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This Square Peg.

Happily Not Fitting In Since 1978.

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body image

Fall in Love.

I’ve talked about body image/self image on here more times I can link or number. It’s an important thing to me. Having struggled for so, so long with a dangerous, damaging view of myself and my physical body (there was quite some mental/emotional toxicity going on, too), and having crossed to that other side where I can look in the mirror and fully love what I see, it’s still important to me to talk about it. Because:

  • Journeys may deviate and turn, but they don’t truly end.
  • We all have our moments.
  • Every day becomes an affirmation.
  • Empowering women by example is so crucial.

In other words, it’s a topic that will always appear on This Square Peg.

Please watch this video. A friend recently posted it on Facebook and I watched it and cried and I had to share it here. Quite simply: we have to fall in love with our bodies. We have to. Whether bruised or scarred or “wobbly,” they were made to accomplish pretty amazing things. To give birth. To endure disease. To partly make us who we are. The mirror merely provides the reflection. We provide the commentary. Let the words uttered to ourselves and our bodies be good, positive, kind, uplifting.

 

things i currently need #8: swimsuit edition

I will preface by telling you that This Square Peg is perfectly fine in her swimming trunks, a tankini top, and a cover-up. Because she’s quite comfortable with being comfortable–including at the beach. And as much as I adore the beach for being the great body unifier (in other words, no matter what you feel about how you look, the beach will teach you about the variety in bodies, shapes, and sizes, so accept your temple and move on), I simply prefer keeping this African chocolate temple covered up, by and large. However. Sometimes a girl works hard on her health, and the physical incentives suddenly don’t feel like being covered up that much. So here are some ideas I have to interrupt that cover-up life, courtesy of Pinterest. (I plan on being about that sand and ocean life this summer, by the way.)

Love love love the retro vintagey look anyway, but I especially  love seeing it in swimwear. Super cute, fashionable, and finally allows some of us to live out our Annette Funicello beach movie dreams and fantasies. (I’m not the only one, am I?)

A retro top + high-waisted bottom for a two-piece swimsuit? Golden. Golden.

Whoever came up with peplum swim tops must know how much I love peplum. Right? Because I love peplum. And I adore that I can wear it as swimwear.

That’s all she wrote, folks. May summertime greet us with sandy beaches and re-enactments of scenes from Beach, Blanket, Bingo. Onwards, upwards, and beachwards…

Straighten Up and Fly Right.

postureLet’s talk about posture, shall we?

When your Square Peg was a precocious tween, I used to walk around the house with a book on my head like the photo to your left. But it had nothing to do with posture. It was just the excitement of getting from one side of the room to the other without dropping the thing while my siblings cheered me on. In other words, posture? What?

I’ve been slouching since I woke up one morning and finally understood why my mom had banned me from wearing my beloved All This and Brains Too t-shirt. (The “This” part was incurring the kind of attention no mother wanted for her 11 year-old daughter. Yep, you get it.) It was almost immediate: I began to hunch over like some kind of creature. Some of it was the literal pressure on my back, some of it was the emotional confusion that came with development, some of it was the desire to hide what was suddenly the only thing people seemed to notice about me. By the time I reached college, I was basically Quasi Modo. And now? Well, I wish I could tell you that your Square Peg sits straighter, walks straighter, and no longer slouches. All lies. Those would be lies.

I have the worst posture. It doesn’t help that I sit in front of a computer all day, that sometimes I lean forward to even see the screen because I’m apparently 85 and can see nothing, that I contort my body in the kind of horrible ways that would make an aerialist from Cirque de Soleil shake her head pitiably. Throw in the fact that I was in a car accident some years ago and you have someone who does not sit or stand well.

So the other day, my mother saw me standing in kitchen, my neck in its typical hunched over position, and nearly screamed.

Ma: Why are you standing like that?
Me: Like what?
Ma: Like that. It makes you look sickly, especially with your weight loss. You look frail. Straighten up.

Of course, I knew I didn’t look frail (the absence of rice from my life has convinced my African mother that I’ve become sort sort of 80-pound weakling; we’ll discuss that in another post), but I looked at myself in the mirror and certainly agreed that my stance was terrible. And yes, with the weight loss, I did take on a kind of starving imp from Les Misérables quality. It’s surreal, isn’t it? You recognize things about yourself, you know yourself, but to turn towards a mirror and really look at these things is an entirely different animal. After all these years of telling myself to straighten up, it was kind of interesting to see the need to do so before my own eyes.

Won’t happen overnight; I’ve slouched and de-slouched about five times while writing this post. We’ll get there, though. Confidence isn’t necessarily in the shape of your back, but it helps. Onwards!

On Visuals and Inspiration.

The most popular question I get as I continue on this gaining health journey: what inspired you to want to lose weight in the first place? I don’t mind the question; to me, it’s natural that people want to know. And so I tell them: I was making very unhealthy choices in my life and it was beginning to affect my well-being. So I needed to make significant changes. Admittedly, however, there was another reason I was inspired: pure cosmetics.

Let’s be real about it: an enjoyable part of weight loss/health gain is how good you look in clothes. Sure, I’m still working on the whole not wearing baggy clothes thing (it’s all mental; we’ll talk about that in another post), but I can easily say that getting dressed has become far more enjoyable than it has been in the past. Of course, you know that beginning at age 30, my body and I became besties. I accepted this house in all its glory and that will never change, weight loss or not. But to dress it up in outfits I’m not used to wearing is certainly a treat. That said, I recently realized that even before I embarked on this journey, I had a lot of visual inspirations along the way; women that had transformed before my eyes and looked great and caught my attention. Seriously, I was stalking them on Pinterest and finally figured out why. Here are a few:

America Ferrera.

america america2
Can I tell you, first, how much I adore this actress? I saw her in Real Women have Curves and absolutely thought she was amazing (see it if you haven’t); to me, she was the heart of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (no shame; see it and you’ll agree that it’s a terrific movie); and come on, Ugly Betty. So, being a fan, I certainly noticed a few years ago that the chubby girl on Ugly Betty was chubby no more. She was sleek, elegant, more confident. I remember thinking that I wanted the same thing if I ever slimmed down: still looking entirely like myself, stylish, real. An inspiration, for sure.

Marsha Ambrosius.

Marsha

Oh, Marsha. That hair that gives me life on a daily basis. Anyway. If you don’t know, Marsha is the other half of the soulful duo Floetry and an accomplished solo artist in her own right. Other than drooling over her gorgeous natural curls, what appealed to me was Marsha’s style. I loved how her style seemed to evolve along with her slim-down. Google her and see what I mean. Her sense of style is everything.

Jordin Sparks.

jordin

What I love about Jordin? She talked about her journey. She talked about loving Zumba (and I learned that she took classes with my instructors!), she talked about watching her portions, she discussed the joy of wearing a dress without a bone-crushing instrument holding her together underneath. (Tell us how you really feel, huh, Ms. Square Peg?) I loved her transparency. Each time I saw her photo or happened to read an article about Jordin, I remember noting how impressed I was by her openness. Went a long way with me.

Real Women. There no photos of these women. But to me, they’re far more important than the bold names listed above. Some are my friends. Some are strangers. And yet whether I’ve watched their journeys occur right in front of me or talked to them about it, I have been and continue to be inspired by them. There’s a woman here at the office who, for years, I’ve watched transform before my eyes. When I see her now, I marvel. There are friends who are dedicated and so forthcoming about their continuing journeys to better health. Wholly inspired by them, too, even more so.

So, my dears, if you’re currently on a journey, whatever it is, what’s your inspiration?

Choose Beautiful.

Every day I go through the average door. But yesterday was a unique day. So I chose to go through the beautiful one.

Therein lies the power of Dove’s new inspirational ad campaign. (They’ve been quietly setting a new precedent when it comes to ads about beauty and women, Dove. I love it and I don’t think the media talks about this initiative enough.) In this video, women in different countries are presented with two entryways in front of buildings they’re walking into: Average or Beautiful. The images are immediately powerful. Some women stand before the doors and visibly wonder where to go. Some hesitate. One woman simply walks away, deciding not to choose either. Some, without hesitation, walk through the Average door and later discuss how sad their choice made them feel. Interestingly enough, these are all beautiful women, and those that walk through the Average door boggle the mind, especially those that society would say are “traditionally” beautiful. Says a lot about how, ultimately, a woman feels about herself.

There was a moment that got me, of course, right in the center of the chest and elicited my tears. (At 1:55). This woman’s quote is the one I provided above. It spoke to me because 10 years ago, had I been standing before those doors, I would have chosen “Average” in a heartbeat. My choices would have been related to not wanting to appear vain; related to what I would assume society thought of me; related to visions of what people standing nearby would whisper about the average girl having the audacity to walk through the beautiful door. Such was my world back then. I’ve talked about it at length here; I grew up in a dark place as a young woman, racked with low self-esteem, low self-worth, low everything. So that’s why it got me. I imagined myself 10 years ago and like this beautiful woman expresses, it would have been another day going into door Average.

But then, like her, I felt joyful. Because right now, this very moment, had I stood before those doors? Having worked on myself and owning who I am as a woman, a person, a human being? I would have chosen “Beautiful.” Without hesitation.

I hope you would, too.

Belly Love.

I saw this question on a post from The Curvy Fashionista from last year and was moved to answer the call. Thanks for the inspiration, TCF. Ok, here we go.

Dear Belly,

You’re giving me the side eye, aren’t you? Because I chose you as the favorite part of my body? And you’re like, please honey, that is a LIE? Please, let me explain.

I know that I’m unfair to you. I know that when I do my mirror checks my eyes drift down to you and I shake my head at your weird shape and your unwillingness to submit to ab exercises. I tsk tsk at you. I touch you sometimes during the day to check if you’ve transformed into that muffin top thing that invariably happens when I sit down and tsk tsk some more. So, yeah, we’re not pals. You’ve heard me refer to you as my “problem area” time and time again and I get that you’re so through with me. And that’s why I’m professing my love for you.

Belly, you’re cute. You’re part of the curves. You like music. You help me with digesting. You’re part of this entire body that I’ve learned to love and accept and take care of.

Yes, I’ve long allowed the gazes of others toward my mid-section when I wear certain outfits to mess with my mind. And rather than ignoring their appraisals, I blamed you and myself for not being more disciplined in trying to decrease your roundness. But we’re done with all that. People can look all they want. I certainly will continue with caring less. The fact that is that you are my favorite part of my body. Just like all the other parts. I will continue to nourish you and lather you with lotion. I won’t gaze at you with disdain. I’ll hum Billy Joel’s “Just the Way you Are” whenever you like. I’ll love you, because you’re part of the composite order of me.

So let’s start over, shall we?

Love always,
This Square Peg

This Curvy Square Peg?

Last night, as I stepped into my friend’s car for us to head to an appointment, she regarded me with a blank expression on her face and said the following:

Friend: I almost didn’t recognize you when you came out of the house.
Me: Huh?
Friend: That pencil skirt, that blouse. You have curves! WHY HAVE YOU BEEN HIDING YOUR CURVES?!

I couldn’t help laugh. Afterwards, I thanked her and informed her that, as always, the accepting of my body for what it is will be a constant work in progress. Having hidden in clothes for a long time to prevent (what I perceived) the appraisal of my body and physique by others, turning 30 five years ago changed more than a few things. For one, I stopped dorothyzdressing like my beloved Dorothy Zbornak there to your right. For another, I started making fashion choices that matched my new attitude. Essentially, because I worked on making what was inside all shiny and accepted, my body and I became besties. And, like any friendship, we’re still getting to know each other.

But I have curves? Really?

When I think of curvy ladies, I think of lovely hourglass figures. Of discernible hips. Of a waist. Of a derrière.

I have no discernible waist, the narrowest hips this side of Earth, hardly an hourglass figure, and a backside that must have missed the memo on being shapely in any kind of way. The only curvy things on this body are the reason I hold newborns for a short period of time before handing them back to their mothers and quietly informing them that the babe is hungry. You feel me. So when I reflected on her statement, I was like, for real? Moi? Curvy?

You know what, though? I have ’em. Curves. Although I sometimes gaze at my mother and my Ghanaian girls and some of my awesome friends in wonder and slight envy at their womanly, curvy shapes, I looked in the mirror for a looooonnng time and realized that there are curves there. I saw my waist. I saw those hiding hips. I sighed at the backside, but it’s there, too. It may not be the standard in curves, but it’s my standard, by gum, and I saw some curves! I also looked at myself in the outfit my friend exclaimed over. It was a simple black pencil skirt and a buttoned down coral/white blouse. In examining the way the skirt draped my body and the tucked in look of the blouse though–I looked kind of amazing. What? Yes, indeed. And I loved saying that to my reflection, silently, of course, since I’ve been caught conversing with myself before. Anyway. Saying that felt good and it continues to feel awesome.

This has been brought to you by a square peg who’s becoming progressively aware of a physique that is far from square. Onward and upward.

35.

35 is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years. — Oscar Wilde

Oscar ain't never lied...
Oscar ain’t never lied…
Reflecting: we’ve been together for three months now, me and 35, and I have to say that I’m enjoying it so far. A few things…

1. Keeping it All in Perspective. My back hurts, you know? I need an Advil, not your complaint about the long line in the store.

2. I Sing the Body Electric. I accept that I will never have a flat stomach, or abs, or actual, visible hips. I’m so ok with that right now in my life. So, so, so ok with that. I’m not entirely sure where this peace of mind about my body and loving it came from, but I will take it.

3. Some Things Need to Be Said. I tend to shy away from confrontation. (My Sissy will dispute this, but whatever you do, don’t listen to her.) I’d rather let it go and leave it most of the time. But these days…certain things need to be said, acknowledged, dealt with, and then let go. If you say something silly that bears discussion, we will discuss it. K? 

4. This.

5. My Mother, my Friend. I think my mother and I are at a stage where we can really be friends. Although I very much respect her role as mother, parent, and all-around CEO of everything, I still think we can chat, laugh, and joke without me worrying about not being able to sit down because of being swatted on my rump. Within reason. Within reason.

6. This Writing Life. I’ve experienced the following phases with my life as a writer: joy, confusion, comparison, quiet, returning, acceptance, joy. The latter phase is what I feel at present, and I believe I feel this way because I stopped comparing my work to the works of others; stopped putting pressure on myself, stopped giving in to the excuse that there was nothing there, creatively, for me to work with. Once I left many toxic habits behind, my writing and the process itself has taken on a completely different and exciting feel.

35. What whaaat?

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