next to last. Sadly, I was compared to a little girl who was much larger than me. I just remember the anger and outrage of such an unjust comparison, and yet, I felt empathy for the other girl. Was that really how other kids saw me? As time wore on, kids started making rhymes about my body. 25 years later, and I still remember it all: “Short, fat, and squatty; got no face, got no body.”

In some ways things got better in junior high. I went from being bullied to being mostly ignored. As others paired off and experimented, I just threw myself into my school work and books. Sports were never much of an option for me, and unfortunately, sports at the junior high/high school I attended were the key to popularity, especially if you were a girl. I wasted my time on crushes who couldn’t be bothered to even talk to me, much less date me. Once my little sister joined me at the same school, I was bombarded with comments such as: “I can’t believe you two are sisters! Your sister is so pretty and popular!” The implication, of course, being that I was the exact opposite: ugly and unpopular.

As an adolescent, I would’ve given anything to look like my Mom and sister, both of whom I considered relatively thin (though they would both fight me on that one), beautiful, and popular. At the time, I wanted blonde hair and blue eyes if it meant acceptance. I remember driving with my Mom in her new red Grand Prix as a young teenager. GM had completely redesigned the Grand Prix, and my Mom had one of the first redesigned models in the area. My Mom had lost a lot of weight, and frankly, looked great. Every time I went somewhere with my Mom, it seemed as though we would get stares, mainly from men. I couldn’t help but wish I was the one making heads turn, not my Mom. Despite all of the disparaging remarks my Mom would make about her own weight, I never saw her as anything but beautiful.

Adolescence is hard, but it is even harder if you are short and fat. At the time, I thought I was huge, and that there was no chance I’d ever lose the weight. Today, I’d love to weigh what I did in high school. In college, I proved myself wrong and lost a lot of weight due to walking Michigan State’s campus and walking all over Spain during my semester there. What I wasn’t prepared for was how I would be treated differently. People were interested in me, in my life – even a few men.

After college, after moving to Houston, Texas for my first “real” job, things changed. I took all of the stress of that job, the joy of being in a relationship, and the loneliness I felt before Brian joined me in Houston, and I did what I do best: I used it as a license to eat. The desk job didn’t help either. Not only did I gain back all of the weight I lost, I kept gaining more too. It got to the point that my Dad and Grandma were shocked when I returned to Michigan. They couldn’t even hide it as I’d gained that much weight.

Today I’m at a point in my life where I’d love to lose the weight again. I’m single, and frankly, happier than I’ve been in a very long time. The thing is that I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t admit that I’m scared: I’m scared of all of the attention I’d receive if I did lose the weight. The experience of having lived through that once left me angry. Am I really that much more of an interesting person if I am relatively thin? As I thought through all of that, I realized that losing weight would only be temporary (again) if I didn’t deal with my own body issues. I’m left wondering how I am supposed to do that when everything in our society states, quite bluntly, that my body, even at its best, will never be good enough on account of my height alone.

If there is anything I want girls and women to take from this, it is this:
We should not feel we have to be a certain weight to feel loved and accepted for who we are, society be damned.
Never let anyone tell you differently.

We as a society need to come to accept the simple fact that people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Words hurt much more than most people realize.

Is this what we want for girls?

Is this what we want for girls?

Through all of this over-thinking of body image as of late, I came to realize that I’ve never truly even liked my body, and much of the reason stems from infertility. The first thing I ever remember wanting out of life was to be a mom. At no point in my life did I ever not want a family of my own. Unfortunately, biologically, it just isn’t going to happen. Fortunately, I came to terms with the fact adoption is a wonderful alternative a long time ago. And yet, I’ve never quite forgiven my body for so fundamentally betraying me.

If I resemble anyone on either side of my family, it would be my Great-Grandma Suszko, my Dad’s maternal grandmother. At nineteen, I was working with my Grandma (her daughter) when she opened a package from a niece containing her parents’ wedding photo, newly redone. My Grandma kept staring at the photo and then back at me. It was clear she thought I looked like her Mom, although the fact that I was the same age as the girl in the photograph probably helped. As someone deeply interested in family history, I have a copy of Great-Grandma Suszko’s naturalization papers. Her physical description could fit me perfectly, with one exception: she was two inches taller than I am. My Great-Grandma Suszko had ten children, all but one of whom lived well into their 70s. Add in the fact that my Mom has four sisters, and I came up with one conclusion: My body should be built to bear children. It just isn’t.

What people who don’t have infertility fail to realize is that dealing with it is an on-going process, not a one-time deal. Just when you feel you are fine with it, accepted it fully, and have moved on, something happens that forces you to deal with it all over again. For me, one of the hardest things to deal with was the day I realized that I fully met the medical definition of infertile (I’ll spare you the details). There just wasn’t anyone I could share that deep sense of loss with at the time, even my boyfriend. I’ve talked a lot about my experiences with body image, but it just wasn’t complete without discussing infertility as well. There was a time in my life that dealing with infertility was so painful that I downplayed my desire for a family of my own. I downplayed it to the point that my own sister never realized that I wanted children. It saddens me that those I love most can never fully understand due to the simple fact that they are parents.

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Spring 2014 - Holding my niece Ellloyse.

Spring 2014 – Holding my niece Ellloyse.

Happy Times - 2002

Happy Times – 2002

Turner Syndrome In Pop Culture The Condition: A Novel: Jennifer Haigh: Books

Jennifer Haigh || Author of Faith, The Condition, Baker Towers and Mrs Kimble

Books of The Times – In ‘The Condition,’ Jennifer Haigh Explores a Fractured Family – Review –

Jennifer Haigh – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Believe it or not, there are a couple of instances in the past few years in which Turner Syndrome was portrayed, fairly correctly, in pop culture.  Personally I am glad to see it.  Let’s start with the book.

The protagonist of Jennifer Haigh’s 2008 novel The Condition, Gwen, has Turner Syndrome.  While the “condition” of the novel supposedly refers to Turners, it really, at the end of the novel, represents the human condition.  I won’t go into detail about Gwen’s family, all of whom are much more screwed up than she is, other than to say the entire novel is about family dysfunction and the million little ways in which we hurt each other.

For a time, I felt conflicted about the book.  For every woman with Turners who felt the book accurate, there were just as many who saw it as inaccurate.  From my perspective, it is fairly accurate; it just uses the physical and social characteristics associated with Turners to full effect.  After reading the book a second time, I still find it hard to fairly review the book.  I suppose in some ways it describes various aspects of Turners a little too well.

There are a few scenes in the book that I could directly relate to as a woman with Turners.  The scene in which Gwen is compared to a female cousin approximately the same age breaks my heart, as did the scene in which Gwen begs her Mother for a new bathing suit.  I could relate.  I have a slightly older female cousin who happened to wear women’s sizes long before I could.  I distinctly remember feeling left out, never able to catch up, and plain envious.  Jennifer Haigh captured the situation well, but I wish she would’ve included more from Gwen’s perspective, even if she was a child at the time.

One of the most perplexing and complicated relationships in the novel happens to be between Gwen and her Mother.  Again, I found I could relate to their relationship, unfortunately.  Gwen seemed to have the need to become her own woman, in spite of what her Mother thought best.  While I have a better relationship with my Mom than Gwen had with hers, I do feel she doesn’t even begin to understand where I am coming from at times.  While that may be true for many mothers and daughters, I do think a diagnosis of Turner Syndrome strains that particular relationship.  How can mothers help their daughters deal with almost certain infertility, especially at a young age?  I was diagnosed at age three and knew about infertility by age ten.  I don’t think there is an answer and I don’t think most moms know how to even begin to address it.

Most of the action in the novel pertaining to Gwen revolves around her finally finding love and happiness.  The details pertaining to the reactions of her family members, some of which are just plain awful, seem a bit far-fetched.  Then again, many people just do not know what to make of women with Turner Syndrome at times, especially when it comes to romantic relationships and sex.  While the book ended on very positive notes, the ending seemed forced.  I must say that I highly approve of the life Gwen created for herself in the end.  What more can anyone ask for?

Below is a video of Jennifer Haigh discussing The Condition.  I suppose I’m left wondering if she understands the role hormone replacement therapy plays in helping women with Turners Syndrome develop secondary sex characteristics, but I digress.

IMDb – “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” Clock (TV episode 2006)

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Clock – Season 8, Episode 2 –

Clock – Law and Order

It is now time to move on to TV.  Several years ago I was pleasantly surprised to learn that one of my favorite TV shows, Law & Order:  Special Victims Unit, dealt with Turner Syndrome.  In the episode Clock, teenager Janey Speer, who has Turners, disappears with a classmate while on a field trip.  While Benson and Stabler first believe Janey to be the victim in the case, it isn’t so clear cut in the end.

I won’t give away the plot – and Turners is central to the plot in this case – but there are a couple of things I found quite amusing about this episode.  First and foremost, this episode portrays Turners girls and women as extremely stubborn.  I certainly fit that stereotype, as does most of my family.  The amusing part is that most Turners girls and women I’ve met over the years also fit the stereotype.  We are a feisty bunch.  My theory is that we had to be stubborn even to survive in the womb.  As 98 to 99% of fetuses with Turner Syndrome are miscarried, we can truly say we are the 1%.

The episode focuses on just how young Janey looks at 17.  In many ways I take exception to the portrayal of Turners girls and woman as always looking much younger than their true age.  That certainly isn’t always the case, although it would come in handy say at age 40.  What got me is the reaction from the cops to Janey’s relationship with her boyfriend.  He really did get treated shabbily.  One detective even tried to get him as pedophile.  While it would be easy to find that offensive, there was enough humor and humanity in the characters throughout the episode to put things in perspective.  Maybe I’m just partial to Turners girls and women being portrayed as stubborn.  Of course we are!

Cover of "The Condition: A Novel"

Cover of The Condition: A Novel

What does science fiction tell us about the future of reproductive rights? | James Russell Ament


Frankenstein (1931) film poster

Image via Wikipedia

What does science fiction tell us about the future of reproductive rights? | James Russell Ament.

Some great food for thought.

Of Jane And Elizabeth, Helen And Bridget

Sometimes there are characters that stay with you to the point of distraction.  Currently I am rereading Pride and Prejudice.  I’m reading it again as a prelude to Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James.  Don’t ask me why other than to say it has been over a decade since I last read Pride and Prejudice.

There is something I can identify with in the character of Elizabeth Bennet.  She isn’t considered the beauty among her sisters, but she is the one with an intellectual spark so underappreciated in women during the Regency period.  I love the fact that Elizabeth doesn’t easily fall for Mr. Darcy.  She holds out for more than just a comfortable marriage, she holds out for true love.  She isn’t willing to sacrifice herself, her true sense of self, for any man.  That is a trait to be admired.

I can’t imagine what it was like for Jane Austen to create such a formidable, well-developed female character at that time.  Today it is easy to forget what stringent social norms governed every aspect of a woman’s life.  It would’ve been difficult to be a successful female novelist then, under the best of circumstances, much less while creating strong female protagonists determined to have some say in direction of their own lives.  I admire the strength it must have taken to continue to create something so complex, and beautiful, which many at the time would have perceived as frivolous.

It continues to amaze me just how prevalent Jane Austen’s novels – and anything associated with them – are within modern society.  In fact, there is even a well-established blog dedicated to anything and everything Jane Austen.  It is called AustenBlog.  As the tagline used to say, “She’s everywhere.”  Sometimes you just have to look.

When Bridget Jones’ Diary first came out, I did not know to what extent it is tied to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  While I knew Colin Firth portrayed Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice and later played barrister Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones’ Diary, I didn’t realize that Bridget Jones’ Diary is nothing less than an update of major plot points in Pride and Prejudice.  I’m not sure whether or not that was author Helen Fielding’s intention when she created the Bridget Jones character for her series of newspaper articles for the Independent, but the evidence is there.

Just like Elizabeth Bennet, Bridget Jones does not realize Mr. Darcy’s true feelings for her until it is almost too late.  Like Elizabeth Bennet, Bridget feels compelled to marry, despite vastly different social circumstances – and for slightly different reasons.  Both also have the misfortune to have overbearing, but well-meaning, mothers who do not truly understand the inner turmoil experienced by their daughters.

Despite time and social progress, I believe many women still find themselves mirrored in both Elizabeth Bennet and Bridget Jones.  I have yet to figure out exactly what it is except to say that I can identify.  Maybe it is a longing for a sense of belonging within society as a whole, including a desire to create a family of one’s own, all against the backdrop of a screaming biological clock.  Maybe it is the deep-seated desire in every woman to be loved just as she is.  Or it may be the generational divide between mothers and daughters leading daughters to feel completely misunderstood by their own mothers.  Whatever it may be, it is universal.  I’m just glad I get to laugh along with Jane, Elizabeth, Helen, and Bridget.

pride and prejudice

Blog Tour: Spin The Plate By Donna Anastasi

Today I’m reviewing Spin The Plate by Donna Anastasi as part of the Spin The Plate Book Tour.

Spin The Plate by Donna Anastasi is not normally the type of book I would select for myself.  It is not the type of book I’d normally pick up while browsing the library or bookstore.  That said, I’m glad that I found out about the book and have the opportunity to share my reading experience with everyone.

We start out meeting Jo.  Jo is a loner who projects a tough image in order to protect herself.  In reality, she has shut herself off from most of the world around her.  She works as a tattoo artist in Boston and her regimented daily schedule includes work, spending time with several animal companions, and midnight excursions to help women and animals in need.  One chance meeting on her way to work changes all of that.

That chance meeting with Francis begins to change Jo’s life.  Francis is a very religious, mysterious man who becomes obsessed with Jo’s tough veneer.  He is determined to become a part of her life.  His persistence pays off.  Jo and Francis are two of the most unique characters I’ve come across.  The entire dynamic of their developing relationship made for wonderful reading.

It is through Jo’s relationship with Francis that we learn Jo’s horrific childhood story.  I won’t spoil the story, but it was satisfying to watch Jo finally deal with decades of baggage thrust upon her during childhood.  You can’t help but to root for her eventual happiness.

The ending of the book is satisfying in many ways and I ended the book wanting more.  I get the impression that this is not the last readers will see of Jo and Francis.  I’m glad.  I can imagine the new direction their story will take.  As a writer, I feel they may be even more interesting than the initial story.

In preparation for reviewing Spin The Plate by Donna Anastasi, I read many of the previous stops on the earlier blog tour.  One reviewer stated that she felt the book wouldn’t get the attention it deserved due to the facts it covered controversial topics and it doesn’t nicely fit into one genre.  I agree completely.  I can only hope that Spin The Plate continues to get some attention and gets picked up by readers.  The book does have a powerful message.  No one has to remain the victim of their circumstances.  Anyone can change for the better.

You can find more information on the blog tour, and additional stops, below:

Spin The Plate Book Tour

Blog Tour Round Up: Spin The Plate By Donna Anastasi | Ramblings of a Misguided Blonde

Why I Am Not A Feminist

Althouse at Japanese Restaurant

Image by Ann Althouse via Flickr

Althouse: “Feminism is all about taking control away from the individual woman…”

I have to agree with Althouse on this one.  Since when does feminism get to be defined by one political party?  When do you have to subscribe to a narrow set of arbitrary beliefs to be a “feminist”?  I’d love to know.  I am tired of people assuming my political viewpoints simply due to my gender.  After a while the assumptions are tiring.  Althouse is on to something.

Mr. Darcy… Among Other Things… Sigh.

This video just cheers me up.  “Bridget Jones’ Diary” is one of my favorite movies of all time, even though I truly disliked the sequel.  The very last scenes between Bridget and Mark Darcy are some of my favorite movie scenes of all time.  Bridget running after him in her underwear:  Priceless.  I think back to my college days and how we drooled over Collin Firth.

  • Bridget Jones's Diary (film)

    Image via Wikipedia