No Make-up

For much of my adult life, I wouldn’t leave the house without full make-up for fear – literally – that I would scare people. That’s exactly how ugly I thought I was. I wouldn’t run to the corner to get the newspaper without eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, foundation, blush and lipstick. At the very least.

These days, I’ve pretty much stopped wearing make-up. Well, I might wear tinted lip balm, but that’s about it. Much of the reason stems from sheer laziness. I leave for work very early and have no interest in getting up a minute sooner to apply make-up.

And now I’ve gotten very used to my natural face. Sure, it looks more tired, older, and less bright, I suppose, but i just don’t care. I look like me. These days, I know I’m a pretty normal looking person, and that’s just fine.

The other night, however, I was going out and for fun, put on full evening make-up. Well, of course, the compliments flew all night, and they all centered around my face being done up. Endless people told me how amazing I looked and so “different”.

One woman said, “it’s not that you looked ugly before, but you just look really good now.” I wasn’t sure how to take that.

In the past, that would have been it – I would never leave the house again without, not just full make-up, but with an evening application. It would have verified for me that I was just as ugly as I feared.

But not today. Today, even though I happen to really like the way make-up looks and think it’s very pretty — I still can’t be bothered. Because I am NOT the sum of mascara, blush and eye shadow.

Judgment

My dear, but famously judgmental friend, Robin, was acting strange. She was doing all sorts of things and going all sorts of places that she’d usually look far down her nose upon. And she didn’t have a snarkey word to say about anyone or anything.

“What’s going on”, I asked her, after an acquaintance made a political statement that would normally have sent Robin through the roof.

“I decided I need to shut up and listen and stop judging so much”, she replied, humbly and cheerfully. “I’ve just gotten too full of myself and judgey.”

“Wow. Cool. Good for you”, I said.

But inwardly, I cringed. I realized I’ve always enjoyed Robin’s often hysterical cutting remarks. What does that say about me and judgment?

And it hit me, if my most (formerly proudly) judgmental friend is stopping judgment, isn’t it time for me to stop too?

So, here I am, starting right now – no more judgment. Off I go, into the world, with an open heart.

I don’t think this is going to be particularly easy.

The Oscars, My Mother, My Body

Growing up, my mother and I always watched the Academy Awards together. We both loved movies and adored the fashions. Before Joan and Melissa Rivers, there was Mom and me.

We loved Academy Awards night. However, the difference between Mom and me was that for a few hours each year, she focused on movie stars and what they wore. For me, that’s all I focused on – famous people, how they looked, how thin they were and of course, what they ate.

For years, Mom and I lived alone together. Often, we’d read side-by-side; she re-reading Proust; me studying People magazine.

My mother was a brilliant musician and piano teacher. Students traveled from far and wide to study with her. She had many and diverse interests and loved to try new things and explore.

Outside of the antics of celebrities, I only cared about weight, food and my body. My eating disorder made me less than a fully formed woman. It held me back. I dropped out of college five times, because I couldn’t stop eating and live a life. Sophomore year, I gained 70 pounds in six months. I paid no attention to classes or classmates and have very few fond memories of my time at any of the universities I attended.

My sister and brother always lived life to the fullest. Both married and had children. Both enjoyed lots of different activities and hobbies. They traveled, took classes, joined political organizations, etc.

I just ate. Or didn’t eat. Took laxatives. Threw up. Weighed myself. Binged.

My eating disorder took many years of my life that I can’t get back, but I do have right now, and right now is very different.

Tonight, when I sit down to watch the Oscars — well frankly, I will probably get bored.

Easy Eating

I am developing an approach to food that should allow a return to some kind of normalcy. For some people, meal plans and abstaining from certain foods works perfectly. But for some of us, it’s not what we’re looking for. Some women I work with through the 12 Step process tell me that following a strict meal plan makes them even crazier – it feels like a restrictive diet and makes them think about food too much. (Many women I work with love the strict food plan, and that’s great too.) Whatever works.

I do believe that, for some of us, if we face and get rid of the underlying issues that lead us to food AND face AND accept our own truth with food, we can find our way. For example, if I know I’m a sugar addict, i don’t eat sugar. And don’t even want it, because I’ve learned and know on a deep level that food truly doesn’t solve ANY of problems. Except hunger, of course.

I was as crazy a compulsive eater as anyone I know. And so I sense that isf it worked for me, it could work for others.

For me, the 12 Steps gave me the way out from under. In my experience, I won’t ever be fine with food if I don’t get rid of what’s making me eat (drink, drug, smoke, gamble..) But if I do really face my problems and learn that I don’t have to be afraid them, I truly believe I can be okay with anything and everything.

At least, that’s how I live.

Women’s Magazines: The End of a Love Story

All my life, I’ve loved women’s magazines. As a kid, I poured over them, searching for new hairstyles and make-up tricks, even before I was allowed to wear make-up. Of course, I scrutinized and practiced every single diet tip I found, no matter how odd!!!!!

The minute I was old enough, I got my own subscriptions, which I’ve kept to this day – because until recently, I’ve loved these magazines dearly. Currently, I receive Elle, Vogue, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Glamour, Allure,Oprah and probably a couple of others I can’t remember.

My feminist friends scoff at me. When I lived with my brother, I think it embarrassed my sister that they arrived at the house.

Many years ago, I took a Vogue magazine on a chartered bus to a Pro-choice rally in Washington. The women on the bus glared me, and my embarrassed friend asked me to put it away.

Now suddenly, I notice, the magazines arrive and pile up in a corner, untouched. I no longer have any interest. And why would I – half the time I forget to comb my hair, I rarely wear make-up AND I never diet…

I realize this new disinterest has happened as I have stopped worrying about my weight. The magazines begin to look vapid and silly. All the women in them are skinny – something I don’t aspire to be. They’re young – something I am not. And they’re wearing clothes meant for a woman of a different age with a different body and of different means.

They’re kind of the antithesis of who I am now. Okay, now back to my book.

SOME DAYS

Some days are harder than others. That doesn’t mean I eat. It doesn’t mean I drink. I don’t even go to Macy’s. Because if I binge or drink or shop and don’t face what’s bothering me, the problems are still there (eating at me, if you will!), and I’m even more miserable now. Food doesn’t make them go away. It just anesthetizes them briefly and then – voila, there they are again.

So no, problems don’t lead me into a quart of mint chocolate chip. They lead to dealing with the issues and getting through them. Mostly, I find, the issue is that I’m scared. These day, if I’m scared, I face the fear and do what i have to do. And then I’m okay. But ice cream and alcohol won’t get the work done, no matter what that work is. Xanax and new shoes can’t help me with hurt or anger.

Dealing with the problems can actually alleviate them. AND how nice not to wake up the next morning horrified – post binge, hungover or with credit card bills that scare me right back to the booze!

Body Calm

It’s been wildly busy this past week. I’ve had almost no downtime. I happen to THRIVE on downtime. And I don’t do as well, at all, when it’s just go, go, go.

In years past, back when I was starving, or bineging and purging, or a combination of both, I tried to exercise steely control over my weight at all times. Generally, I stayed in the same range no matter what was happening in life. During certain years, I’d barely waver an ounce – I was so rigorous and disciplined and vigilant. (Oh, and miserable.)

But lately, my body has gone back to it’s initial stance. Left to it’s own devices, when I’m too busy to breathe and running on far less than enough sleep, my body gains weight. And so, I have.

And so, it goes. My relationship with food hasn’t changed – it’s just fine. But I’m awake more hours and my body is telling me I need fuel. And I’m probably less aware of what’s going in my mouth throughout the day, but – oh well.

For me, this is perfectly normal. When I’m too busy and too tired, I tend to gain weight.(When I’m rested and have time to read and chill, the weight tends to come off.) Like I said – oh well. End of story.

By early next week, things will calm down, and life will be back to normal.

But as I re-read this post, I have to ask – who wrote this? Not the food and weight obsessed woman I used to be. That’s for sure.

If this freedom is possible for crazy me, it’s possible for all.

The Truth About Aging

I’ve written a lot about being honest with ourselves – such as with food, where I need to know my own truth about what and how to eat. I’ve written about being honest and taking responsibility for my actions – just because my mother took me to Weight Watchers when I was nine, that doesn’t mean she’s responsible for my bulimia 30 years later.

Now, I have to be honest with myself about aging. Sure, i don’t want to die and don’t want to become infirm, but the truth is – if i am lucky enough to grow older, I will get all the physical and mental stuff that goes with it. I’ve got no control over that.

So, I might as well tell myself the truth. No amount of anti-aging creams will make me young. And if I’m not young, why try to pretend to look like someone I’m not?

(Now, I have nothing against anyone who wants to do anything to and for their own bodies. It’s your body – do what you like. And I’m sure I’ll think you look better than I do!!!!!)

Still, I don’t understand the anti-aging world – fillers, botox, facelifts, creams. Why bother? The affects are fleeting anyway – and the upkeep sounds exhausting. People say they use fillers to look “fresher” not younger. What does that mean? Fresher than what?

I doubt I’ll ever do anything. First of all, I HATE pain. No one’s sticking a needle in my jowly jowls! Would i think differently if I didn’t mind things that hurt AND had the money? I doubt it, but I suppose I’ll never know.

I do dye my hair; however, I’ve been dying it since high school, when I made my friend Frank pull my hair out of the Frost & Tip cap with a crochet hook. I don’t have much gray, and have always loved changing my haircut and color, so i don’t know if that counts as anti-aging?

As I don’t do stiff to hide my age, I’m rarely told that I look younger than my age. If some does say it, I know they’re being kind, but I don’t take it as a compliment. I have zero desire to look younger than I am.

My earlier years were fucking MISERABLE – I would not go back. I am pretty peaceful these days.

Of course, I want to be well and healthy. But I can’t ever be young again. Why pretend?

I wish looking old were just as desirable as looking young. Can’t we just look like ourselves?

Older Men/Younger Women

I had my taxes done last week. My accountant, Bob, is my age, he will turn 53 a month after I do.

After reviewing my finances, we both jokingly (at least for me!) decided that I needed to find a rich guy to marry me.

I laughed until he said, “he’d have to be in his 70s, of course to date a woman your age.”

According to Bob, all his (I assume wealthy) divorced friends our age are now looking for women in their 20s and early 30s.

Sitting across from Bob at that moment, a lot went through my head. First of all, who wants to date someone a quarter century younger than themselves? I have friends in their 20s, but they feel more like daughters. We don’t have a ton in common at this point, although I can remember what it was like to be that age – many many years ago. To me, they’re kids.

What are these guys thinking? If they weren’t rich, those lovely young ladies wouldn’t give them a second look.

(I would also like to say that Bob is not George Clooney and I doubt that his buddies are either, but of course I can’t be sure. Am I being snarky? Sorry/)

I suppose I’m defensive because it makes me feel small and old and less-than. I felt like Bob, my peer, was saying I’m way over the hill for him and his friends, like he has more power than I do.

And I have aged. I look at pictures from even a few years ago and see many more lines and jowls. It’s noticeable. I don’t usually mind at all – I am who I am, I’m comfortable aging – I wear less make-up, accept my 10 pound weight gain, and focus on having PURPOSE in my life. My life is so rich right now. But for a minute, all the new lines and lumps and bumps looked very prominent.

I made a list of all my friends who have recently met (and even married) guys our age. It’s a surprising big number – of course, I excluded my friend who’s been with a much YOUNGER man blissfully for several years. He just bought her a new car for Valentine’s Day. Take that Bob and Company! (Just between us, I have always stayed away from younger men, convinced that one day, they’d think I was too old. This isn’t particularly healthy thinking, I know.)

And of course, I wouldn’t want a man who ONLY wanted a young woman. Kind of creepy, if you ask me.

Still, I felt old.

And I am older. BUT I don’t have time to waste worrying about it. Off I go to do something useful 🙂

Eat, yet be Thin

When I was fat, I felt truly embarrassed to eat in front of other people, sure they were judging my portions. And plenty of people made comment on what I ate, “do you really need all that?”, “why don’t you try eating less?” Blah,blah, blah. Family and friends tsked, tsked when I ate bread or French fries or, God forbid, ordered dessert.

Then when I started starving myself to lose weight, people cheered. “Good for you”, they’d say, once I’d ordered the salad (dressing on the side) and steamed veggies. Praise bathed me – my diet-y food choices and, of course, my weight loss.

But – when I got thin, things changed. Suddenly, everyone wanted me to eat with gusto. But – being thin was such hard work. For me to be thin, I had to starve. Weight always clung to me. I have a slow metabolism, I don’t exercise, I’m not naturally thin.

Yet, suddenly, now slim, I was considered rude if I didn’t eat. If I went to someone’s house and ate lightly, I was a bad or picky guest. If I asked for a salad with dressing on the side and steamed veggies, I was weird. I began to DREAD dinner parties.

(I will say that now that I don’t care as much about my weight, eating out and about is easier. But does that mean that soon I’ll be hearing, “are you sure you should be eating that?” again? There really is no winning!)

We live in a strange world of foodies and food channels and restaurants and cookbooks galore – and yet we’re supposed to be rail thin.

When I lived in Manhattan it felt like a personal war on me. Every storefront was either a restaurant, a liquor store, a bar, a supermarket or a bakery. Wherever I walked, food stared me down. Once, I had a panic attack as I walked through the cookbook section of Barnes & Noble – so overwhelming.

I recently read while filming (and thus eating all day), Padma Lakshmi of Top Chef, drinks some gross drink that includes Metamucil four times a day! yuck!!! And when filming ends she goes on a lengthy detox that prohibits flour, sugar, alcohol, etc. And she exercise constantly.

Eat and be thin. Really difficult. (I’d also like to say that I doubt that her male co-host, Tom Colicchio, drinks stool softener all day or goes on a deprivation diet after filming!)

Such a mixed message. I’m confused even writing this post.