Life Hack, no. 2

You don’t need $75 to jump in on the new and improved skort trend (improved because it is a skirt all the way around–only you know it’s got shorts underneath. You and the person you flash when you’re on a swing with your legs apart, because adults totally do that). Keep all the skirts you already own (well, the ones you like) and wear Skimmies underneath.

[from the Title Nine catalog]

Or–a hack within a hack–don’t even spend money on Skimmies. Borrow your husband’s skinny briefs. Just don’t think about the fact you’re wearing men’s underwear. Or about that little pocket in the front. Or…erm…on second thought, spend the money on Skimmies.

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The Myth of the Ballet Body (aka Dancer’s Body)

Many workout routines claim that by following their prescribed regimen of exercises, you can achieve the long, lean limbs, slender torso, minimal hips, and small, lifted buns of a professional dancer. Some of these routines are in fact excellent workouts. They promote good posture and will strengthen and shape (to their natural tendency) your muscles–for example, Ballet Body and The Bar Method. Some of these routines are unhealthy–they may cause injury, and the recommended diets are unrealistic (coughTracyAndersoncough). All of these methods have one thing in common, though:

Ballet Body series by Leah Sarago

they are lying. The Ballet/Dancer’s Body is a fabrication of the ballet world. There is the body that the ballet world has aggressively selected for. And there are the natural body types of anyone who has danced, disciplined, for years. Those are two different entities.

There was a wonderful documentary on Tanaquil LeClercq last year on PBS. I think they stated that it was her body type that started the trend towards its current aesthetic.

Tanaquil LeClercq

If you are happy with your body type and not easily swayed, this argument will not be news to you. But I think most women with a pear shape aren’t happy with it, and promises to change our entire shape into long and lean is like the sweet tune of a Pied Piper striking us directly in the spot in our brain that has the stamina of jello. But if you weren’t born with a long, lean shape and minimal hips, I’m afraid the “dancer’s body” will never be yours.

The Pennsylvania Ballet


If you have watched figure skating, this isn’t news: Miki Ando and Sasha Cohen weren’t training in drastically different conditions, yet their bodies, if confined to this myth, would have you believe that Miki was doing 200 pound leg presses and Sasha was doing dainty tondues.

Similarly, if you’re a fan of So You Think You Can Dance, perhaps you recall the Season 5 penultimate episode. The top 2 girls were Kayla Radomski and Jeanine Mason. Both were contemporary dancers (with training in other styles). Yet Kayla has the classical slim “Dancer’s Body” while Jeanine has a pear shape. This is no criticism of Jeanine–she won (although my favorite was Jeanette Manrara).

As frustrating as Nigel & Co can be, at least they don’t choose only those body types that conform to the stereotype. In fact, I am continually surprised that they defy another stereotype and routinely choose some shorter men.


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Life Hacks, no. 1

Wear ankle weights all day. When you remove them in the evening, you will feel so light and lithe you will hardly believe it******.

Sproing new outfit

*This photo is from 6 years previous and does not reflect actual physical ability after removing ankle weights.

**No studies, reports, or doctors were consulted in the making of these claims.

***Do not try if you have weak ankles, weak legs, or really anything at all, I have no credibility and this is mostly a joke but I do have a sample size of one.

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The Problem with Facebook

[unable to verify original creator of image]

I love the fact that I was born in 1980–that I grew up mostly in an analog world, but was young enough to adapt quickly to the digital age; that I remember distinctly the anticipation while waiting for a chance to play Oregon Trail on the Apple 2E’s at school, that I remember the day my dad brought home a Nintendo, that I remember renting a VCR, that I watched email and search engines and social media happen before my eyes. But I don’t love how society has morphed with the advent of social media. I don’t want to sound like an old fogey lamenting the good old days (that never were)–I understand that the world and society changes; our minds and our social mores adapt. But for someone of my personality, Facebook represents some fairly egregious social shifts.

The “Shiny Outside” Syndrome

A professor in college used to admonish us to not berate ourselves for being as together as everyone else, because what we see are their “shiny outsides”—inside, everyone’s a little broken (unless they’re vapid; in which case, why would you want to be like them?). Facebook magnifies this scenario—you feel obligated to post happy, successful stories and photos. No one wants to hear about your 11pm bout with existential dread. So we never say it. And thus, the falsehood of an entirely cheerful life is perpetuated—plastered over our feeds. Individually, we know we aren’t like that, but now, with screen evidence, we can’t be sure anyone else isn’t. It creates an endless cycle of inferiority, questioning, and down-ward motion.

The Ephemera of this Digital Life

In the advent of mass public education and continued ease of publishing, the 1800’s (and into the 1900’s) saw an explosion in printed ephemera—pamphlets, brochures, broadsides—papers meant to be read and tossed. It was a big collecting phenomenon a few years back (maybe still is). The internet mimics this trend, but on a much larger scale. Anything can be written and deleted in a day. I have written and deleted and edited many times on this very blog—but when I do it, I am striving towards something substantial—the wording that is what I want to say and that will last. On Facebook (and other sites, I am sure, but I am only on FB), all posts are ephemeral, especially now that the format is conducive to a reductive timeline feed as your homepage. If no one commented, no one saw it. If people commented, it’s gone within a few hours, shoved down by new “news,” like the simoniac popes pushing each other further and further into the hole in the Inferno. Ever since I sat next to my brother on his deathbed, I have felt even more keenly the waste of ephemeral interactions. Being here means something, whatever that is. And I don’t think the meaning is found in blink-and-you-missed-it status updates.


The crux of the matter for me, though, is that nothing is special anymore. That news that my particular friends used to save for me and their other special friends? Now it’s broadcast to hundreds of people in a second, instead of saved up for a phone convo or a coffee date. That joke that could be between just us, that we can recall years later and incorporate into another conversation? It’s posted and forgotten in a minute.

Why does everything have to be public or be meaningless? I am baffled that this doesn’t seem to bother anyone else.The words I say mean things to me, and I only say them to those I believe will treasure the meanings. I go so far as to not speak unless I’m sure someone is listening. I know that sounds overly dramatic, but I have literally had people walk away while I am speaking, and posting on social media–shouting into the void–and hoping for a Like, a laugh, an anything–is this feeling to the nth degree. Those of us who used to render ourselves visible to those who truly care are rendered invisible once more, by algorithm.

Am I really that unusual? Or are we all just allowing ourselves to adapt to a smaller and smaller box?

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Etsy bait

This one isn’t as striking as the red poppy, but I knew when I conceived it I’d have to make a duplicate for myself, because the quote is a touchstone for me this year–for the same reason I’ve been cycling through triumph songs for the past few months (currently stuck on “We Are The Champions”…hey, no one ever said triumph songs couldn’t be generic).

iris canvas

Of all the art I’ve crafted over the years, this medium includes the widest variety of options (unlike knitting or sewing). I’m especially pleased at how I made the yellow fuzzy part of the iris. I painted quilt batting on top of adhesive filmy paper–the paint acted as a glue. Then I was able to cut the result into the shape of my choice. This was after trying to tuft yarn and paint feathers. I suppose felt or actual fur fabric could have also done the trick. I chose to modpodge down the lower petals so the recipient could choose to hang or place on a shelf (and it makes the upper petals pop, which reflects the poem’s words–fountain).

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An Artist* Marries a Biologist

[Feeding baby lunch]

Me: “Why do you put food pieces in your hair? Do you think they are barrettes? Or do you not know what you are doing, and you are only following your primate instincts?”

Husband, from across the room: “He’s still a primate.”

Me: “Are you only following your ape instincts?”

Husband: “He’s still an ape.”

Me: “Are you following your chimpanzee instincts?

Husband: “Humans were never chimpanzees.”

Me: “Are you following your common-ancestor-with-the-chimpanzees’ instincts?”

Husband: “You could say Australopithecus instincts. Or Homo Habitus.”


I’d already given him a bath after breakfast to get the food out of his hair. So I merely wiped him thoroughly with a washcloth after lunch. Later, he smelt of wet dog.

*Not to say artists couldn’t know their evolutionary biology. But it was funnier than writing “non-scientist marries scientist.”

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I have chronic pain and I’m stronger than you

There are those among you with superpowers. You don’t know who they are. They look like you, act like you, though sometimes they might have a crutch or a wheelchair, or black athletic tape cross-hatching their neck, or a glaze over their eyes as you speak to them.

I am one of them. Our superpower is that we do everything you do, but we do it with chronic pain.

I do all the same things you do and I do it while moving through sharp, persistent, unceasing pain. I get ready for the day, I feed and dress my child, I go to work, I help people who think I have nothing to teach them and I do it in a kind voice, I respond to coworkers who don’t respect me not always in a kind voice, I exercise, I make dinner, I clean the house, I weed the garden, I mow the lawn, I create art, I play guitar, I play piano, I bathe the baby and read to him and put him away and some of it is what I want to be doing, which is being married and raising a child, and most of this is not even what I want to be doing, which is writing, because my neck f—–g hurts.

I spend most of my willpower each day on not biting people’s heads off, because my neck f—–g hurts. So if I decide I’m going to eat a cinnamon roll in the morning, and a chocolate-covered Bismark donut in the afternoon, it’s because we all have a limited amount of inner strength, and mine was used up on not being a bitch today.

Or, conversely, I’d like to not eventually wear a size 26, so I used all my willpower leftover from fighting the pain to not indulge in something that lights up the ol’ endorphins, so I do actually bite your head off, and most everyone else’s, and you steer clear of me, but honestly I don’t have enough mind left to care. Because my neck f—–g hurts.

I run around the track in an 8-minute mile, heck, a 7:50 minute mile sometimes, and minuscule 19-year-olds whiz past me, and maybe, in those rare moments 19-year-olds aren’t thinking about themselves, hoping they are never such a geezer with such thighs, but I’m not competing with them, I’m not even competing with myself anymore. I’m outrunning the pain, and as long as my thunder thighs pound down the track, my shoulders can undulate freely and it’s my calves that feel like they’re throwing up, but for 8 minutes or 18 minutes or 4 minutes or whatever, I’m not constantly cursing the existence of my spinal column.

And you might give me the side-eye when I snap at 3 in the afternoon and buy a scotcheroo or eat that second piece of cake from the break room, but by 3 I think we can all agree the pain has once again outlasted me and I won’t be getting a breather until the bell rings and I am unshackled from my desk.

One day earlier this month the pain was almost gone. I felt like I’d been shot full of stars. I got all my s–t done that day. The house glittered. The knoll on the side of the house was weeping it was so free of weeds. Bills were paid. Clothes were folded. Kitties were brushed. The lone knitted handwarmer waiting to be put away for the past six months was finally reunited with its brethren. And even though the pain returned the day after, that one glorious period shone its rays into the next week. I didn’t eat the cinnamon roll. I didn’t snipe at my coworker.

You get a day free of pain, you know what you call it? Tuesday. When you should really call it fall to the ground shouting with gratitude day, because you are not one of us, and you don’t need superpowers to simply be alive.

I can’t apologize for sounding arrogant. This is what it is. Maybe if you get chronic pain someday—and truly, God forbid!—you can show yourself to be all sweetness and light in spite of it all, and then I will applaud you for being even more superhuman than I am. But until that day, cut me some slack, for everything: if I lost my patience, if I gave up too easily, if my dream is still just out of my reach while my peers have achieved it several times over already—give me a break. And ask whoever’s in charge to maybe someday do the same.

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