Things I (Rightly or Wrongly) Assume About You

So I have been somewhat plagued by insomnia the past week.  Hormones?  Stress?  I don’t know, but I am aware that those hours in the middle of the night amplify emotions because there is no one to share them with.   A shroud of darkness falls over the house and my mind and my thoughts race.  In the morning, I feel better but I have noticed an fascinating phemomenon.  Going back to earlier posts about judgement and the eagerness of our brains to compartmentalize, I realize I am in a state of hypervigilance related to being fucking exhausted.  In my current state, my brain is profiling others at a more rapid rate and it’s been illuminating to look back on what the blog has taught me about my own analysis of my fellow suburbanites.  Having not had adequate time for a scientific study,  my conclusion is that my brain knows I am flagging and is trying to protect me from external threats.  Thank you brain, for my suburban ass is dragging.

It’s not just the sleepless nights, however.  As this blog has progressed over the past months, I have become more and more conscious of the things I judge and assumptions I make with precious little evidence.  I have been compiling a list which I share now at risk of being rudely awakened or embarassed.  I am not proud of some of these thoughts, but am going to come clean in the interest of truth telling and a desperate attempt to shake it off and move on.   So here they are, first the facts followed by the rather crude assumptions.

You are pretty so obviously you don’t have to worry about much, you are used to getting what you want, your heart has never been broken, you always smile at yourself in the mirror.

You have a lot of money so clearly your life has been easy, you have never bought a shirt at Target, nor shopped in the clearance section, you never fight with your husband, you don’t worry about the future, your kids don’t whine about things they can’t have, you don’t suffer from anxiety, fear or doubt and you are perenially put together and would never go to Safeway in your sweats.

You are a stay at home mom so you are always patient, never yell at your kids, get to wear pajamas until noon, have a brain made of mushy Cheerios, you wonder when or if ever you will go back to work, have a knack for the smell and consistency of bodily fluids, get lonely sometimes, alternately feel elated and terrified,  you are lucky to have the opportunity to stay home and you are lucky you have not yet lost your mind.

You work full time so you are pretty much a powerhouse, you take charge in situations where the rest of us falter, you have a command of life outside the home, you cry when your babysitter sends a video of your kids playing in the park, you get pissed when the other moms talk about playdates and coffee chats of which you cannot partake, you fight with your husband over shared responsibilities, you fall asleep standing up often, you are to be pitied because you don’t have time to do yoga or get to the gym but you are to be admired for your tenacity and work ethic.

You drive a huge car so you must be a Republican or a farmer, if that huge car is a minivan, it’s a crap shoot what party flag you wave, you are rich and don’t care about gas prices, you don’t believe in global warming, you have a lot of kids, you are more likely to have those stickers with progressively smaller people and your pets.

You drive a tiny car so you must be a Democrat and very concerned about the Earth, you are thrifty and buy lots of items in trial sizes, you give us the finger while we are pumping at the gas station, you have to rent a car when your family is in town and you can actually reach your child in the backseat.

You have tattoos so you must not be afraid of pain, are open minded and liberal, or have seen military service, you don’t care what people think, you have a story to tell, you are hip and cool, you once got very drunk.  (*all the aforementioned can change depending on the quality, location and number of tattoos).

You have very short hair so you are incredibly in touch with who you are as a woman, you feel sexy, you are sure of yourself, and possibly you are lazy about things like hair dryers and anti-frizz gel.

You have poorly behaved kids so you are questionable if I don’t know you, if I know you and this is not consistent I am willing to let one slide, you don’t know how to control them, you are not getting enough help from your spouse, you are in over your head (* note that this all changes if you make an attempt at disciplining them at least), you are having a shitty day, you are a pushover.  I know, judgemental right?!

You get drunk frequently and forcefully so you must be unhappy, you must have problems, you are trying to escape from something, you have a remarkable constitution, you have too much time on your hands, you came from a family who drank alot.

You curse alot so you are my best friend,  you don’t have a good vocabulary, you come from a long line of foul mouthed hooligans, you express yourself using an alternate art form, you are not extremely religious, you say what’s on your mind.

You do creative things like knitting, re-upholstering chairs or scrapbooking so I am jealous of you, you know how to prioritize, you live a life of balance, you are calm, you are caught up in other aspects of your lives (because how can you sit and quilt when the house is destroyed?  I couldn’t), you are always happy with your creations,  your kids and husband appreciate your skill and overall craftiness.

Your house is well appointed and decorated by you so I am jealous of you too, you see things that others don’t see, your visual sense and feng-shui are exquisitely refined, you are creative in where and how to shop, you don’t care what your husband thinks, your surroundings reflect your need for beauty and order, you have money.

You know everyone and have tons of friends so you are spreading yourself very thin, you have a bubbly personality,  I can’t keep up with you, you plop into bed exhausted every night, you enjoy connecting others and making contacts, you grew up here, you will live a long life, you are sometimes lonely.

You don’t drink coffee so I can’t go on because I just don’t get it.  At least a little caffeine?

You wear pajama bottoms to pick up your kids at school so c’mon people unless you are sick this is unacceptable. You look lazy!  (I’m sorry, that was judgemental too).  By the way, drop off is another story.  PJ’s are okay then.

You are type A and very organized so your life must be easier than mine, your closets must look better than mine, you must never forget anything or let anyone down, you are my role model, you must drive yourself crazy sometimes, you have never torn through all your purses and jackets looking for a set of keys, it must be hard for you to relax, your husband and kids worship you (unlike my daughter, who informed me that her friend’s mom was not a “forgetter” like me).

You have more than two children so you must know how to play zone defense, you are youthful and vibrant and able to multi-task, you are tired alot, you have multiple calendars and carpool situations, you have a hard time getting a babysitter, you have the occasional hi-ball after the kids go to bed, you collapse into bed at night, you have an enormous grocery bill, you are a braver woman than I, you are capable of lots of love and patience.

You text frequently when you are out with your friends so you must not realize that this is really annoying, you don’t have any other time during that day when you could have texted, you don’t hear half of what is being said so it has to be repeated to you, you suffer from panic states if you can’t find your phone.

You are real and honest so you are easy to be around and I hope we get to hang out.

Okay, I could go on as this is actually fun, but I need a nap.  Send me any fun and honest assumptions you make about the people around you.  You might surprise yourself.

An Open Letter to My Body

Before I share my letter, some background.  I have a body.  So do you.  Over the years, it has frequently gotten a raw deal in terms of how I think about it.  It’s much easier to think of it negatively than any other way.  However, as I have discovered, there is a reason for this.  In Louann Brizendine’s fantastic book, “The Female Brain,” she explains that there is a part of our brains assigned to the task of negative thinking.  This tiny little formation, called the anterior cingulate cortex, is responsible for how you worry, compare and judge yourself (and others) negatively.  You know the whole Ashley Judd thing going on now?  About how she was portrayed in the media as having a “puffy face”?  Well she wrote quite the essay about it in the Daily Beast  Anyway, those people criticizing her were using their anterior cingulate cortex.  But we can be quite brutal to ourselves using the same tiny little structure.

Okay, yes, men have the same neuroanatomy.  But, this particular structure is larger in women.  We use it to meticulously observe emotion in others (Did she do a double take when she looked at me?  Does she think I look fat?)  We judge (I can’t get away with wearing this, my hips are too big!).   In the ultimate double-whammy, our brains are also super sensitive to hormone fluctuations, which does the unsavory task of amplifying any emotional nuance which may (or may not) be present.  In other words, if you are two days from your period, you are even more hyper-aware of any hint of emotion in others.  So, my daughter just came into the room all pouty and quiet.  I asked her what was wrong and she shrugged her shoulders and walked away.  I am now wondering what is wrong. My husband would have completely missed this, I am sure.  Not because he is a bad parent.  But because he is not evolved to be as cognizant of such things.

A 2000 study by Thomas Joiner at Florida State University found that we are hard wired to remember the bad stuff more vividly and shamefully even if it is manufactured in our own heads.  So, if you think your butt is too big, even if no one else has pointed this out or told you so, decades of telling yourself make you acutely ashamed of your butt.  On top of that, if you are in any way nervous or anxious when you make such a judgment on yourself (think:  first time you meet someone, at a job interview, on a date, speaking in front of a group, the entirety of middle school), the negativity sticks like glue.

So, in hopes of dispelling the negative and embracing the positive,  I will share my own letter:

Dear Body,

Please accept my apologies.  I have thought the worst about you for a long time now and I need to let you off the hook.  I am sorry, in no particular order, about the following:

Sometimes, when I look at you, I feel ashamed.  Like you are a reflection of laziness or my unbridled desire for cheese.

I have been angry at you for things which are not your fault, like dark hair and zits.  My sister has the same amount of hair but it’s blond so she doesn’t have to shave it.  Bitch.

I did not appreciate your younger incarnations, your lack of gray strands and your fuller breasts. 

I know bodies come in different sizes, and I never stopped wishing for one that was different than you. 

I have imagined you changed by plastic surgery. 

I have a hard time listening to you, like when you are tired or sick.  I get frustrated too quickly with you when you aren’t what I want right now.

Reading all those shape and fitness magazines!   They only make me be more judgemental of you.  I mean, we could manage a bikini, couldn’t we?   Okay, dammit, we don’t have to!

Equating how you look with how worthy a person I am.  That’s not fair.

Never trying on clothes because I don’t want to face you in that fucking dressing room mirror.  You deserve better than that.

Even though my husband says you are beautiful, I have a hard time digesting that.  The bad stuff I tell myself is easier to believe. 

Commenting on the appearance of other women.  It’s not compassionate.

Still berating myself after so many years.  It is really fucking old, isn’t it?

Exposing you to toxins to make you more attractive.  Like tanning beds, dexatrim and Jazzercise. 

I also wish to thank you for the following:

My babies.  I am so lucky to have not struggled with a thousand interventions to help me get and stay pregnant, and that you graced me with adequate milk supply and the ability to cry at the slightest provocation.

Bouncing back.  Every time.

Working with me during yoga.  I know you don’t like being stretched that way but we have made some excellent progress!

Sex.  No, reader, you are not getting any more information than that.

Being remarkably healthy and relatively free of aches and pains.  You are holding up quite nicely.

Dancing with my girls.  Sheer bliss.

My breath.  Being able to use it has helped us become so much more grounded. 

Being able to ride my bike.  So simple, so special.

My brain.  You make me curious, which keeps me alive.

Being able to touch my toes, hold my pee until I make it to the bathroom, enjoy delicious food, read great books, hug my kids, listen to transcendent people and music,  navigate a car,  run with my dog and a thousand other things I take for granted on a daily basis.


Your owner

A two parter!  Next post will be about research to make all of us feel better about our bodies.  We could all use a little more self acceptance.

In case you are interested, here is the link to Ashley Judd’s essay.  And all the praise and criticism for it: