Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bullies Suck. Even Grown Up Bullies.

Today's writing my face off is here. And this one feels like a touchy subject.

Day 10: "Have you ever been bullied as an adult? Tell me about it."

This one is rough. And deeply personal. In Junior High I was bullied relentlessly by boys. I was, at times, sexually harassed and at others picked on to the point of...self hatred. When they weren't throwing things down my shirt, slapping my ass with metal rulers, whispering vile things in my ears, they were calling me names, kicking my chairs while I sat in them, kicking my back through the gap in the back of my chair, making fun of my name, and making me feel worthless. The very first time it happened I told a teacher I trusted who sent me to the guidance counselor who told me she would talk to the boy in question. I never heard back from that guidance counselor and the boy never stopped tormenting me. Two years of Jr. High. Two years of torture. And I was too ashamed, embarrassed, humiliated, scared, hurt, and confused to tell anyone. After eighth grade ended I had to attend Summer school for math. The torture continued. And this time it was more sexual. And almost more relentless. My male teacher watched from the front of the room as boys threw pieces of paper down my shirt, while they whispered in my ears, while they sat on my desk, while one quite literally stood up and humped my desk. That's not exactly a thing you can not see. Eventually I reached my breaking point. The boy who sat behind me whispered something vile in my ear and I turned around and slapped him across the face. Then I stood up, with tears in my eyes, and walked into the principals office. Summer school had a female principal that year. I told her the whole sordid story. And she listened. She validated me. She told me it was okay, she apologized, and she sent me home for the day. She also suspended the boy in question. In high school it was girls. Mean girls. Bullying me. Threatening me. Another long, messy story. And then finally I got away from it all

I grew up. I got super involved in church. I was out of school and would never have to deal with bullying again. I was free. I got involved in the drama department at my church. I made friends. I came out of my shell. I found a place to belong. I assistant stage managed a few plays. After a couple years I was asked to stage manage a play. The director was a different lady than the one I had worked with previously. She had always been involved, but never IN CHARGE of anything I had been involved with. We weren't really close, but obviously she trusted me because she asked me to be her stage manager. I was flattered. I felt strong, powerful, confident, like someone saw was...good for me. Then we got to work. And apparently she can't handle stress because I became her dumping ground. We began working in January on a play for Easter. It would take place in April. My best friend at the time was also involved. She had a lead role in the play. It started with Miss Director talking shit about my best friend to me, and about me to my best friend. Like we wouldn't tell each other. You should never complain about a girl to her best friend. She will find out. But we let it go. Then she started venting to me, a 19 year old girl who looked up to her spiritually, about how her husband was useless and worthless and would be better off to her dead. These were small things. Strange and inappropriate, yes. But not huge in the grand scheme of things. Then I got sick. We had Saturday morning rehearsals. This was late February. Over a month away from the play. I woke up one Saturday morning with a pounding headache, sore throat, and a fever of 103. I called her and told her I couldn't make it. I was sick. She expressed, heavily, her disappointment in me. Then she called me. I was asleep and didn't answer. She made my friends call me. She yelled at my friends. She basically told them I screwed everything up. Things like this went on for months. And months. The play ran for a total of seven shows. At the end of the last show I cried my eyes out. She'd spent the last four months making me feel dumb, worthless, like a failure. The play went off without a hitch. She took ALL THE CREDIT and stood in the limelight like Miss America. She talked shit on me to anyone who would listen. She called me out for being sick, publicly. She told me how disappointed she was in me. I worked my ass off for her. I did 99% of the things she asked. I did everything in my control to help her and be a good stage manager. And none of it was good enough for her. She bullied and abused me. And I took it because I didn't know what else to do. After the play ended I said I needed to take some time off. Things were a little unpredictable in my family. My sister was in the hospital on bed rest trying not to give birth. She told me she wanted me to be in a performance during a service. I told her I couldn't commit because of my sister's health situation. I never knew when I would need to drop everything and run to the hospital. She basically told me I HAD to do it. So I showed up. I didn't want to do it. I fumbled my lines, but made it through. Until she forgot hers. Then she told everyone I messed up my lines. I forgot my lines and that's why she messed up. This woman, well over 30 years old, publicly blaming and shaming a 19 year old girl for her mistakes. After that I peaced out. I didn't need her in my life. I was immediately about a thousand times happier. Because having an obsessive, ungrateful, bitchy, control freak in your life is never fun.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cause I'm beautiful anyway.

So after a little break I am back at it. Here's to more writing my face off.

Day 8- "Things you wish your mother would've told you about body image."

Oh body image. Dear sweet body image. It's been a struggle. I think it is for most, if not all, women. Is there anything anyone can say? Or is it just a thing you have to find within yourself? Confidence....and all that. I don't know. It was never a thing my mom talked to me about. My guess is that it's not even a thing that ever even occurred to her. But what do I wish she would've said to me???

Nothing. I didn't need to hear anything said TO ME. I needed to see it. I needed to be surrounded by confident women who weren't always dieting and complaining about their weight. Ideally, anyway. I mean, that's not what I got, and I'm okay. I was never made to feel less than by anyone in my family. I was never told I was fat. I was never told anything. But I also didn't have in strong, healthy examples of confident body image. It was the 80's. I'm not sure if there were examples of such things. I just know if I ever have a daughter, I won't just tell her...I'll show her. I value words. I love words. I understand the importance of words. But some things just have to be seen.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

"Pass the damn ham, please."

BAM. Day seven of writing my face off is here. I am so in love with this whole process. 

Day seven: "What's the most important book you've ever read?"

Daaaaaamn. This question. SO many answers. This huge part of my heart wants to say The Harry Potter series, duh. I was 14 when I picked up The Chamber of Secrets and I was 22 when The Deathly Hallows came out. Those books were my heart and soul for so many years. And they still are in so many ways. I mean, I could go on and on about books. Important books. Books that have changed my life. 16 year old me would want to tell you how important The Bell Jar is. How it changed my life and inspired me to write. I could go on and on listing amazing and important books that I love with all my heart. 

But I have to say the most important book I have ever read is To Kill a Mocking Bird. It is filled with so much wisdom and so many lessons. There is so much worth in that book. “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what." Bam. That's it. Those words mean so much, say so much. “They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience."

Over and over Harper Lee filled the pages with lessons, with observations, with so much meaning. "Sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whisky bottle in the hand of (another)... There are just some kind of men who - who're so busy worrying about the next world they've never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the street and see the results.” Her words, her wisdom, and her lessons are important. At the end of the day I have to say To Kill a Mocking Bird is the most important book I have ever read.
“As you grow older, you'll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don't you forget it - whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, he is trash.” 

Doctors Scare Me.

I can't believe I'm almost a week into this whole writing my face off thing. It's been such an amazing experience and it's just begun. I'm really excited to see where it leads me from here.

Day 6: "Self care is everything. Tell me about five things you can do this week to prioritize and treat yourself."

Self care is such a strange topic for me. I guess it depends upon my mood as to whether or not I feel I deserve it. Sometimes I'm all for it. Sometimes it doesn't even occur to me. But I'm starting this week of right.

1. I have a fridge full of lean healthy meat, fresh fruits and veggies, yummy cheese, and good nuts. And a freezer full of ice cream. Because it's all about balance, right? Paying attention to what I'm eating is important to me. Filling my body with food that tastes delicious and is full of nutrients is important to me. Fresh fruit is one of my "happy" things. Grapes, pineapple, watermelon, and berries every morning. I eat it alone each morning. No talking. It's my wake up period. I need wake up time or my day starts off too hectic and I'm in a bad mood before it's even begun. It feels like a good start to my day. And yeah, maybe it ends with ice cream. And of course there is butter in between. But this is what makes me feel good. This is what's important to me. So it's what I do. It's how I take care of me.

2. Hot showers. There are few things on earth that make me feel as good as stepping out of a hot shower. Those fifteen minutes clear everything away. Taking the time to actually take a nice, hot shower rather than a quick, "get it done" thing does a lot to revitalize me and make me feel cared for. A nice deep conditioning treatment for my crazy dry hair. Those moments totally matter. Those moments are definitely self care.

3. A nice evening walk. It's not much, but it matters. Just walking as it cools down each evening is a good way for me to clear my head and feel centered. It's not glamorous, hell, it's not even really fun. But it does something. I feel healthier and more at peace with myself. And for me that definitely counts as self care. And I think the dog really appreciates it as well. So there's that.

4. A big fat trip to Sephora. I have some money set aside for some skincare products. I'm a make up girl and I would usualy rather spend extra cash on a bright lipstick or a new eye shadow palette, but this is going for skin care. I cannot wait to get my hands a good face wash and I am dying to try First Aid Beauty's roll on eye cream. Getting older doesn't have to suck, right? It's little things like this that make me feel better about myself.

5. Number five sucks and I'm not looking forward to it. At all. I haven't had health insurance in YEARS. But I do now. THANKS OBAMA. And thus I need to make a doctors appointment. I do not want to. At all. I've been avoiding it for the last couple months. But it needs to happen and it's time. It's obviously a very important step in taking care of myself so here goes...blah. I hate doctors. Let's be honest, I'm damn scared. But I'm going to do it.

So there you have it, my five ways I'm going to take care of myself this week.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Because They Save My Life Over and Over.

It's day five of writing my face off and I'm falling more in love with it every day.

Day 5: "Tell me about the five women who've changed your life."

The five women who have changed my life? Okay, here goes.

This might be the hardest question for me to answer. I can tell you the five women who have shaped my life quite easily. My mom, my three older sisters, and my Nana. Those five women are my life. Everything about them is vital to who I am as a person.They have influenced me in every step of my life. They have been there for me since day one and they are why I am who I am. That said, they haven't changed my life. They are my life. They have always been there. They have always been a part of me. I am who I am because of their presence in my life. Their love, compassion, lessons, laughter...everything about them has influenced who I am. I wouldn't be me without them. So in order to correctly answer this question I have to move beyond those five amazing women who have influenced me every step of the way and look for those who've come along and changed me.

1. Jamie Renee. Jamie Renee has been my friend since I was 10 years old. We've grown up together and been through everything together. She is the other half of all my stories. She's been there through first periods, first kisses, first heartbreak, first tattoos, grieve, loss, laughter, heartache....everything. We've worked our way through each new stage of life together. And my God has she changed me. Jamie is not afraid to challenge me. She's not afraid to call me out or tell me what I need to do. Jamie is always willing to push me and teach me and be there for me. She is everything I need in a friend and she has taught me so much and pushed me to strive for more. She has encouraged me through every step. I wouldn't be who I am without her love, patience, guidance, laughter, and understanding. I wouldn't be who I am without her willingness to change me and challenge me. I could never thank her enough. Clearly I won the best friend lottery.

2. Sheena. I met Sheena around the time I turned 19. We met at church. We were youth leaders and led a small group together. She started off as an acquaintance. Someone I saw every Sunday night and exchanged pleasantries with. I liked her bright, funky style and I appreciated her honesty. We both signed up for a mission trip to Japan. We left two girls who'd become friends and came back best friends. She came in like a well, to borrow from Miley Cyrus, a wrecking ball. Quite literally. She knocked me off my feet. She brought out my wild side. She knocked down my walls. She bandaged my broken heart. She was what I needed when I needed it. She came into my life at exactly the right time. And she shook me to my core. She changed everything. And I will never not appreciate her for all she did for me. For everything she showed me. And for all those fun, wild nights. She set me on the journey to finding myself. And she taught me that my words were valuable. That's a priceless gift.

3. Abigail and Juliana. I don't even know what to say here. I'm counting them both as my number three because they came into my life together and turned everything upside down. December of 2004 I was going through a really rough time in my life. Early one morning our phone rang. I rolled over and ignored it. A few moments later I heard my mom calling me..."Auntie Brittany, Auntie Brittany!" My sister had just found out she was pregnant. That spring we learned she was having twins! Two girls. On June 4th, 2005, after over a month in the hospital on constant bed rest, she gave birth to the most perfect people I had ever seen. Abigail Catherine and Juliana Elaine were born three months premature and spent the next several months in the NICU. Today they are perfect, sweet, hilarious, silly, strong, smart, healthy, creative, and loving 9 year-old's. They changed my life. In an instant. I walked into that NICU, scrubbed up, and fell in love. They gave me someone to love. They gave me a reason. They gave me something to hold onto. They were born during one of the darkest periods of my life. They pulled me out of that funk and I fell in love instantly. Those girls mean everything to me. They saved my life.

My Nana, my sister, My mom, and my favorite girls.

4. Ninah Conlyn. My 11th grade English teacher. This woman let me write my heart out every day. She encouraged me to read everything I could get my hands on. She let me come up with my own English curriculum and my thing. I sat in her class and wrote and wrote and wrote and read and read and read. I have always loved books and words, but Ms. Conlyn let me submerge myself in words every single day. She listened to me talk, she read my poems, so suggested things for me to read. She was there for me when I had no one else to talk to. She made me feel accepted and understood. She made me laugh. She changed my life. She gave me a place to feel safe. She saw my loneliness, my anxiety, my depression, and she met me where I was. Her classroom was my safe place for my last two years of high school. She was the best teacher a girl like me ever could have had. She is such a special woman. She was such an amazing influence in my life. I would've been lost without her.

5. Gwen Stefani. This choice feels the silliest. But I can't write this list without including her. 1995. I was 10 years old and Tragic Kingdom was released. I'm from Orange County. I live ten minutes from Gwen Stefani's high school. The younger siblings of members of No Doubt went to my elementary school. We ALL wanted to be Gwen Stefani. I fell in love the first time I heard Just A Girl. How could I not? Without knowing it I was already searching for my anthem. For something. For proof being a girl was okay. And I found it in Gwen. I waited years and years for the next No Doubt album. Finally in April of 2000 Return of Saturn came out. I was 15. I don't know if I have ever loved an album like I love ROS. I was in love. I listened to it over and over. I analyzed every lyric. I dyed my hair pink. I saw them live. I read every article. I collected every magazine. I learned who Sylvia Plath was because Gwen mentioned in an interview that she had been a major inspiration for the album. My relationship with Return of Saturn is true love. I've never held on to anything so passionately for so long. My style, my words, my confidence....Gwen Stefani has been an inspiration for all of it. This list would not be complete if I didn't mention her. "I'm going to the mall for the cookie cutter, the ugly duckling will always suffer. Contaminated standards, I try to fight it. I better get back on my diet."

Friday, August 8, 2014

Leopard print and confidence boosts.

This is day four of writing my face off. I am definitely having a love/hate relationship with today's prompt. But I'm excited to tackle it.

Day 4: "PHOTO POST: Red lipstick, skinny jeans, tall boots...take a photo and tell me about one item you've been afraid to rock....until now."

I'm basically the kind of girl who will try anything when it comes to fashion, style, hair, and make up. Style is pretty much the only area in which I am not afraid to take risks. I rock red lipstick on a regular basis. Skinny jeans and tall boots are wardrobe staples for me. And I'm equally comfortable in sun dresses, pencil skirts, and combat boots. It's all fun to me. I'll try anything once.

Leopard print it another love of mine. I fell in love with it in the sixth grade and I've never looked back. Even now in my late twenties I own leopard print tshirts, cardigans, ballet flats, purses, scarves, and even a leopard print pencil skirt. I have no fear of rocking any of those pieces. And then there is THE DRESS. I don't know what to say about THE DRESS. I saw it in a store well over a year ago and instantly fell in love. I ran to the dressing room with my lovely leopard print high/low dress in hand, tried it on, and instantly deemed it worthy. A year and a half later it's still sitting unworn in my closet. I don't know what it is. Everything about it screams, "BRITTANY", yet I can't bring myself to wear it. I feel like it's unflattering. Maybe it's the raffle trim. Maybe it just makes me feel like I look bigger than I am. Maybe I feel overwhelmed in the bold pattern because I'm so damn short and it's so flowy and big. Most likely it's all of the above. But I'm about to put that all aside.


See...a rather lovely dress. Yet still she sits unworn. 

So I decided to gather up every scrap of confidence I have and rock the hell out of this baby because, why not. So here goes...

So, I did it. And even if I don't think it's the "Oh my god!" most flattering dress I own, I'm really glad I did. Stepping out of my comfort zone and rocking something I didn't think I had the confidence to wear proved to be a really great experience for me. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Here's to ice cream and crop tops.

I'm spending the month of August writing my face off. Thanks to some wonderful and supportive ladies, I'm working on finding my voice. It's pretty awesome. Here goes day three.

Day 3 "If beauty didn't matter I would...."

What would I do if beauty didn't matter? Well, let's start with the fact I would have been a much happier teenager. As I've grown older and matured, ever so slightly, I've found my own beauty. I've grown into my skin and learned to accept myself. It's been a rather long road. I wasn't born this way.

Even through all my issues, through my awkward teen years and my rocky twenties, I've never felt the need to make myself beautiful in the traditional sense. From nose piercings to green hair to pink hair, I've never let my lack of confidence stop me from exploring and expressing myself. Hair, makeup, fashion...these things have always been important to me. I can't say I would stop wearing make up or dyeing my hair if beauty didn't matter. I would still do those things. It's part of who I am. I've always felt the need to express myself through style. And that style has usually been a bit out of the box. I'm the sort of person who likes to find beauty in all sorts of places. I've never felt overly constrained to be beautiful in a typical sense. I played with Barbies as a kid, but I never wanted to look like Barbie. Not feeling the need to be beautiful in a typical sense doesn't mean I've always felt beautiful. Honestly, I think my lack of feeling beautiful made it easier for me to chop my hair off on a whim, or dye it baby blue. I could wear neon yellow eye shadow because, why not? I wasn't beautiful, thus I had nothing to lose. I found freedom in my lack of beauty. Now that I've discovered and accepted my own beauty I am working on finding freedom here as well.

If beauty didn't matter....I'd like to say I wouldn't wear a bra. I really hate those damn things. But I sort of need one. It's less a beauty thing and more a...not being naked thing. I would be embarrassed of...well....having it all hanging out there. If beauty didn't matter I'd eat ALL the ice cream. But there's still the whole pesky health issue to deal with, so I suppose that's not the best choice either. If beauty didn't matter...if I wasn't living in a world of conventional beauty standards and the worship of flat stomachs and all things thin I would buy myself a crop top and rock the hell out of it. That's what I would do if beauty didn't matter.