What I Am Going to Be

I have a picture in my head of what I’m going to be.

I’m going to be big. Not too big – I’m not going to be talked about hundreds of years from now like Shakespeare or anything. I’m not going to last long enough for people to start arguing about whether or not I actually existed. But still, there will be people who will know my name, people who I haven’t met before. That would be enough for me.

I’m going to be stable, and I’m going to land my dream job, and I’m going to be satisfied with it. I’m not going to go home after a long day at work and feel like nothing I did mattered, or like it was all just a big waste of time. No, I’m going to change people’s lives. I’m going to make a difference in this world.

I’m going to be happy. I don’t entirely know how yet, but when I look into my future, I see it. I see me, fifty years old, smiling and serene and satisfied with my lot, proud of my past self for not giving up. I’m going to have a system of support around me – friends, colleagues, a partner maybe (if I get really crazy with the happiness).

In short, I’m going to be okay. I see it. I feel it there, just there, just beyond my reach, and if I just keep trying, just keep reaching for what I want, I know I can get there, I can, it’s just…

It’s hard.

It’s hard to remain convinced that what I see is real, it’s achievable. I can get everything I want if I just keep trying. I mean, it’s not like I’m going to spend all my life trying and trying and trying, and it’s never enough, no matter what I do, because regardless of persistence or resilience or talent, I just wasn’t born in the right place, to the right family, knowing the right people. That would never happen.

Right?

But at the end of the day, do my doubts even matter? Because, hell, maybe my doubts are correct. Maybe my vision of the future is a lie that I tell myself to make these meaningless work days go by a little bit faster, these constant rejections feel a little less final. But either way, I think I need to live as though this vision of the future is real. I need to pretend that I can be big and stable and happy, so long as I just keep trying. Because at the end of the day, I know that I can’t give up now. If I give up, then that vision of the future is guaranteed to be a lie. If I keep trying, then how can I know for sure?

So I’ll keep trying. And I’ll keep telling myself that that picture in my head is what I am going to be. Because that’s what I want. More than anything in this world, that is what I want.

Real Women Have Curves (As Opposed to Fake Women?)

Model and actress Karrueche Tran recently posted a picture of herself wearing a bikini to social media. As you might have already guessed, the response to this was…varied, as it usually is whenever a woman reveals to the world that she has a body. Because, let’s face it, whenever a woman does this, everyone and their dog feels entitled to giving their opinion on how she looks.

Probably most notably, rapper Ralo told Tran that she “looked better” with her clothes on, and while this is problematic, as he had absolutely no right to objectify and police Tran’s body like this, the comments that I want to focus on are the comments that were not made by celebrities, comments like “she look like a 10 yr old girl” and, even more interesting, “she look like a boy in his early stages of transitioning into a woman”.

There are a few reasons why I find these comments interesting. One of them is the obvious transphobia, especially in the latter comment, as this person is likening a cis-gendered woman to a transgendered woman, presumably as a method of undermining and insulting her, as though there is something wrong with being transgender (and, yes, I am acutely aware of the fact that this commenter used a male pronoun to refer to a transgender woman). But another reason why I find this response interesting is this idea of failing to live up to the image of “woman” through the simple act of having a body – even a genetically female body. Tran is described as looking like a child, or as though she was not born in a female body – she is described as being distinctly un-womanly, simply because she has smaller breasts.

And maybe I’d be able to forgive this as an isolated incidence if it isn’t something that I’ve seen before. There’s this idea that gets passed around, frequently on social media, that “real women have curves”. Sometimes this is used as a way to defend plus-sized women, because let’s not deny it: plus-sized women have a very difficult time having a body in our society. They are deemed less beautiful than thinner women, they are frequently and publicly shamed, by both the media and the people around them, sometimes even by complete strangers. So in an attempt to take some power back, some of them will make comments about how a woman should look in order to be “real”. But sometimes comments like these don’t have reasons so deep: sometimes they’re just meant to uphold the status quo, to say that women with breasts and hips and ass are hot.

But what about women who don’t have curves? Aren’t they real women? After all, they identify as women. They live as women. They get treated like women do in our society, they get objectified and picked apart just the same. So why do we keep using this language?

The strange thing about referring to specific people as ‘real women’ is that it implies that the opposite exists – that there are fake women. But there aren’t. You cannot fail to live up to the image of a woman, because there is no one specific way that a woman should look. Society may have made up a few phony ways for you to fail, but they aren’t real.

Because here’s how a real woman looks: any which way she wants. A real woman has curves, and a real woman doesn’t. A real woman can have large breasts or small breasts or none at all. Hell, there are some real women out there who have beards or penises, and that doesn’t make them any less real. The only qualification to count as a ‘real woman’ is to identify as a woman. As long as that is so, then congratulations – you’re a real woman.

And, people: let’s stop policing the way that women look. Let’s stop shaming every last woman, celebrity or not celebrity, for having a body and letting people see it. Because at the end of the day, we’re never satisfied as a society. There has never been a woman who posted a picture of herself wearing a bikini on social media, and the general consensus was simply “yeah, great picture”. Karrueche Tran might have been deemed not curvy enough to be beautiful, but singer Rihanna was recently deemed too curvy to be beautiful, one blogger even going so far as to make the comment that her “high key thiccness” would lead to “a world of ladies shaped like the Hindenburg.” We as a society are never satisfied with a woman as just having a body – we are constantly finding ways to pick it apart, to make it not live up to our expectations, even if they do align with our society’s definition of beauty.

And, yes, making these comments are policing – they tell women that, if they would just get breast implants, or eat more, or eat less, or do this, or do that, or go get that surgery, or whatever, then they would suddenly become more beautiful. When the truth is that they won’t. Society en masse is never satisfied with the way that women look, because society en masse is never satisfied with the presence of women to begin with. No matter what you change, there will always be someone out there who will pick you apart, so please, don’t change for them. If you want to change, change for yourself, because you are the only person who has to be satisfied with how you look at the end of the day.

We All Lead Our Own Stories

Perhaps one of the most fascinating things about people en masse is the fact that we are all our own separate story.

Our world is filled to the brim with stories, and we are all the protagonists of our own. The genre changes by the week or by the month or by the minute even. Sometimes, we are caught in horror stories or tragedies, and our lives are characterized by fear or loss or sadness. Sometimes, we are swept up in romantic comedies for a time, or maybe inspirational dramas, where we’re the underdog just struggling for recognition, striving to reach that happy ending so we can move on to the next chapter in our lives.

And just like with any well-written story, we are all three-dimensional characters. Every last one of us have a motivation for our actions, a reason to do it. Some of our motivations are better than others. Sometimes we are motivated by fear or anger or bitterness or a plain-and-simple bad mood. But, end of day, we all have a motivation, and we all believe that our motivations are good enough.

We are all the protagonists of our own stories, and so we are all just trying to be heroes. We want to overcome our obstacles, to come out stronger in the end and make a difference in the world. Sometimes we’ll settle for the role of anti-hero to get what we want, but nobody ever sets out to be a one-dimensional, cut-and-dry villain.

Nobody acts without motivation. Nobody intends to be cruel for the sake of cruelty, not unless they are really and truly hurt as human beings. Nobody is any less than a detailed and well-told story of varying genres.

And one thing that really bugs me, something that is growing as a pet peeve of mine, is when people forget all that.

And sometimes it’s not only easy but necessary to forget all that, but I’m talking about some pretty intense situations here. I’m talking about times when you have been hurt deeply by someone, and when forgiveness just isn’t possible quite yet. When the only way that you can fully rationalize what they did to you is by telling yourself that they’re simply evil, and that’s all there is to it. In situations such as these, I cannot bring myself to look down upon a hurt person who is still dealing with a fresh trauma, but these are not the situations that I am talking about.

I am talking about the people that we do not know, the stories that we have not yet been told, and yet we dismiss them so quickly, without even a thought.

I’m talking about seeing a girl in a public space wearing a bikini, and immediately dismissing her as a “dumb slut” without even considering any other alternatives – maybe she was just at the beach? Maybe she is really self-conscious about her body and trying to come to terms with how it looks? Maybe she’s really, really hot? Who knows, and more importantly, who are you to judge?

I’m talking about seeing someone standing too close to something dangerous, and rather than trying to help them, dismissing them as “stupid” and “deserving to be hurt”, but maybe they don’t even know that this is dangerous?

I’m talking about hating someone because of the way that their face looks. I’m talking about telling others that you want to punch someone because of something small and trivial that they keep doing, like smiling or looking your way. I’m talking about deciding that someone else is “no good” or “up to something” because they dress a certain way.

I’m talking about judging someone else as worthless without even knowing anything about them.

And one of the greatest reasons why this has become a pet peeve of mine is because it creates such an intense air of negativity. It creates enemies out of people who are just leading their own lives. It makes the one doing the judging think so much worse of people, because they are so much quicker to hate them. And I don’t want any part of that.

I’m not saying that all people are good or trustworthy, but all people are people. They have reasons for the things that they do, and you won’t always know their reasons. You might never find out that the girl annoying you with her public crying cannot control her panic attack and is at her wit’s end with the story she is leading, but that doesn’t make it any less real. That doesn’t make her story any less valuable or important. And it doesn’t make us any better to look down on her for it.

Is It Important To Know You Are Beautiful?

Recently, I heard someone present the argument that it is not at all important for us to think our bodies are attractive. We don’t need to accept our weight or our stretch marks or our hair, because at the end of the day, none of that makes us us. We are not our bodies. We are not our nose or our eyes or our legs or our ass. We are more than that; we are people. We are intelligence and wit and kindness and strength. We don’t have to be beautiful, because we transcend that.

I agree with part of this argument. I agree that, yes, we are more than our bodies. That is one hundred percent, completely true – you are not at all defined by what people physically see about you. You are so much more than that.

But at the same time, I do believe that it is important that you know your body is beautiful as well.

Why? I mean, if I think that we are more than our bodies, then wouldn’t I agree that a body is mostly superficial? Meaningless? Our bodies just support us through life, they are the means through which we interact with the world and that’s it, right?

Well, yes, technically that is their purpose. But societally speaking, bodies (and female bodies in particular) have been assigned a much deeper role than that.

Essentially from birth, female bodies are discussed in terms of ‘beauty’, and too often, that beauty is connected to something else, something more insidious – worth. Saying to a little girl “oh, you’re so pretty!” is pretty much synonymous with saying, “you’re a good, worthwhile person, aren’t you?” Women are taught from a very young age to take pride from their physical bodies, and especially in their teen years, women are warned about what will happen if their physical bodies don’t match up to society’s standards.

A young girl who carries extra weight too long for it to be considered baby fat anymore is warned that she needs to lose that weight immediately, and if she doesn’t lose that weight, then the boys won’t like her. And if the boys don’t like her, then she’ll never get a boyfriend. If she never gets a boyfriend, then she’ll have to settle for the first boy with low enough standards to take her. If she settles, then she won’t be happy in her marriage. If she isn’t happy with her marriage, then she won’t be happy with her life. It doesn’t matter if any of this is true or not (and trust me, it isn’t). Many women are still told this or similar narratives while they are still too young to be able to question it.

And even if we ignore the fact that many young girls are told that their physical beauty is directly proportional to their worth, there are simply so many ways that society teaches women to hate their bodies. We have commercials telling women that their eyelashes aren’t long enough, so buy this mascara and your life will be better. We have magazines that shock and gasp at the mere prospect of a celebrity with stretch marks or cellulite. We have a movie industry that returns again and again to the same beauty standards (thin, feminine, youthful, lighter skinned, able-bodied, cis-gendered, etc.) to represent their female leads, the characters that the script decides deserves a happy ending and a good life.

So with all of this, it isn’t surprising when young girls start to hate their bodies.

And when girls hate their bodies, they sometimes start to do very dangerous things to them. For example, it is estimated that 10 million American women suffer from an eating disorder.

Or perhaps we don’t cause damage to our bodies. Perhaps we just feel ashamed of them, covering them up wherever we go, hating the idea of anyone ever getting a peek at them. Perhaps we feel a little bit like our bodies devalue us as a person – after all, we have received the message that our beauty is directly correlated with our worth, haven’t we? We feel like we can’t find love until we reach a certain size, or we need to keep a certain part of us hidden, lest our lover be less interested as a result of seeing it. We feel ugly, gross, like something nobody ever wants to see. We call ourselves names and avoid mirrors and become jealous when we see someone who better matches our idea of beauty.

At the end of the day, our bodies are just bodies, yes. They are designed to be a vessel that carries your intelligence and your kindness and your talent and everything else about you that truly makes you amazing. But at the same time, all of this still matters. Not because our bodies have any huge bearing on who we are as a person – they don’t, but because, due to the amount of importance that society has put on our bodies, they end up having a lot of influence on how we see ourselves.

And maybe you have managed to get passed all of that. Maybe you really don’t care how you look on the outside, and if you do, then that’s awesome. Good for you. But in this society, it is perfectly understandable if you haven’t. You can tell yourself, again and again, that your physicality doesn’t matter because you’re so many amazing things on the inside, but that doesn’t mean that when someone else places value on you based on your body, it won’t hurt or make you feel like less of a person.

And that, I think, is where changing our perspective on what’s beautiful comes in. You need to know that you are beautiful, no matter what you look like. You need to know that our society’s definition of beauty is incredibly limited, and at the end of the day, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You need to know that your stretch marks do not devalue you, that your body hair doesn’t make you any less beautiful. Because once you know that, then you become more confident. Then it stings a little less when someone else makes a comment about your body, because you know that they’re wrong – and they are wrong. They come from a very limited, very sad perspective, and you’re so much better than all that! You are a beautiful person, and you have every right to feel like a beautiful person.

And once you gain that confidence, then it might become a bit easier for you to express all of the things that truly make you amazing. Because your body is just that – a body, and learning to love it is just one step. It’s a very important step, a step that I think needs to be made, but only because it will lead you toward accepting that you are worthwhile, that you deserve all the joys this world has to offer you. And once you know that (because it’s very true, and society is wrong to have ever made you feel otherwise), then you can feel free to be the amazing, strong, incredibly unique person that you truly are.

I Don’t Understand

I always try to understand people. I think that it’s important to understand one another, because if we don’t, then we can’t ever enact change. If we refuse to see anything from the perspective of another, then we are eternally stuck within our own heads, unable to acknowledge that things exist even if we don’t personally experience them, unable to grow or learn or make the world a better place.

But I have to admit, when it comes to all this, I don’t understand.

I don’t understand how you can hear a fellow human being begging to be taken seriously, begging for equality and the chance to live safely, and just shut them out.

I don’t understand how you can tell other people that the way they feel is wrong, just because you don’t feel the same way.

I don’t understand how you can look at superficial things like skin colour or background or birth and think that that makes you better than them.

I don’t understand how, on August 12 2017, a man got into his car and looked down at a group of people who had done nothing more than defend what they believed in, and he decided that he would run them down. I don’t understand what led him to that decision, to accepting that he wouldn’t know who this would injure or even kill, and he didn’t care. I don’t understand how he could accept that a child might lose her mother, a father might lose his son, and yet he thought that that was an acceptable price to pay for an attempt to silence them, to scare them out of their fight for equality.

I don’t understand how you can look at a group of people, any people, and think that they are inherently lesser than you. I don’t understand hating some that much, especially not for something like their race.

And I want to understand, not because I agree with what they did but because I want to be able to say something that they might understand, that might stop this from happening again. But I don’t think I can. All I can say is that I am sorry to the families of the deceased, and I am sorry to those who were injured. All I can say is that the anti-racist protestors should have been there, needed to be there, and they should continue to be there even after this; do not allow violence like this to silence a worthwhile fight. Do not allow them to win like this. All I can say is that the boy who did this was a terrorist, and his actions should be treated accordingly.

And to those whose ideologies supported this boy’s way of thinking, the white supremacists and the Nazi sympathizers, all that I can say is that, while I do not understand you, I feel sorry for you, because I cannot imagine how much you suffer by choosing a life so filled with hate.