Butts, hips, puberty, tits.

Someone once explained to me that using “tits” as a positive exclamatory was valid because everybody likes tits. I’d say that that statement is mostly true. Save for gay men and the asexual, most people do, in fact, enjoy tits on one level or another. But I believe that many women have a love/hate relationship with them. 

Positives:

  • They help me get what I want!
  • They’re funny, and interesting to play with.

But that’s pretty much where it ends.

Negatives:

  • Everyone, literally everyone, is staring at them, trying to grab them, play with them, use them as food, bop them like drums… so on and so forth, whether they have permission or not.
  • They get in the way – sometimes people accidentally bop them and it hurts.
  • Cancer.

I totally get why women are objectified. We have fascinating orbs attached to our chests that everyone feels entitled to in some way. My cousin has a toddler, about a year and a half old. She still breast feeds occasionally. But between her baby and her husband, she can’t get a break. I ask her, “Do you ever say, ‘Shop’s closed! Get away from me!’?” She responds, “I think it all the time.” She’s a better person than me. 

I wasn’t necessarily taught to be proud of my body. Even into adulthood my family has questioned my fashion choices.

My parents: You wore that on the train ride down here?
Me wearing a t-shirt and shorts: What?

When I was going through puberty, I remedied the situation by wearing my older brothers’ t-shirts. Being four and six years older than me, and I a dainty little thing, their clothes are around nine sizes too big at any given age. Perfect for hiding my blossoming bosom. I hate that I said that, too.

My mother, bless her heart, had no idea what was going on under there. And if you’re thinking, What kind of mother doesn’t notice her own daughter’s development? I can tell you this, I’m really good at hiding things from my parents – my boobs, drugs, boyfriends, what have you. Besides, my mother grew up in a traditional Mexican household. As in, her-mother-didn’t-drive traditional. As in, girls-don’t-go-to-college traditional. As in, you’re-a-burden-until-you-get-married traditional. And they definitely did not discuss puberty, much less blossoming bosoms.

My mother told me the story of her first period around the time I got mine. She was playing at the park and felt like she needed to pee. So she ran home, went into the bathroom, pulled down her pants and saw blood. She nearly fainted, screamed for her mother, and my Buela ran in. She calmed my mother down and said, “Don’t worry. This is completely normal. Your sister will come in and explain everything.” So there ya go. 

Also, my mom was blessed with a small chest. She’s in her 60s and threw out all her bras once she retired. I think she assumed it would be a like-mother-like-daughter situation. But she hadn’t considered my paternal grandmother’s physique. Wowza! Ahooga! And so on. 

I remember vividly when my parents found out about my boobs. It was the summer of ’99. Tankinis were all the rage and my mother bought me a brand-new swim suit from TJ Max. Yes, my mother was an original Maxxinista – before it was cool.

She was excited about the purchase, knowing how in-style it would be, and how the blue and green color palate would satisfy my tomboy tendencies. She’d held out the suit like a prize on the Price Is Right. “Try it on, and show me and your father!” I cringed. Why do my parents want to see me in a bathing suit? I put up a half-hearted fight, coming off more annoyed and ungrateful than I should have.

To my mother’s insistence, I begrudgingly went up to my room to put it on. I felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story… if Ralphie’s aunt had accidentally sent him a Playboy bunny outfit. I grimaced as I looked myself up and down in my full-length mirror, my new perky breasts just a little too big for the thin stretchy fabric. It was the equivalent of strutting around in your underwear, in front of your parents, and not being a stripper with a great familial support system. My mother called for me, “Mary, get down here!”

My mind flashed back to a particularly horrendous back-to-school shopping trip a few years earlier. The whole family went to the local Kohl’s to get pants, shirts, gym shoes, school schools, socks, underwear and other things that people need, like home appliances, toys, other shoes, and some other stuff.

This was the year my body started to change. I was looking less like an adolescent boy and more like a miniature woman by the day. I started growing these new things called hips. I also learned that I had a butt. But I wasn’t wearing bras yet and my face was still angelic. So my parents, none the wiser, brought me to the kid’s section where they undoubtedly forced Osh Kosh B’gosh and whatever other little baby brands were in sight.

Nothing fit. I could barely get these jeans over my tush, and wouldn't come out of the dressing room wearing anything but the clothes I'd arrived in. My father grew increasingly annoyed at watching me exit the dressing room, over and over, in my old clothes claiming, “These don’t fit,” and handing back whatever he’d picked out for me. He’s a retired detective with a hound-like sense for bullshit, and a frugal man. And I was being just a bit too blasé about the whole thing. The tedious task of shopping with an adolescent girl who doesn’t understand her body, combined with purchasing a year’s worth of clothing for his entire family, sent him over the edge. He yelled at me in the dressing room, demanding that I come out to show him the pants that he’d chosen for me. I broke into tears, “They don’t fit me!”

One of my brothers pulled my mom away from whatever pot or pan she was eyeing and filled her in on the dilemma. “Mary’s crying in the dressing room.” My brothers are no frills, straight shooters.

I explained to her through tears that none of the pants Dad handed me fit. “I CAN’T (gasp) EVEN (gasp) PULL THEM (gasp) ALL (gasp) THE WAY (gasp) UP!” After I calmed down, the family huddled for a quick brainstorm.

“It seems like she needs a bigger size.”
“But she’s 10. When you boys were 10, you got your jeans from the 10-year-old section.”
“I’m not a boy!”

This was new territory for my parents. I was a girl. Their only girl. And the youngest. Clothes were purely tactical until this point. Items would be worn until you grew out of them, or until they were rags. Then they’d be handed down or replaced. No one concerned themselves with being fashionable or having the right fit. And my mom was a working woman. She had business attire and PJs, save for a single pair of mom jeans and a couple of shirts that she’d wear on the weekends. She was constantly at the office and trying to raise three kids. That woman didn’t have enough time to give a shit about clothes. 

So then there was me – a girl with a changing body and a whole different set of anxieties and emotions when it came to body image – something that I wouldn’t fully understand until adulthood, yet something that has lingered with me for as long as I can remember. I couldn’t just wear my brothers’ hand-me-downs anymore.

Looking back on it, I’m sure my father was giving me pants intended for boys, or at best, some androgynous pieces. I can’t blame him. He’s the kind of guy who thought I could wear tighty-whities when I was growing up. But much like how my mother insisted I have “girls” underwear, I needed jeans that were made for girls, too – that would accommodate hips and butts. Perhaps something with a flared leg.

I don’t know whether it was my mother’s intuition or the suggestion of a sympathetic store clerk, but we broke new ground by entering the Juniors section. If my memory serves me correctly, the entrance had a red carpet and a lit marquee reading “Juniors! This is your time!”. Red velvet ropes surrounded racks and racks of the trendiest clothes a pre-teen could ask for. I think there was a bouncer at the entrance shuffling the haters along. It fascinated us all. There was a whole part of the store made for little ladies just like me. Not kid clothes, not mom stuff. Brittany Spears would later articulate this feeling in her 2001 classic, “I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman”. I’m mean, talk about hitting the nail on the head. She must have had a similar experience.

With the help of my family, I picked out a few reasonably priced pairs of pants. They fit! It was official. I was a Junior. My heart exploded at my new-found identity and I beamed all the way home.

I was still staring at my boobs in the mirror when I came out of that day dream thinking, This is not that. I wondered how effective it would have been to walk out of the dressing room with pants halfway around my ass for all of Kohl’s, and my family, to see. Not only would I be embarrassed, my parents would be mortified. At least I had the privacy of my own home to fall back on in this scenario.

“Mary, come on!”
“OK, geez.”

I bit the bullet and walked down stairs into the living room like the world’s most awkward model. Both my parent’s jaws dropped as they finally realized my growth rate had accelerated beyond what they could have imagined.

“Okay. Now go change.”

My mother made an appointment to get me professionally fitted for a bra the very next day. It was one of those old-school brassiere shops run by women who still used the word brassiere. My first real bra was flesh colored, lacy with no padding. It hooked in front and I remember thinking, This is what being a woman is all about, huh? Throughout my teen years, I never gave it much more thought than that. Bras were just something women had to deal with, like tampons and makeup.

It occurred to me in adulthood, when my new-found feminism was at its height, that these three things were the biggest wastes of money. Incidentally, they’re perpetual expenses thrust upon women specifically. Even if your boobs stop changing, which they don’t, bras get loose and worn just like any other article of clothing. Pads and tampons are single use items. And the geniuses of the makeup industry design it so that it’s only good for about three months. Then it gets cakey or crusty or melted and who wants that on their face? Fucking capitalism.

When we moved to California I decided I was done with underwire and padded cups. It’s all bralettes from here on out. I’ve never been happier. I also opted for a menstrual cup a few years ago. No more throwing tampons and my hard-earned cash down the toilet. Makeup, unfortunately, is still on the table. I like to accentuate my best features, and I’d sooner walk through fire than forget to pencil in my eyebrows. Maybe in time I’ll stop giving fucks and society will be forced to accept my mug as is. Some day.

Until then, I’m appreciating the freedom of braless yoga. And when I walk through CVS toward the makeup aisle, I strut past the feminine hygiene products, smirking, knowing that I’m one step closer to beating the system. 

Men are from Earth. Women are from Earth. We just don’t speak the same language.

Terry and I kept getting into little tiffs the other day. Every conversation just felt off. He didn’t see it this way, but I noticed it in our first discussion – I just wanted to talk and complain, and he just wanted to give me advice about what I should do. But that’s not what I needed. I know what to do. I just wanted to vent about it.

We made up well before dinner and just as I was about to fall asleep, I realized what the problem was: I wanted to talk about something that was happening in my life, and I wanted a sympathetic ear. I wanted someone to empathize – to say, I totally get it. I wanted a conversation with a woman.

Talking to Terry is great, but I’m talking to a man. Men are natural problem solvers. I see this with Terry, with my father, my brothers, a lot of male friends – you frame up something as if it’s a problem (because why else would you be complaining about it?) and they solve it for you. There you go! You have your solution. Now everyone can go back to being happy. It’s a rather convenient way to shut someone up, isn’t it? Provide a solution that, if implemented, will cure the issue and all complaints. But it’s not that simple with females. It never is.

Sometimes it feels good to complain your ass off, and to know that someone cares enough to let you do it. It helps to know that other people out there deal with dumb shit, too. And we can be annoyed together! And when we’re all good and irritated, only then will we voice the solution. Only then.

This rift reminded me of a gender studies class I took my last semester of college. Admittedly, I signed up for the credit hours, but it ended up being one of my most interesting and favorite courses. It was a class of maybe 15 to 20 students – all different levels, races, genders – and we basically just talked about what it meant to be men and women in society. We hit on double standards, dating, grooming, sex, education, physicality, personal and societal expectations... But the class dedicated to conversation styles intrigued me the most.

Speaking generally, women tend to be more open and inviting in their conversations, especially with those whom they have close relationships – or as a way to establish, grow, improve or repair. Between girl talk and gossip, there lies a safe space where women feel empowered to share and speak freely. They’ll sit, and spend time and energy talking through every aspect of an issue, uncovering all its mysteries, subtleties and meanings. 

Again, speaking generally, men are straight shooters. They get to the point. They might think on an issue for a while, but the fewer words they need to convey their thoughts, the better. They're described as 'the strong, silent type', 'stoic', and 'a man of few words'. There's even that movie with John Wayne, "The Quiet Man". And everything I know about being a man I learned from John Wayne.

These conversation styles are not dissimilar to our genitalia, or even the way men and women have and experience sex. Vaginas, by design, are open and inviting. Because of an internal system, there’s a lot of exploring one must do to achieve orgasm, which requires time, energy, and an intimate understanding of your partner or self.  

Now let’s think about the penis. It’s literally a point. It’s all hanging out there, and the solution is obvious. You don’t even need to get fancy. Just get to work. It’s pretty much the same technique across the gender and it has yet to fail them.

When we were working it out, I told Terry that I just wanted to talk. I didn’t need him to come up with a solution. I just needed him to listen to me. But he thought his guidance was part of the conversation. It's interesting. Neither one of us is wrong. We’re just seeing the same thing from two different sides. 

Star Date: 2/9/17

Today I had an excuse to wake up at 5:15am, but Cindy and Julia didn’t get enough sleep so yoga has been postponed until 9 or noon, whichever is more reasonable. I took it as an opportunity to start my day. The earlier you rise, the more you, theoretically, get done. And since I naturally woke up around 4:40am, I think my body was trying to tell me something. I’m reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. He talks about Resistance and how it rears its ugly head to distract us from our work. It takes the form of fear, procrastination, people, etc and it keeps us from achieving all the practical goals that take time and effort and all the creative endeavors that require our skill and attention. It’s 100% true and I see myself in every page. But we’re going on 6am now. So far today, I’ve woken up, gone back to sleep, woken up again, went to the bathroom, brushed my teeth, laid wide awake in bed with Terry for 5 minutes, put on some lounging clothes, got my computer, my sketch pad, my planner, The Art of War by Steven Pressfield, my One Line A Day book and a Sharpie Pen and came down stairs, planned my day with my planner, opened my computer to work on my new website for the jewelry biz, and got completely distracted with my morning free-write. 

Why ‘Make America Great Again’ was the worst political slogan ever created. Thanks, Reagan.

I wasn’t old enough to witness Reagan’s presidency, but my dad was. He said, and I quote, “He wasn’t that great.” But he was an actor, so there ya go.

It was the 80s. People didn’t give a shit about anything. Except for like, doing cocaine or whatever. And I think Reagan’s presidency, and stupid slogan, was about bringing back the 1950s era American Dream. I assume because that was when he was a popular actor, and also, because male dominance over women was much more widely accepted. And what misogynist wouldn’t want to go back to a time when women could be mothers or have careers, but not both. And couldn’t apply for their own credit cards without their husband’s or father’s permission. It’s nice to be needed.

Yes, I’m calling Reagan a misogynist. But I’d call anyone a misogynist, and a couple of other things, who thinks that our country was better for people in the past rather than in the present. I know it’s not perfect. It never will be, but the goal is to always get better, to give people more liberty, more freedom. So when you say you want to go back to a time when people had less of that, specifically women and people of color, that worries me. Because let’s face it, white men, America has always been great for you. It was created for you, by you and with your best interests in mind. There’s literally no denying that because it’s 100% true.

But I’m going to give Reagan, Trump and anyone who actually says this dumb thing, without being ironic, the benefit of the doubt. I think there are a lot of Americans out there who have felt their government hasn’t been doing anything for them over the last 8 years. Which is funny because every Republican I know goes on and on about how the government should stay out of their lives. Except when it comes to abortion. Government should totally be in women’s vaginas. But I digress.

People didn’t know it yet, but when Reagan was campaigning in 1980, they were yearning for a simpler time. After the Vietnam War, after disco died, after doing lines of coke while roller skating, they wanted to get back to their American Dream. They wanted to own houses and raise families and go on exotic bi-annual vacations to places like Disneyland and Cuba. I mean, no, not Cuba. Mexico! Maybe Europe when the kids got to college and could really appreciate it. Maybe all that culture would keep them off drugs. Cocaine in particular. You did it, and are fine, but your kids really shouldn’t. Reagan-era parents just hid their marijuana stash as best they could, and went out to mow the lawn or something. It was a new decade, and what better way to counter 10 years of rampant excessiveness than with a slogan that implies we had to go back in order to move forward.

Cut to 2016, the age of misinformation and millennials*. Trump, in his infinite wisdom, asks himself, “Who is a Republican president everyone loved, and what was his campaign slogan?” Answer: Ronald Reagan. Make American Great Again. “Kellyanne, can we rip off Reagan? Let’s do it anyway. People will love it. It’s gonna be ‘uge. I’m the greatest, and I have a very smart brain. Look at me go, Kellyanne!”

Have you ever heard that saying, ‘Good artist copy, great artists steal’? And it actually worked. It actually fucking worked. Amazing. It’s just too bad that we’ve come too far to go back this time.

Like, this American Dream bullshit. What the fuck is that? I don’t want to own a home. First of all, I can’t afford it. And if I borrow money from my parents, I just get shit about being an entitled millennial. Plus, when I was in college, the housing market crashed. It doesn’t really seem like a safe investment when you knew 25-year-olds who filed for bankruptcy and moved back in with their parents because they lost their jobs and could no longer afford the home they’d bought just a year prior. Anyway, the only people I know who buy houses these days are friends who are married, getting married, or accidentally got pregnant. And they move, almost exclusively, back to the neighborhoods where we grew up. Closer to family, perhaps? Maybe it’s what their parents recommended and could afford for them? Who knows. And why the hell would I want to have a baby? So it could inevitably become my parent’s responsibility? Because I can’t afford them either. And I really don’t want to start a cycle of poverty.

Is there anything else that we can tack on to this “dream” so that it even somewhat applies to me? So that ‘Make America Great Again’ doesn’t feel like some old cliché that’s as rung out as a dirty sponge living under your kitchen sink? Retaining my human rights. Being financially independent. Not having debt. Those are my dreams.

So I’m getting my IUD, and I’m writing, writing, writing, hoping that someone in the world notices me and says, “Hey, you can write for us. We can pay you half of what you’re asking for.” And I say, “Okay.” Because that’s usually how it goes. Then I empty my menstrual cup, go make dinner and think about where I thought I’d be at 29.  

*All information presented in this article is potentially incorrect. But who gives a shit about fact-checking? 

When I fly, I drink Gin & Tonics.

Other than when I’m with my parents, I never do this. The drink is specific, only and to either, my mother and father or an airplane. Sometimes both. 

The association never really occurred to me until now. Now that I’m sitting in an airport, craving a G & T. Truthfully, I don’t even like Tonic water. I think it tastes like dirty bubbles. But there’s tradition behind this one.

My parents drink Gin & Tonics because of my grandmother, my father’s mother. She was a tall, athletic Irish woman – charming and elegant and perfect in every way. It was her drink of choice and she was the personification of it – a double in a highball glass – refreshing, reminiscent of another era.

My mother used to say that she lucked out with Grammie, Gram for short. She couldn’t have asked for a better mother-in-law. Gram extended her graciousness and good heart to her grandkids, something I imagine that came very naturally to her. I emphasize this because as a child, I remember plenty of adults treating me like… a child. Not Gram though. She was the one who played whiffle ball with us when we were growing up. She taught me and all my cousins how to play golf. She took my brother out driving, with all the cousins piled in her white station wagon, ready to die in the name of Seamus getting a license.

The summer before she passed away, she would pick all six of us up from our houses and take us for breakfast to Huck Finn in the West Lawn neighborhood of Chicago, just down the block from the house where she raised my father and uncles. Then, we’d go on an adventure. Some days we’d play a few rounds of mini golf. Some days we’d go to the movies. The cemetery was frequently on our route. Gram wanted to visit Grampie, make sure his footstone was tidy, and say a prayer over his grave.

She was a class act. A worldly, down-to-earth woman who couldn’t be done justice by Rosy the Riveter herself. There is only one woman I’ve ever met who reminds me of Gram, and that’s my partner Terry’s mother. She’s absolutely lovely.

Gram and Gramps were actually responsible for my very first plane ride. The one I can remember anyway. And remember it I do. Vividly, in fact. I was six. I traveled with my cousin Jennie to visit my grandparents in Florida, where they lived full-time sans summers. Jennie was eight at the time. This was back when you could do just about anything when it came to air-travel: go through security without a ticket, throw two very young unaccompanied minors on a plane by themselves… Hell, they still had functioning ashtrays in the armrests. I know this because I remember wanting to play with the ashtray on the way there. Jennie was doing it, but I couldn’t because I was sitting next to a man who was using the armrest to rest his arm. The nerve.

Jennie knew I wanted to play with the ashtray. She remained silent as she stared at me, continually flipping the tray top up and down, never breaking eye contact. Her intensity fueled my curiosity. I turned to my shared armrest only to find a large arm attached to a sleeping man that I didn’t care to wake.

That was another thing about the flight. There was no talking. Our parents must have told us to be good, and that must have translated as ‘no talking’ because we were completely silent, unless provoked by an adult, for the entire flight.

Eventually we landed, and I’m sure we saw Gram as soon as we got off the plane, and I bet we had a fantastic Easter with her and Gramps. But there’s only one other thing I remember about the trip, and it happened on the flight home. This time I had a window seat, and I was totally psyched! It was a bright, beautiful day and I was enjoying the view, taking it all in. I glanced over to the seat next to me and caught Jennie’s envious eye. A smirk manifested across my face. This was it. Timely revenge, an unbeatable view. I was flying high on cloud nine. Excuse the puns!

And then, with no explanation at all, the flight attendant came over and pulled my window shade down. If the expression “WTF” existed in the early 90s, it was written all over my face. I looked at Jennie, her sly grin stretched from ear to ear. In a moment, I was Nancy Kerrigan. WHY?!. I wanted so badly to pull up the shade, but the afore mentioned behavioral rule kept me in a dark windowless silence for the rest of the flight. Just as quickly as I had come into power, my reign was over. 

Through an elaborate series of head turns and directional nods, Jennie and I discovered that another sleeping man was the culprit. He couldn’t catch any Zs with the miraculous day that was filtering into the plane. Somehow, light was ricocheting off the wing, through my window, and directly into his closed eyes. Sometimes being a kid is the pits. Gram would never let this happen to me, I thought, silently, as I endured my own personal hell on wings. 

My fondest memories of Gram all take place the summer before she died. Every day, we'd hang out. And every night, the entire family would gather at my uncle John's house, where she stayed during her trips to Chicago. All the cousins would play in the pool while our parents cooked spaghetti with my mom's homemade pasta sauce, or picked up pizza from Vitto & Nick's. All the favorite dishes were had. We spared no expense.

At the time, I thought nothing of it. This was just what families do. But I never considered the severity of Gram's health. As far as I was concerned, she was cured. Good as new from her first bout with cancer. And back, better than ever. I mean, she was taking her entire summer to hang out with six kids between the ages of 8 and 16. I suppose if I had been a more thoughtful 10-year-old, I might have picked up on something. This was her last hurrah. The cancer had come back, and with a vengeance. She was in her 80s, treatment was a long shot, she’d lost her husband a few years prior, and she was ready. 

So now when I sit and have a drink with my folks, who are either in or near their 60s, we all think of Gram. My mom says, “I’m honoring your grandmother,” as she holds up her glass before she takes her first sip. 

I’m named after Gram, too, by the way. There's something sacred about that. So when I'm indulging with my parents, or on a plane alone, I hold up my glass and cheers to the Marys.