Stop the Appearance Shaming Right. Now.

Stop Appearance Shaming RIGHT NOW

A few years ago, a woman really, really annoyed me in a professional setting. I vented to a friend, citing everything from how she conducted herself online to her lack of writing skill to the way she brown-nosed my higher ups. (For all my worried ex-co-workers, this is not about you.) My friend indulged my rant, as friends do. Additionally, my friend knew the woman in question and had experienced the same things. I felt safe as my friend validated my frustrations.

Then I mentioned the offending woman’s appearance in a photo she uploaded to Facebook.

“Stop it right now. Tear apart her writing. Feel frustrated with the way she speaks to you. But her looks are off limits.”

I argued the point for approximately two-point-five seconds. Then I stopped. I realized I was wrong. Way wrong. I didn’t mention her looks again. Eventually I didn’t have to deal with her at all as I continued on down my winding career path. The interaction with that old friend, however, stuck with me.

And it’s bothering the hell out of me lately.

It started during the election. Anti-Hillary camps attacked her appearance, bringing up eye bags or wrinkles or how exhausted she looked or the weight she put on since she was in college. (You’re kidding me with the weight thing, right?) Pro-Hillary people argued that others shouldn’t attack her appearance; they should gauge her Presidential ability on the way she answered questions in debates and talked about policy.

These people then turned around and called Trump a Cheeto.

I engaged in the Trump appearance-shaming until that conversation with my friend popped back up in my head. And I sighed. I hate that nagging conscience of mine. I also hate being wrong, especially on moral and ethical grounds. I then tried to only retweet those who chose to address the issues at hand rather than poke fun at how the 45th President looks. I didn’t maneuver that endeavor perfectly, but I tried.

Three times in the past week I’ve watched smart women whom I admire go after the Trump women or KellyAnne for their appearance. Twice in the past week I’ve called them on it, because I’m straight up tired of it.

Listen: Unkind people, mostly women, have said unkind things about my appearance for my whole life. A fellow student in high school used to make fun of my size, of my clothing choices, of my eye shape. She made my senior year a veritable hell. Of note: it also happened in Christian settings. Thanks, Jesus people! It happened again in college, to a lesser extent due to a larger amount of people. Still, people commented on my appearance, both things I could control (things I liked to wear; things I didn’t know about like tweezing your eyebrows) and things I couldn’t control (yes, I know my eyes are shaped differently than yours; yes, I have knobby knees; yes, my teeth are crooked despite having worn braces; yes, my ears stick out a bit).

When I moved to Ohio, it didn’t happen for awhile—because I didn’t interact with other human beings other than my husband and his family for a long time. As we began to grow our family, I met more people thanks to things like story time at the library and weight checks at the hospital and, as they got older, sports and school. People were slow to adopt me in this small community because I come from away. I was slow to adopt people because, well, I have trust issues and I’m an introvert (INFJ). Eventually I made some trusted, smart, lovely friends who loved me for me, all my quirks included.

I also made some not-so-friendly-acquaintances along the way who chose to make negative comments about my appearance either to their friends who didn’t realize little birdies exist or via social media. I’m nearly thiry-six-damn-years-old and this shit is still happening.

Guess what? You don’t have to like my hair. You don’t have to like what I wear. You don’t have to like my eyes or my legs or my thighs or my belly or my stretch marks or my makeup or my ears or my weight or my breasts or my arms or my cheeks or my butt or my feet or my fingers that swell too easily due to a kidney issue or even my fucking kidney. You don’t have to! But you do have to treat me with respect if you expect to remain in my life in any shape or form. You do owe me the simplicity of being a decent human being. You don’t have to be my best friend. You don’t have to like me. You can tell people I’m bossy or rude or stubborn or depressed; all those things are true. I own them. I apologize for them frequently. (Sorry again for any recent bossy/rude/stubborn issues. I won’t apologize for Treatment Resistant Depression, but I will continue to work on it with my doctors and therapists.)

But leave my looks out of it.

Leave the Trump women alone for their looks. KellyAnne is evil enough without commenting on how she looks. If you didn’t want people talking about Michelle Obama’s looks, whether the comments were racial or just about her arms, then stop making these kind of comments about women across the aisle—however wide that aisle might be. Like all the way to Russia.


Stop it right now.

Attack policy. Rant about the lies. Question everything. But for Pete’s sake, and Pete was my Papau, act like a grown ass adult and leave the way people look out of it.

My chin hair and I will thank you for it.

Stop Appearance Shaming RIGHT NOW

My Truest Truth

“I don’t want to forgive her.”

The truth I’ve held onto so tightly for thirteen years came tumbling from my lips. I sat in a worn, mustard-colored, 70s velour chair, legs crossed, with a picture upon my knee.

October 2003; I Don't Want to Forgive Her

I stared at her and she stared back, through her old pair of glasses. He hadn’t shipped her newer pair yet, the ones she’d left behind with an old jacket and a volume of William Carlos Williams’ poetry. Ransom, perhaps, or an inability for either of them to deal with the situation at hand.

I stared at her smile—not her normal smile, no. When she’s happy, gums show and her eyes light and dance. I stared at her clothing. At 32-weeks-pregnant, she still didn’t wear maternity clothes. She didn’t need to; the Level III bed rest, living alone, and fight for her life kept her from gaining much weight.

I stared at her, my heart fluctuating between something akin to empathy, compassion and then hard-shifting into ferocious, bitter anger.

“Why don’t you want to forgive her?

A million reasons, all rolled into one.

“She gave away my daughter.”

As many truths as I’ve spoke over the years, that is my truest truth. I don’t want to forgive myself for placing my daughter for adoption. I need someone to remain angry with, and I’ve gone ahead and forgiven every last individual involved. Except for myself.

Logically, I see this as a hindrance to my healing. Remaining angry at myself for things—things of which I spoke of for the first time to my therapist and nearly left her speechless; things mostly out of my control; things which would break my heart if I heard of them happening to another woman, another mother—doesn’t solve a single thing. It doesn’t alleviate my anxiety, my depression. It doesn’t bring my daughter home to live in my house. It doesn’t remove my sons’ sadness, their keen missing of their sister. The anger doesn’t make anything better.

But letting it go feels too scary, still. Too big. Too much.

That anger feels safe, if we’re honest. It’s been the only constant in my life for thirteen years. I’ve had to let go of anger at and with others, forgive them in order to keep moving forward. But that anger at myself? I can move forward with it… however slowly. I can bench it when I need to; I can pull it out and wield it against myself if I feel too cocky, like I’ve done too much of a good thing. It’s a good tool for putting myself in my place.

You gave away your baby. What kind of mother does that? Sit down. You don’t belong with these other people. You don’t belong anywhere. You monster.

Among these mothers who fought to have babies and lost them and would give anything under the sun to make sure they never had to separate from their child, I feel a giant scarlet letter on my chest. Not the A, for adoption. No. The O, for other. For odd. For ostracized. For out of place. For outcast. For orphaned; for orphan maker. So many fought and fight for what I had—a daughter—and I gave her away.

I don’t want to forgive myself because I am still ashamed of my decision, of myself. I don’t care that I was sick, that I fought for my life and underwent two surgeries while pregnant. I don’t care that no one wanted to support a decision to parent. I don’t care that, once entangled with the adoption facilitator, I couldn’t find a way to untangle myself. None of that matters. I gave away my baby, my girl. It firmly remains all my fault.

Needless to say, yesterday’s therapy session ranked off the charts on the How Hard It Felt meter. My therapist challenged and questioned me in ways no one ever has regarding my daughter’s adoption. I ended feeling very exhausted, because I really don’t like to go there all that often. In fact, just searching for this photo caused a dissociative, out-of-body experience for me. My therapist wasn’t surprised, but I felt surprised as to how visceral it felt all these years later.

I think we made progress. I don’t know. Today I feel like someone ran me over with the Emotions and Feels Bus. Maybe that’s necessary to move forward, because lord knows I haven’t gone back to some of those places since, well, ever.

Tonight I sit and ponder, again, what forgiving myself looks like. It doesn’t look like having my daughter, so I’m still stuck on the point of it all.

Maybe I’ll find it one of these days.