Sunday, April 29, 2012

My "Ashley Judd" Moment: 34AAA and Saggy?

Ashley Judd, 44,  was in the news recently for her eloquent rebuttal after negative comments made about her face being "puffy" in a photo and some media people assuming she’d had “work done” or was “letting herself go.”

She asked women to share one of the moments when they were shamed about their appearance.

The first moment that came to mind was when I was 23. Yes, 23. I worked as a sous chef in a non-air conditioned restaurant kitchen in the American South. Hot!

It was the 1980’s and the style in the tiny, supremely casual beach resort town where I lived was for younger women to go braless, if they so desired. It was a bit of a hippie thing, and not at all unusual or remarkable. For me, a bra was more than a bit unnecessary.

I was well aware that most people thought I was flat-chested. That’s how I thought of myself, too, and sometimes it really bothered me. For the most part I had learned to accept that my breasts did not align with the view that bigger was better. But I had other things to worry about, and the size of my 34 AAA breasts was getting less important to me every year.

So there I was, well-covered in a cotton t-shirt, braless, reasonably confident about myself, sweating my ass off working in a broiling hot and humid kitchen. A young man, Tim, age 19 and a dishwasher, took a look at my t-shirt one day and made a hand gesture across his chest while uncharacteristically scowling. Tim and I were friendly acquaintances, although he ran with a different and younger crowd than me, the old lady of twenty-three.

I didn’t understand what his gesture meant, so I smiled and asked him what he was trying to say.
“They’re saggy. You really should wear a bra.”

Oh, yeah, he did.

“Are you kidding me?” was the only retort I managed to sputter.

Red-faced, disbelieving, stunned, stung, shamed at the criticism, invaded, humiliated, and self-conscious in a way that only a woman who has had her breasts publicly evaluated without asking for it can understand, I went to the other side of the kitchen and finished my shift under a pall of embarrassment.

Even today, I want to deny the charge of saggy breasts, even though whether they were or were not saggy does not truly even matter. It was the idea that someone else thought it appropriate to look closely at my breasts, evaluate them, and then pass that evaluation on to me in the form of unsolicited advice. That does matter, that Tim thought my breasts were ANY of his business.

Would I feel differently if he had said, “Nice rack!”?  

Honestly, yes, my indignity would have a different feeling, more like the all too familiar reaction most females are acquainted with-- unwanted sexual attention. That he was criticizing me for part of my body, one of the quintessentially “female” parts, is partly why this memory has stayed with me so long. He was telling me I was flawed.

Even though Ashley Judd was criticized for her face, an arguably slightly less embarrassing feature to have scrutinized, this experience from over 30 years ago was what immediately popped into my head when she asked other women to tell their moment.

My moment was in 1981. Ashley Judd’s was in 2012. Is anyone else as utterly sick of it and as ready for change as I am? Pervasive negativity about women and their looks has got to stop.

One way we can promote change is to avoid casual negative comments about a woman’s appearance, no matter whether we "like" the woman or not. JUST DON’T DO IT. I’ll be the first to admit that this is not as easy as it sounds, but I’m re-committing myself to this goal.

Will you join me in making an effort to change the way we talk about women?

Feel free to tell your “Ashley Judd” moment below.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Stalking Steve, My "Primal Grill" Crush

The recent alleged stalking of Alec Baldwin got me thinking. Uh-oh.  Very dangereuse, me, thinking.

Alec Baldwin? Pphht. Come on.

If I were a stalker, I could do waayyy better than Alec Baldwin. Geeze Louise with squeeze cheese on top.

If I were a stalker, I would stalk Steve Raichlen. (Note to FBI: this is completely hypothetical and represents no intent to commit an illegal act.)

Yes, the award winning Barbeque University founder and Primal Grill cooking show guy. Wrote the best sellers The Barbeque Bible and How to Grill along with 26 other books.  Trained in Paris at Cordon Bleu and La Varenne cooking schools.

Now, with Steve we have some serious stalking potential. He grills. He travels the world. He’s handsome, smart, and he GRILLS.

Have you seen his TV show, Primal Grill, on PBS? The man has at least three barbecues full of food going at once, with a few more smoking in the background for ambience. Hubba-hubba.  

He grills with gas, charcoal, hickory wood, apple wood, rotisserie style, in a brick oven, with skewers, on rosemary twigs, with rubs, marinades, brines, AND he always cleans his grill both before AND after cooking.

This is a man a girl can pin her midlife daydreams on. Hmmn. Would it be completely sexist to add him as a Pin on Pinterest? What category? For the home?

I assure you, my affection for Steve is not mere lust. No, these are feelings not only of attraction but of genuine admiration.

He’s perhaps the foremost authority on grilling habits of cultures around the globe. He’s the kind of smart that I find, well, sexy. He’s absolutely brainy. He had a Fulbright scholarship, for Pete’s sake.

He projects an air of calm, even when the game hens flare up. He never panics; he is fearless at the Weber kettle. He voice is strong, slow, and quietly confident.  In fact, Primal Grill is on in the background as I write.

He just said “What really turns me on…” and my breath caught in my throat. “Is finding a barbeque recipe that exists nowhere else in the world,” in that silky, smooth voice of his.

Now he’s wrapping a Columbian-style beef tenderloin Lomo al Trapo in a cloth with salt crust enlivened by a mix of herbs. He’s tying it up with string; his hands are masterful and dexterous. Oh, Steve has mad skills. He puts the beefy bundle in a bed of wood coals. He adds sweet potatoes, in their naked skins, to roast beside the meat. 

Just think of the anti-oxidants. 

Is anyone else feeling rather warm?

He’s wearing a natural linen button-down shirt, untucked, and his round, John Lennon glasses. Garlic-cilantro butter gets basted on the now roasted-to-perfection sweet potatoes. Steve rolls his “r” when he says “cilantro.” 

“Looks like we nailed it,” he says as he’s carving the tenderloin. “Smoky and succulent,” he adds.

Oh, Steve. Tell me more.

P.S. In case you got worried, I love my husband and he loves me! His fantasy girl is Anne Burrell, who stars on Food Network's Secrets of a Restaurant Chef. Sometimes, if I use extra hair gel, and he squints, he says I look like her! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Middle-Age: Am I There Yet?

Thanks to Bookalicious Pam for the prompt. She recently tweeted, “What is middle age?”

Wow. What IS  middle age? Am I there yet?

Looking at longevity stats for Western countries, life expectancy is roughly 80-85. Depending on sooo many factors.

So midlife begins at 40?

I did not feel middle-aged at 40. No. Forty seems young from here.

Now that I’m coming up on 55, yes, I do feel middle-aged, although as I joke in my heading, only if I live to be 108. Not counting on it.

In writing this blog over the past year, I have come to better terms with my own aging.  Despite my whining and gnashing of teeth.

A few downsides: I’m having a realllyy rough menopause, in case this is your first time here.  Holy cannoli—let’s leave it at that—I am so tired of menopause that even I, a menopause princess, am momentarily sick of talking about it.

Why does my health come to mind first of all when I consider my middle-agedom?

Health is not everything, but it is A LOT. If you have good health, little brothers and sisters, do not squander it or take it for granted.

I get migraines, have had some heart rhythm problems, and ridiculously, stubbornly high cholesterol. A few aches and pains. Not bad, all in all, but in middle-age, there can be that nagging question, even for the relatively healthy—what’s the next health problem?

As for the vanity stuff: my body has been rearranging itself, my neck is squishy, I would like to be more fit, but I can walk for an hour without tiring and climb steps easily in our three story house. My skin is paying for having spent years working outside in the southern sun. Too late to change that now.

I have a good husband who loves me, saggy bits and all. He tells me I’m pretty. He doesn’t wear his glasses much, and that is A-OK with me.  

I have a Mom who is my friend, and at 82 is in reasonably good health and I see her often. We take walks together.

I have some siblings who I love, and a few I even get along with.

I have friends. Some of my best friends I have not met in person, but that doesn’t matter.

I have a job; I like working with the community college students that I teach.

I go to church, but I am pretty private about my faith.

I have learned some life lessons that I didn’t know at forty, late bloomer and slow thinker that I am. Keep your eyes, ears, and hearts open, little grasshoppers, and you will keep learning, too.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is when to shut-up.

I’m still not sure what middle age is, Bookalicious Pam. But this, where I am now, seems like it to me. It’s a bit hard won for any of us, but it’s okay. Don’t be afraid.

You will still be you when you are middle-aged.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hope for Headaches

This post was written for the Headache Blog Carnival. Thanks to Diana Lee at for providing the prompt: how to keep hope in the face of migraine headaches. The link provides a list of other participating bloggers. 

It’s almost always there, the feeling of dread.

I have plans for the day, may have been looking forward to visiting a museum, shopping, a road trip to a nearby historic town. After all, it’s a holiday, and I have much to do. I’ll spend the day with loved ones, have a pleasant meal, maybe end the day watching a new comedy film.

Or maybe not.

As I drift out of sleep each morning, I’m already accessing my health. Do I feel a headache coming on? Even though I went to sleep feeling fine, did I let myself get too tired over the past several days, inadvertently eat a food with MSG, or change my daily routine in some small way, triggering an incipient migraine attack?

Or did I do none of the dozen things that I’ve identified as possible migraine triggers, and yet still feel that beginning of a throb, slight but deepening nausea, the morning sun blinding me with harsh light sensitivity instead of being the welcome portent of a pleasant, sunny day?

As a migraine sufferer, I have learned to de-emphasize to others the daily attention I give to the brain disease. There’s a stigma attached to being a migraine sufferer, and I go along by pretending that the possibility of a migraine doesn’t color many of my daily thoughts, plans and activities.

It’s just a headache, after all, right? And who wants to be known as the weakling who stays in bed in a darkened room for days, just because she has a headache? What kind of drama queen does that?

I wonder how it looks to others. Although I suffer much less than many migraineurs, I may spend four to five days in a row in bed several times a year, trying to sleep off a migraine. I know some people wonder what’s up, why I don’t just take a magic pill, or learn a meditation technique like their cousin did, and shake the headache off? I’ve tried to spread some knowledge about migraines to those who know me, but even specialists in the field admit that the migraine brain is incompletely understood.

Truly, when in the midst of an attack, people’s opinions matter little to me. But once I’m back on my feet, I am embarrassed at the thought that I had to call in sick to work, forgo plans, and ignore my family. The headache was in control, another four days of my life are gone, and can’t be replaced.

If I dwell on the attack that I just emerged from, I fear I’ll only bring on another attack. So I brush off concerns of my co-workers, friends, and family. I assure them that I’m fine. I’m ready to take on the world again, to venture out into the sun for a long walk, to tackle the project at work, to pretend that the dread is not always there in some degree, as hard as I work to repress it.

Sometimes if the days between migraines stretch into weeks, I dare to hope I’ve turned a corner. I get bolder yet, and hope that maybe this is the year researchers will come up with a solution that works for me and so many other migraineurs that are waiting. An effective preventative, a reliable, safe treatment, maybe even a cure.

We’re waiting for our tiny, budding hope to grow into full flower—a sunflower, one that doesn’t have to hide in a darkened room until the pain is gone.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Plum Fun

Some of my blogging buds, Virginia, Darcie, and Melissa (hi, girls!) goaded me into starting on Janet Evanovich’s series of eighteen books about a New Jersey bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum.

I’m hooked. Perhaps even addicted, with no desire to enter recovery.

Evanovich started the books back in the 90s, so she pre-dated many of the bounty hunter series on TV. Being a bounty hunter gives Stephanie many opportunities for danger, excitement, and “don’t taze me, Bro” Jersey-style fun.

To me, the series is about Stephanie, the woman, more than anything else. The plots are secondary and are just to keep my pal Stephanie busy between buying her latest used car (she tends to destroy one or more motor vehicles per book), going shoe shopping, changing her hairstyle, or deciding which of the two men in her life she’s lusting for this week.

In Seven Up, she once again leaves her gun stashed in her cookie jar at home, when she should have taken it to work. Stephanie regularly finds herself covered in goo, picking week-old spaghetti out of her hair after chasing a Failure to Appear/bond jumper through back alleys and dumpsters. Kudos to Evanovich for including inconsequential, goofy details like this to make Stephanie a girl I’d like to sit down and have a pizza with. After she showers and changes, of course.

Steph is one mixed up chick. She’s an adrenaline junkie; she regularly mooches dinner off her parents. She talks to her pet hamster, Rex. She likes the old people who live in her apartment building and knows their names. She loves New Jersey:  smog, hairspray, belligerent drivers and all.

She can’t figure out whether she should give it all up, and marry her childhood love, Joe Morelli. Should she get married, settle down, and have kids? Nah, not this week.

More Tastycakes than high literature, if you pick up a Plum escapade don’t expect to find Stephanie or her friends  pondering the meaning of life. Not going to happen. Purely escape fiction, a great beach read-- the series may be like candy, or better yet like the greasy Pino’s pizza Steph favors, but I for one need a few carbs to get me through life’s rough patches.

And life is like a slice of pizza, no?

Crunchy on the bottom, a little burnt, messy, spicy, but ultimately filling. And sometimes gives us bloat.