Thursday, November 10, 2016

Day Two


By now, I assume - I hope - you have seen some of the immediate fallout of the election. Black and Latinx Americans are targeted for violence and hate speech. Women are being groped by gleeful men who assume that sexual assault plays a role in making America great. Muslim women are terrorized for their constitutionally protected expressions of faith. LGBT+ citizens waken to new uncertainty, bigotry, and fear. Buildings are vandalized - and we see the return of the swastika in public symbolism; we see bald faced antisemitism which too many of us pretended no longer exists.

I hope you have also seen protest. I hope you have seen that groups like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU are accepting donations and vowing to continue the fight for decency and justice. I hope you are girding your loins for a long and righteous struggle for a better America, one unstained by hate.

But that which troubles me today is the tide of well-meaning words, the praise of positive thinking - pleasant on its surface but hiding an unwillingness to see our not-so-new reality.

I have a grudge against positive thinking, both personal and political. Having a mental illness basically guarantees that someone - a friend, a family member, a mentor - tells you that positive thinking is your savior and cure, something other than paltry palliative care against what is sometimes a fatal condition. Mental illness is too often misunderstood as a weakness of will, and stock responses to real suffering concern themselves with how a change of mindset is surely the cure. Addiction, too, falls prey to that school of thought, as if struggling with addiction were only feeling a bit blue, a bit angry, a bit down in the dumps, a bit weak.

Surely, positive thinking can fix this! And then those friends, family members, and mentors let their eyes turn away from pain they are unwilling to face.  

I've seen that nonsense happen in response to the tragedies of our nation. Well-meaning white people seem to think that Black Americans just need to forget the systematic oppression which is the cornerstone of our national identity and infrastructure. It's insidious and it's easy; it's simple to sit in front of our televisions and look at righteously angry people and say, in the nicest terms, get over it. As we wake up on the second day after the election, I see more of the same, and the guise of willful ignorance is often a beautiful image - a sunset, an animal, our flag - over which is written, we must be positive.

No, we must not.

There is positive thinking and then there is determination, and the difference between the two is immense. By telling others to be positive, we ignore their pain. Would you dare look into the eyes of a woman who has been assaulted and tell her to think happy thoughts? Would you be able to live with yourself as you stood over a Black woman who was beaten and spit upon and say, kindly, get over it? Can you look at your LGBT+ friends and know that this country just elected men who believe in abuse, in electrocution, to force a change their identity, and ask them to be positive?

If you can really do that, if you can ignore the truth, you have a strength of will I cannot imagine. But it is not a strength of character or morality or honesty. It is a strength in a willingness to unsee other people's very real and justifiable suffering.

And we are all, in some ways, suffering. I am angry here, and I understand that is uncomfortable. Perhaps we use positive thinking to hide our feelings not from others, but from ourselves. Perhaps we don't have the words to express our fears. Perhaps years of our culture trivializing mental illness have stopped us from developing the kind of skills I have had to learn in therapy - self-care, self-reflection, self-criticism. Honesty. Grief. Compassion. Maybe we use positive thinking to hide from how we feel and who we are.

But it is a gross injustice. We have a responsibility as citizens and as human beings to look into the experiences of our neighbors, friends, family. We cannot be blind, not anymore, and we must see the truth now more than ever. Tuesday thrust upon us a new duty, not to be positive, but to be determined.

We must be stronger, and that means changing the way we think, speak, and act.

I have sympathy for the moments of mourning which accompany a radical shift in the way we perceive the world. This election feels like a betrayal of a great institution, a democratic experiment, a home. But we're not going to fix it unless we get angry, get ugly, get - dare I say it - negative. We should be downright pissed off at how much and how often we have been deceived.

As a woman with a mental illness, I am telling you that we will get better, but that the only way to do it is to be honest. We hurt. We have seen others hurt. Our nation has been hurting for a long, long time.

It's time to face the truth, not with palliatives, but with determination.

We must face our pain if we want to survive.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Do Better

Many years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled, "Shame." Struggling with my bipolar disorder and my place in the world as a young woman with a mental illness, I typed out a few words on the nature of shame, the nature of being atypical in a world which, it seemed, valued conformity above all else.

I am no longer beholden to that shame, to the feeling that I don't fit in, to the misfiring neurons and the long nights of panic and mania and inspiration. I wrote, and I spoke, and I let that shame go. 

But we, as a country, as a stunted conglomeration of bigotry and beauty, of fear and faith, of hatred and hope, should be deeply ashamed today. We should mourn - mourn not only the results of our democratic process, but our very selves. 

It's difficult to take responsibility for actions and events we abhor, terribly hard to admit complicity when disgust wins. I wish I could deny any wrongdoing - after all, my politics are based on inclusion, on love, on justice, on peace - and simply hate those who step up and claim their ugliness with pride. I wish I could only be angry with that half of the country which elected a monster endorsed by modern Nazis and the Klansmen we all pretend don't exist. 

But to do so would lack honesty, because this is our country. This is the way we live. We created and venerated the smiling lies of freedom and blind patriotism, and we have benefited from them. 

Complacency, privilege, and fear won the day. This is America.

We are a country built metaphorically and literally on the graves of Native Americans, on the backs of slaves, on the continued disenfranchisement of minorities. We are built on an educational system which consistently benefits the privileged and fails the poor - and fails all of us as textbooks teach more smiling lies about the glorious American past. We are a country which allows so-called Christian evangelism in our classrooms, in our government, in our healthcare, and in our bedrooms. We are a country of dogmatic belief, a country of preachers and politicians who worship the dollar, worship power, more than they do any loving God. 

We attempt to balance our shameful history with the light of civilization and civility, and in some ways, we succeed. The world is better than it was. But the progress we have made - more women in government, more minority representatives, gay marriage, (supposed) access to healthcare and abortion services - seems hollow and insincere when confronted with the truth that half of Americans want to take all of that away. The progress is necessary, the progress is important, and too many Americans hate it. 

Today we witness the reaction of white America to a changing world. And if you, like me, have been given the gift of racial and economic privilege, you have been yet another cog in a capitalist, revisionist, and eternally hungry machine. Political pundits frame this election as a rejection of the status quo; the horrible truth is that this day of sorrow is a return to America's birth. Complacency, privilege, and fear. Freedom for white men and women at the expense of so many others.

I did not cause these things. You, my readers, did not bring these events forth. We are not entirely to blame. But any time we accepted an unjust death, when we changed the channel as protests occupied our streets, when we listened to an off-color joke, when we allowed our children to succeed while others failed, when we separated ourselves from those who suffer - we played into a long history of shameful atrocities and set the stage for today. 

This post is not an epitaph. My sentiments are grim - they are not final. I do have hope. This country must improve, and it will improve when all of us together stand up and say, enough. Enough of this legacy of slavery and genocide; enough of a system which allows widespread injustice and incarceration; enough murdered Black men and women, transwomen; enough bigotry and hate. Let us not allow one more moment of pain and stupidity and disgust. Let us rise up and say honestly, we want a better world.  

Let's not pretend for one more second that we don't see where we fail. We must look into our selves and do better. 

Today we grieve. Tomorrow, we change. We wake up and we say, this is not my America. 

My America is going to be better. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Street Harassment and Freedom

I've been dealing with a nasty cold and feel generally gross in every way, so Monday, my husband and I decided to "go out" for a little while - just a quick walk around the mall - to get me out of the house and out of my bathrobe. 

Clothes and makeup have always been my armor - I've talked about that here, before. So even when I'm sick I try to pull myself together. On Monday, I put on a nice outfit, a little makeup, and tried to will myself to be confident, instead of a snotty mess. 

My ensemble - jeans, a nice sleeveless shirt with a high neckline, black boots. Earrings, a watch. A little black eyeliner, neutral eyeshadow and lipstick. Basically, just nice clothes, nothing fancy. 

Conservatives and all-around jerks talk about how women should dress modestly, because if we don't, we are "asking for it" - "it" being everything from street harassment to sexual assault. These are the same people who influence our culture so much that young women are policed daily by school dress codes, forced to be sexual objects through the lens of adult puritanical prudishness, forced to cover themselves up because of adult perversity. These are the same people who advocate abstinence in their (and everyone else's) daughters - one form of taking away a woman's sexual agency - but complete compliance in their wives - another truly tragic and harmful method for robbing women of their bodies and their power. 

I've worn some sexy outfits. I've worn clothes that capitalized on my curves. I've worn backless and low-cut tops, and I've enjoyed compliments, because I was dressing to feel beautiful and powerful, sexual, mysterious. And those jerks would tell me that those were the times I was "asking for it."

Well, jerks, was I asking to be cat called in a shirt and jeans? Was I asking to have a man call me hot and sexy, pretty much right in my ear, as I was walking at the mall with my husband?

Tell me, do you really think my clothes are the issue? Or are you the issue? Are you scared of my flesh? Are you scared of your own sexuality? Do you think of yourselves as powerless in the face of your own mindless need to possess women? Are you scared that I hold the power to say yes or no - and is that why you are so worried about campaigns to discuss and encourage affirmative and enthusiastic consent? 

Cat calling is just another way in which jerks like you try to beat women down. Make us less human. Own us. 

I pity all of you. It must be painful to be so frightened of a woman taking control of her own power, sexual agency, and flesh. You must have truly unsatifying lives. 

I wonder how much your wives and daughters resent you. 

A man in the mall - who was bigger than me, and definitely threatening - decided it was his right to speak low and thick in my ear and reduce me to an object, a plaything, an animal. If you, jerk faces, think I was asking for it, you're even more deluded than you appear. You'd like to blame your behavior on those slutty women who wear what they want, sleep with who they want, take birth control, are feminists - but the truth is, I was just a woman in jeans with a red nose and a hacking cough, holding hands with my husband. 

You are utterly transparent in your hatred of women. 

There are so many little tricks, little twists of language, that you employ to make you sound reasonable - or worse, Christian. You hide behind a text - the Old Testament - and completely ignore the messages of Christ. You talk about decency and family values and purity and all that bull which means only this: the only sexual expression which is acceptable to you is white, male, cis, hetero sexuality. 

You literally think that women who have sex (and enjoy it!) outside of marriage are going to hell. You think members of the LGBTQ community are going to hell (for two real reasons - we defy gender stereotypes and shockingly, enjoy sex!). You throw fire and brimstone at us and become more and more enraged, because we stand outside of a culture of fear and oppression and have a real chance to be happy. 

When we own our bodies, when we make choices, when we have power, we are free. 

You, jerks, are not. 

No wonder you grasp at the straws of power - cat calling, legislating our rights to choose. You want us back in the tight grip of your own prisons. 

Until you break out, until you sever the chains you forged yourselves, link by oppressive link - just stop. Just stop the cat calling and harassment, stop the hatred, stop the slurs, stop trying to force us to join you in your cells. We will not go. 

A man spoke in my ear and asked me to imprison myself in his own shame. He tried to make me dirty. 

But I am clean in my brilliant expression of love and sexuality, in my curving flesh. And in the joy I take in my womanhood and pleasure, I am free. 


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Letter from Exile

Dear God,

Yeah, it's me again. 

It's quarter to twelve, and as is usual in late winter, I can't sleep. We've met each other hereabouts before. It's just you, me, a blanket, the rush of central heating, the stars. Hey, how's it going, good to see you. Where have you been?

God, I don't know if I should be talking to you. It's late, and I'm scared, and so many times I've sworn off you for good. I've tried praying to everything else - a Goddess, a patron saint, my Grandpere. I think I'm done with you, because I'm a rational person with critical thinking skills and a solid grasp on all the science I believe in but don't fully understand. I'm done with you because I left my church and my martini afternoons behind. 

I tell people - by the way, this is how I phrase it - I tell people that believing in you was a hell of a lot harder after seeing my Grandpere's illness and death. If I'm in a slightly more honest mood, I tell people that my connection with you was mostly severed through my diagnosis and medications. No mixed mania, no conversations with the divine. 

But at the root of it all is me at eighteen. I was young. I didn't know if I could really afford college - hell, I had no idea how to handle living on my own. I needed to get away from the way I'd been brought up and my incredible loneliness. I was just a kid, and there was affection and there was incredible loss. And in all of that you decided to back out and let me handle this stuff without your spider webbing of grace. I was stupid and bipolar and I wanted something I had never felt before. 

Love. 

Maybe your love. 

Maybe not. 

I don't know how to believe in you, anymore. And it hurts me and it terrifies me that I still ask you for help when I'm in bed and feel eighteen and so completely lost. It's been ten years, and in those ten years life has unfolded - death, births, marriages, separations, reunions. I know there's a lot more to come. I'm twenty-eight and all I can think is God damn, I'm still a kid. 

What questions should I be asking you? What should I be praying about?

If I could imagine or believe in what your grace, your true presence, would do for me, it wouldn't be lying in bed, sleepless and furious. It would be so much more than that. Because I've felt you most in impossible situations, like standing on a mountain or singing in a pub in Ireland, or holding my baby sister, or making love, or dancing in a nightclub, or reading Shakespeare. I've felt you in the bitter dregs of my coffee and in the way light catches the crystal on my dining room table. You are the smell of pine in the fireplace and the pounding rain of Baltimore in the spring. You are the promise of life which begins, ends, and begins again. 

Where have you been all this time? Please, just answer back. I keep looking for you, even though I say I'm not. 

I see you in all the ugly parts of life, too, but I keep being told that all you are is beautiful. 

I want to escape the prison of your perfection. 

I just want you to hold me. 

I am angry with you, God, and I grind my teeth and I try to make things work. I try not to be too young, eighteen and lonely, and I try not to be too old, resigned. And I just keep being here, in bed, or on the couch, under blankets, naked, and I keep asking for you to tell me one damned thing you like about me. I keep hoping you'll give me your grace. Even if, most of the time, I'm not sure I can bring myself to really believe in you again. 

Oh, God. Just say something. Don't leave me here like this. 

It's a February morning, and as usual, I'm going to crawl back into bed and will probably fall asleep within an hour. If you're real, you'll be there while I'm awake and while I dream, and if you're not, I won't necessarily know the difference. But I do long for you, and in the frightened-child center of me I believe that you're there, here, somewhere. 

Because as angry as I am, I have the quick breath of summer on my neck. I have jazz and glam rock and I have buffalo mozzarella and basil. I have ridiculous recipes and I have all the damned rules for every board game there's ever been. I have a black and white cat who sleeps on my porch when it's raining and I have bonfires in my back yard. And I really, really hate you sometimes, but I see you within the beats of Yeats's poetry and Mozart's genius, precise madness. 

If you have any grace to give, just help me to see all that, appreciate it. Just let me live in love and never be numbed to it. Just hold me in your hand and cradle me at night and whisper, it's all good. 

Dear God, I'm still here. I'm twenty eight and I don't always know how to live without you. 

I'm doing my best. 


Monday, January 26, 2015

Loving

I've been in love so many times. 

I was in love with an adorable thin boy in first grade, and I was in love for far too long with a pre-teen crush, and I've loved my sister ever since her purple eyes opened and she gave me a reason to live. 

I've loved my mother, and my step-father, and I've loved my father in impossible, painful ways. I've loved my stepmother in her brilliant vulnerabilities, and I am coming to love my second stepmother and her son in their authenticity. I've loved my grandmother and all the ways I fear to tell her my weaknesses. I've loved the way she taught me to hear music and see light through blue glass. 

I loved my grandfather and the way he made me afraid to be anything other than the best version of myself. 

I've loved my country and the idea of equality. The idea of freedom. 

The most quoted phrase from my favorite novels is, "Love as thou wilt." Those few words have taken me from ages fifteen to twenty-eight, and they've taken me from high school crushes to adult relationships fraught with social norms and religious expectations. Jacqueline Carey, in writing a blend of fantasy and romance and historical whimsy, shaped a girl whose only purpose is to love. Love, unconditionally. Painfully, wholly, unreservedly, divinely. 

I don't know how to be, how to do anything else. I just love. 

Our world is massively complex. We've got, in the United States, a battle between liberal and conservative, democrat and republican, middle class and upper class, minimum wage and incredible wealth. We've got the narrative of economic opportunity and hard work and, to put it frankly, capitalist rubbish. We've got poor people and rich people and the people who might be rich and the people who will always be poor. We've got unequal access to education and we have the palliative of religion which makes our inequality easier to swallow. We have meanness, selfishness, guilt, racism, violence, apathy. 

So little of what we have is love. 

When did we lose it?

I woke up early this past Saturday to serve breakfast. My mother and I were setting up yogurt and bagels for a group of teenagers doing a sleepover for the Unitarian Univeralist youth group. We loosened the caps on the orange juice and opened boxes of doughnuts. It was mundane. It was quite early. It was raining. My mother and I sat at a distance from the kids and we talked about faith. 

It's very difficult to believe in anything when the world is this ugly and this divided. It's hard to have faith when the world seems so faithless. 

My mother taught me that God was love. I learned many, many lessons from her - we celebrated Advent, we sang in the bath, we discussed sermons. But she always drilled into me that God was love. Even saying, Amen, was an affirmation of love and compassion and acceptance. If I learned anything about the divine it was that divinity only existed if we approached it with love. 

It's difficult. Sometimes it seems obscene, to love in the face of pain, of agony, of human suffering. How can we say, Amen, when we know the world is full of strife and hatred? How can we do it? 

Again, I turn back to Jacqueline Carey and the words, "Love as thou wilt." Those words imply choice, agency, freedom. And they also imply that love is immutable - not in who or how we choose to love, but that love is. Love is who we are. All we can do is be human, and be loving. The words don't just say, Love. Because we do. Her words say, Love as we choose. Love as we are. Love, freely. 

Somehow, we've forgotten that. 

Love isn't just a marriage, or a religion, or a political party. Love is a way of living. Most of the people I know now aren't bound by the rules of monogamy or gender - and that can be difficult, of course, but it's built on the idea that love is boundless. It is not possessive, or selfish; it is not about ownership or about being right. Love is not a commodity to be traded or valued. It is a gift. 

Imagine if our country worked like that. Just think - we share in this together. We are loving. We are kind. 

Imagine if our faiths were so giving. If all our gods were what they purported to be. 

I've loved every sort of man and every sort of woman. I've loved history lessons and literature. I've swooned over good writing and over unscripted anger. I've got that clenching in my chest which is passion and compassion and platonic affection. I've loved as I have chosen to love, and I have been swept away by surprising glimpses of faith and patriotism. 

I'm not an example. I'm not perfect. I can be selfish. I can we wrong. 

But all I have ever done, all I ever want to do, is to love. Fully, foolishly, alarmingly. 

To give of oneself can be incredibly painful. I think about my conversations with my mother and the fear that faith cannot stand up to the suffering in the world. Where is God when so many people are hurt? Where is faith when we feel alone or when we feel we cannot help others? Where is our patriotism when all we can do is count the dollars in our wallets and realize we just don't have enough? Where, really, is love, when we consider affection to be an item to be traded and priced like an antique on the auction block? 

It hurts. It hurts us to our very core. It is an old pain like an ache in our joints. It is our faith and it is our curse. 

Love as thou wilt. 

I don't know how to do anything but love, and God knows, it hurts sometimes like a dagger to my heart. I've loved too many people and too many times, and I've loved the idea of God, and I've loved the ideals of my country. As much as that has hurt, apathy would hurt more. The concept of turning away love - looking down on my neighbor, or being angry about my tax bill, or degrading a faith other than my own - is far, far more painful than accepting the suffering of caring too much. I could be cold and removed; I could protect myself from compassion; I could pretend my callousness was not a black mark on my soul. 

But I love - I love everything, and I love too completely. And I choose that, again and again. 

It doesn't matter if we are talking about sex or God or country; about possession or righteousness or patriotism; about generosity or respect or the general welfare. At the end of the day we are talking about love. 

Love is a gift. Love is a choice. And love is what we will it to be. 

And as much as it hurts, I can't imagine anything better. 



Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Luxury of Lies

I've been trying to write. I've been trying to speak. I've been trying to think. 

All I have is anger, and horrible grief, and the knowledge that those emotions - coming from me, a privileged white woman - are nothing compared to what people of color feel every damn day. 

I want to be eloquent, but I'm cussing a blue streak in my head, over and over. What words are adequate right now? Many people have written well on the institutional persecution, torture, and murder of Black Americans - people who actually face the horror show, the farce, of American Justice. What good are my tears right now, what good are my curses? 

I'm not going to be killed by the police. If I smoked pot I wouldn't be demonized. If I carried a gun I'd be hailed as a normal, red-blooded American. I could eat Skittles and wear a hoodie, I could jaywalk, I could even sell a couple cigarettes. 

My child could play cops and robbers with a toy gun in an open carry state and be thought of as young. Innocent. Sweet, typical, adventurous, strong. That child wouldn't be gunned down in two seconds by a member of the biggest gang - state sanctioned and untouchable - in America: the police. 

My child wouldn't be considered a threat, because my child would have the mantle of power, his whiteness. 

Last night at the tree lighting event in New York, glittering singers performed as throngs of protestors shouted I can't breathe, I can't breathe. Just typing out those words has me in tears, frustrated tears, angry tears, helpless tears. And it took this long, it took high profile murders, for me to really acknowledge the truth - 

This is America. 

And we were lied to in school, because the lesson was always that racism was over in this country. The happy lies we were taught - that Martin Luther King fixed this all for us, that Rosa Parks changed public transportation forever in one brave moment of fatigue, that broken Black bodies were a thing of the past and nobly martyred for the cause of a post-racial America - are just that. They are lies. 

My little blonde head was filled with this complete and utter bullshit. I never thought to turn to my Black classmates and ask, is this true? Is this your experience? Are we all really considered equal, now? I never thought about talking to the Black men still sitting at the back of the bus, asking them why they wouldn't sit next to me, a white girl. It never occurred to me to question the pleasant narrative of equality and the same narrative which made me lock my car door as I passed the light rail stop populated by my Black neighbors. 

I am so damned ashamed. I've been a part of our racist culture my whole life. And I'm angry at myself. 

I'm angry that I was fed lies and I'm angry that we still lie, that we think of the police force as our protector and the Justice system as our salvation. I am angry that a murderer like Darren Wilson can call his victim a demon on national television and get away with it - that's not just an act of othering, but a clear statement on how so many white people see Black men all the time. 

I'm angry at how easy my life has been in comparison to the countless victims of mandatory minimums and random police searches and beatings and murders and mothers left without their children. I'm angry at my blindness. 

I'm angry that a major network prioritized a goddamned Christmas tree over the desperate pleas for dignity, I can't breathe. Hands up, don't shoot!

I don't know what to do. This is America. 

This is America. 

It is an America where I am free and others are very clearly not. It is an America which enslaves all of us in the blank smiles of mythology, Martin Luther King made it all better, and the police are just doing their jobs, and people should just obey the law or lie down or be polite or not talk back because if they do they won't be killed in cold blood and left to rot in the street. 

It is a place where white people feel good about themselves when they think, hey, I'm sitting next to a Black man at a lunch counter. I must not be racist. My third grade teacher told me so. 

How can any of us breathe through those lies? How can we bear it? 

We've been practicing our blindness for too long. It's a habit and it's our lifestyle - casual, effortless, every day racism. Not thinking about how our country still enslaves young Black men through our prisons. Not thinking about how we clutch our purses a little tighter when we pass a group of Black children. Going shopping and not getting searched. Knocking on a neighbor's door in a moment of need. Playing. Walking. Breathing. Living. 

If it is painful to acknowledge the suffering our fellow Americans endure - and I think it really is, for compassionate human beings - just imagine what it is like to suffer. To live a life where that dream is still deferred. To be strangled by injustice and by white hands. 

This is America. It has always been America. 

I don't want to lie anymore. 





Thursday, October 30, 2014

Non-Standard

So, as usual, I need to fold the laundry. 

I have a lot of tops. Women's clothing is, I believe, designed to fall apart from season to season - especially if you're shopping at mid-range retailers like Target or Old Navy. Trends change every year, and stores are pushing us to adapt to what's trendy - from advertisements to lazy stitching, our culture wants us to buy, buy, buy. 

What this means for me is that I get a couple new tops every season so I can have a greater rotation of clothing, and possibly extend the life of my existing shirts. And, you know, there's the other stuff - occasionally I need a new winter coat, for example. I'm a pretty thrifty shopper - I never buy anything that isn't on sale in some way. I use sites like Ideel and Rue La La to grab nicer pieces at half the price, and I always look out for deals on clearance at stores like Forever 21. 

The issue is, of course, that none of the sizing is standardized, and very little of the sizing options actually fit me. So I'm left with all this laundry to fold, and most of it doesn't totally flatter my shape. I've got tops that are okay in the chest but woefully baggy in the waist - and then there are the shirts which flatter my waist and make my chest look like I'm about to star in my very own burlesque revue. 

Oh, and jeans! My God, if they fit my hips, they're almost always too big in the waist. So I spend my days constantly pulling up my pants. Not very dignified, and certainly not confidence-boosting. 

So I shop. I read size charts on every website and for every brand. But no matter how closely I study those charts, I never see a size which fits every part of me. 

I'm not saying this is just an Alice issue. I have a hunch that most women don't see themselves reflected at Macy's or Lord and Taylor. Part of this is just because every woman has a unique, wonderful shape. We can't all be lumped in together. Every woman is different. 

But non-standard sizing doesn't do us any favors. Who knows what a size fourteen - which I think is now the average size in America - actually looks like? It's different in every single shop. I touched on this a while ago when writing about going clothes shopping with my sister, but it bears repeating: a lack of standard sizes, as well as a misunderstanding of different body shapes, probably doesn't help women feel good about themselves. 

How can we feel confident when none of our clothes really fit?

How can we actually enjoy shopping, the gauntlet of the dressing room, when it's a total crapshoot? 

I think everyone - men and women - want to look presentable. I also think that women are held to a higher standard in that regard. Women are supposed to look good - not just professional, but attractive. Well fitting clothing, in some work environments, is a must. I have serious issues with the idea that women, in general, are required to be pretty or appealing or whatever the heck it is that society wants from us; I have issues with the fact that retailers make that unfair obligation even more troubling with random sizing and shoddy products. 

Sometimes I feel like women just can't win. 

I've got all this laundry to fold, and I've been procrastinating by googling around for a nice, new winter coat. I found one I really like, and it's on sale - and by the size chart, I am a large-extra extra small-medium. 

Yeah, you read that correctly. I wish I were making that up. I'm not. 

This isn't a particularly deep or long post. It's just a bit of a rant, I guess. It seems horribly unfair that the bodies we inhabit are usually rejected by retailers and clothiers. It seems unfair that we are supposed to be attractive at all times, and that ill-fitting clothes are another stumbling block in our search for bodily autonomy and respect. 

And I'm just tired of it. 

Can't a girl just buy a winter coat?

Can't women, every once in a while, win?