Chasing beautiful

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I’m eternally grateful for being woken up to the insane myth of societal beauty standards. Over the past year, I’ve immersed myself in learning — or better yet, unlearning— about the history of beauty standards, the patriarchal mood swings that dictate what is beautiful and acceptable, the toxicity of diet culture and the ways in which we are held down by our obsession with appearance. It’s a total scam. I’m speaking as a woman, of course, but this whole beauty/attractiveness scam hurts men too. It also must be noted that I’m speaking from a place of extreme privilege— I’m white, thin, able-bodied, gender-conforming and generally beauty-standard-conforming too. People with bodies that don’t carry this privilege face prejudice and violence as a daily experience.

In case you are also fed up with this bullshit and with feeling as thought your looks are the most important thing about you, allow me to share a few starter resources to dismantling this shit idea of beauty.

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One quick, readable primer I found is Beyond Beautiful by Anuschka Rees. She tackles constantly-changing beauty standards, female grooming expectations, oppressive beauty routines, uncomfortable clothes, Instagram woes, the myth of “strong is the new skinny”, pesky body shamers and all of the other things that hold us back.

“After years of being bombarded with societal messages about the importance of beauty, our self-worth barometers have started to overvalue one factor: our appearance. For many of us, how we feel about the way we look has become the deciding factor for how we feel about ourselves, our worth as a person, our life, everything. When we think we look good, we have confidence for days, but when we think we look bad, we feel defeated, and none of our other accomplishments matter.”

Rees brings some truth about loving our bodies… which is to say, cool if you do but it’s also okay if you don’t. We are all so much more than our bodies and we can still nourish and appreciate and respect our bodies even if we don’t love our cellulite or acne or belly. There! I said it. I don’t look at my stretch marks and think, “Oh what beautiful life-giving badges of courage and motherhood,” but I am trying to look at them and… not care much at all. To not think they are beautiful, not think they are disgusting and certainly not to think that they in any way define me or my worth.

“Obviously, the advice to love our body comes from a well-meaning place. But it's also misleading because it keeps women stuck on their mirror image by reinforcing the idea that their physical form is the gatekeeper to happiness. Yes, you should strive to cultivate respect and compassion for yourself, as a human being, and your body (including the way it looks) is a part of that. But if your goal is to be happy and feel confident, understanding that you are more than your body is miles more valuable than writing love letters to your individual body parts.”

Another article that caught my eye was “The Best Skin-Care Trick Is Being Rich” by Amanda Mull for The Atlantic. Because, yeah, it’s true.

Celebrities wouldn’t be as distractingly beautiful without dermatologists, estheticians, and the women behind the beauty counters at Bergdorf Goodman. You can drink as much water and wear as much sunscreen as you want, but the most effective skin-care trick is being rich.

Rich people can buy beauty, and not just in the form of obvious plastic surgery, but in all of the small and secret ways that money can buy you better skin and nutrition and time to spend on those things.

LA Johnson/nPr

LA Johnson/nPr

Finally, this piece from NPR’s Code Switch “Is Beauty In The Eyes Of The Colonizer?” by Leah Donnella drives home the innate connnection between white supremacy and societal beauty standards.

“Think about why that person is beautiful. Is it because of their perfectly white teeth? Their thick, shiny hair? The fact that their features conform perfectly to Western beauty norms?”

Donnella goes onto note that in our society, “beauty is a facet of power.” It’s not just about self-care or self-love, the perception of beauty and attractiveness and unlock spaces and opportunities while systematically denying that access to others. She notes, that “the body positivity movement and the fat-acceptance movements have also consistently pushed back on the idea that thin, young, white, able-bodied women are the epitome of beauty — or that beauty should be a precondition for respect to begin with.”

So, team, let’s stop chasing beauty so feverishly, yeah? Let’s stop skipping the pool party because we hate our bodies in bathing suits, let’s stop piling on makeup when we’d rather be fresh-faced, let’s stop thinking we have to conform to one specific, though ever-changing, ideal of beauty. Let’s unchain ourselves from that myth and reclaim our time. Choose which parts of beauty are fun for you or a creative outlet - maybe it’s your hair or nails or makeup or clothes - but then dump that beauty crap that doesn’t spark joy. And leave your good books, podcasts and Instagram accounts here so I can add to my anti-beauty-standard rant.

Next up: chasing skinny…

A slow 5K

2018 frEIhofer’s run (Last year)

2018 frEIhofer’s run (Last year)

This time last year I’d just run my first post-kid half marathon and felt healthy and inspired. Then I stopped running. I just... stopped. I couldn’t make the time for it, then fell out of habit, then became too intimidated, then called it stupid, then... a year had passed of me feeling less connected to my body than I’ve felt in awhile (ever?), including immediately postpartum.

Christine got her groove back, 2018

Christine got her groove back, 2018

We give new moms such grace for, like, six weeks or maybe even six months and then the grace period is over. Back to hating your body into submission and the relentless quest to shrink shrink shrink yourself. The smaller the better. Diet culture is so strong it’s hard to escape. Even when you know it’s brainwashed you. Even when you are a smart, thoughtful person. Even when deep down you think you might still love your body with the new 20ish pounds but are supposed to feel disgusted or ashamed. It’s a constant struggle for me to distinguish true health-seeking behaviors from diet and skinny culture BS.

2019 FReihofer’s run (also, christine lost her groove THIS YEAR)

2019 FReihofer’s run (also, christine lost her groove THIS YEAR)

But this week, after not having gone for a single run in months, I decided I wanted to run my 8th Freihofer’s Run for Women, a premiere nationally-recognized all-woman road race in my city. I tried to forget how 5Ks have often been a throwaway distance for me and told myself it was ok if it was hard. Ok to walk. Ok to go slow. Ok to feel squished in my workout clothes. And it was... ok. I lined up with 3,400+ women and we ran the streets of Albany. It took me a full 11 minutes longer than my fastest run of this course in 2014. It even took me 6 minutes longer than just last year. But I’m realizing that running and walking are key parts of my Feel Good Plan. Going to the gym? Nah, not now at least. Restricted eating? Nope, can’t do that now either. For now I’m accepting this season of life as best I can, understanding that the postpartum period lasts a lifetime and eating all my free cookies from this morning’s race. Someone sign me up for another (short) race. 

I’ve got more to say about:

  • How the newborn stage was easy breezy for me but everything since has rocked my world

  • Diet culture, man, and it’s death grip on us all

  • Health for health’s sake, not for bikini Instagram photos

The weather was perfect, the cookies were abundant and it was a day ripe for dusting out the cobwebs and plotting the downfall of diet culture and body hating.

float on


We've been trying to squeeze every ounce of awesome out of this summer and part of that means getting in the water. Any water. Lakes, oceans, pools. I lamented one recent summer how I had barely spent any time in my bathing suit and what a shame that is, because summers are for swimming.


Well for me, it's mostly floating. I think I got it from my mom, but if you put me in a body of water all I want to do is float on my back and gaze up at the sky. This summer I've paddleboarded, paddleboated, tiptoed, waded, bathed, swam, lounged, jumped, dove, boozed and floated in bodies of water all over the place. I've been in Adirondack lakes and off the shore of Jamaican beaches and at private villa pools... fancy! Everywhere I've been I've found myself lazily floating and staring up at the sky. Watching the supermoon and counting off all of the people that I love. Sending my trippy blessings to people in different states and on different continents. Squinting into the afternoon sun and grinning, with periodic breaks to reapply my SPF 30. Life is never free of all stress and commotion, but floating sure makes me forget about the stressful bits.

Are you guys all getting some good pool, lake or ocean time in this year? In the past I haven't always been into it, but I'm totally back in action. Don't worry about whether or not you have a "bikini body" or what your bum looks like in your bathing suit, just get in that water and splash around. Or float, your call.

out of hibernation

I'd like to report back that I've been running strong through the winter. That I bought myself some new cold-weather running gear and have been hitting the streets, bundled up and tough as nails. That would, however, be a lie. Winter hits me hard and despite best intentions, I've only gotten outside for a run a handful of times this season. Because running outside in the bitter cold makes me feel sad. Sad and maybe a little hopeless? Yes, sure, afterwards I'm walking around all full of myself but I'm not sure it outweighs how sorry I feel when I'm out there and my lungs are burning, tears are stinging my eyes and I'm watching every step so I don't slip on ice.

If it's a mild winter day, then maybe. I'll take advantage of a sunny Saturday in the 30s perhaps, but 7pm in the single digits? No, ma'am. I'd rather putz around downstairs with my weights, get on the yoga mat or even, if I'm desperate, hit the treadmill at the gym. In winters past, I'd get really into group fitness classes- kickboxing, BodyPump, Zumba or whathaveyou. I've phased out of that, but this winter we joined another gym for its indoor pool and I've been occasionally cutting a few laps there after work. Tricky business, swimming is. On the one hand it's great to be splashing around in a warm pool in January. On the other hand, you're in a bathing suit in public in January. But afterwards we like to pick up some veggie rolls at the local sushi joint, so it's become a nice ritual.

Despite the unwelcome snowy weather this week, we've been enjoying small bursts of spring lately and I'm finally starting to feel that itch to get back out in my running sneaks. Cruising around the city on foot and getting some Vitamin D. Crawling out of hibernation.

It's a balance between pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and listening to your body. On getting out there for a run even when you don't want to... and respecting the internal changes that happen with the seasons. On deciding to push through or choosing to change your goals and expectations. For me, this winter, I didn't feel much like running outdoors. So for the most part, I didn't. Instead we snowshoed with friends-- including a full moon Adirondack adventure through the woods leading to bonfires with hoards of bundled-up snowshoers and skiers huddled around drinking beer and roasting 'mallows. I've stretched and danced and worked on building strength. I've snuggled and read a lot too. No need for shame to accompany that decision, right? 

Related...
The transition to winter is tough.
Sometimes I like running for fun.
If all runs were like this one, I'd be an ultra-runner :)
I can't believe I trained for and ran a marathon!
Ok, just get outside and run.



that first marathon

I am a marathoner! Can you believe it? Now that a few days have passed since the race, I almost don't believe it. Someone check the records and make sure I finished all 26.2 miles.


The day has become a complete blur, as much as four and a half hours of nonstop running can be. My experience mirrored those of so many other first-time marathoners. The first ten miles passed by almost effortlessly. Mile markers were flying past me, my pace was comfortable and I was loving life. The next ten were harder, but I anticipated that. I was ready for it. Somewhere between miles 19 and 22, though, it got even tougher. I tried embracing it, knowing that this was what made it a marathon. The hard parts are what makes it such an awesome accomplishment. It's one thing to know that intellectually, though, and another to be right there in the thick of it with tired legs and an impatient mind and the sun beating down on you. But Hartford put on a great race, with lots of course entertainment, clear mile markers, tons of support and water stations and pretty decent crowd support. I never found the official pace group I had vague plans to run with, but I'd still recommend the race wholeheartedly. The weather was beautiful, starting out at 50 degrees and warming up quickly to a sunny 68-70 or so. Truthfully, it was actually a bit warmer than I'd like but I decided not to complain and upset the running gods that day.



During my training runs, I always imagined how emotional I would be in the last stretch of the race. How much of a relief it would be to pass mile 23, 24, 25... knowing that I only had a few more miles left of this epic adventure. As it turns out, I didn't feel that relief until I crossed the finish line. With one mile left, I couldn't muster up the weepy pride that I had assumed would overwhelm me. No slow-motion montages of all of my previous hard work playing through my head. Nope, just sheer grit to make it to the finish line. I knew I would make it, of course, but even a mile seemed like a far distance to run. At mile 26 I passed Chris, enthusiastically cheering me on, and he told me the finish was right around the corner. It would only be another minute until I could stop and rest, but I still didn't feel any sense of relief! I just wanted it to be over, finally. As I ran down the finishing chute, a small smile spread across my lips and I managed to pump my arms in the air as I crossed the line. I collected my medal, my shiny foil blanket and water. Only then did I feel great. I felt proud. I felt equally triumphant and nonchalant about the achievement. I wondered if any of my family had tracked my progress on the computer and if they were relieved that I had made it. I shimmied out of the giant foil blanket meant to keep me warm, thinking that it unfortunately made me feel like a soggy burrito. I wandered over to the place where Chris said he would be. I waited for a little bit, probably just a minute or two, unable to think clearly about calling his cell phone or even sitting down in the shade to wait. I just stood there, in the middle of a race-crazed crowd, and looked around. I was in a total fog, but it was a happy one. When Chris got there he ran over and hugged me and shouted, "You just ran a MARATHON!" Then I sat down and burst into tears.

I've already got marathon amnesia. I'm already thinking about another one, in the future, someday. I am so proud of myself that I stuck with it during all of the training runs, especially those that I desperately wanted to skip. I'm thankful for the awesome phone calls and text messages and FB/Instagram notes and high fives I've gotten. For the celebratory champagne and beers. For the post-race burritos and Ben & Jerry's. For having friends and family that get it, or at least pretend to. For having a husband who doubles as my zen running coach. For the opportunity and ability to become a marathoner. And for feeling pretty damn great afterwards, with no injuries or major discomforts at all. Mission complete.