For me, it all started with Myspace’s Top 8. In case you’re not in your mid to late twenties (b*tch), this was something we cave people were subjected to back in the early 2000s. On your Myspace page where you posted songs by the Black Eyed Peas and wrote your boyfriend’s name with a whole bunch of “<333333″s, you also ranked your favorite people on the platform. In order. For everyone else to see.
Now, your Top 8 wasn’t to be taken lightly. It was the space reserved for your BFF, your S.O., the popular girl you were trying to befriend, and your sibling who bullied you into putting them as number four. Got in a fight? Your frenemy got demoted or removed from the coveted section. Holding hands with someone new? They quickly got a spot on the leaderboard. It was the first big way to say “here’s who I like, here’s how popular I am, here’s how I’m judging others”, and we lapped that sh*t up.
When the Top 8 first started, it didn’t make me feel bad, exactly — it was more like a game. Find ways to level up, get on other peoples’ boards, gain virtual popularity. It wasn’t until my first serious boyfriend moved “Anna” (a random girl from one of his classes) in front of me that social media made me feel like a failure for the first (and definitely not the last) time in my life.
Myspace’s Top 8 was how I found out Tyler (name hasn’t been changed — hi, Tyler) was cheating on me (again, for the first, but not the last time). It led me on my first ever stalking spree, where I stared at photos of Anna, comments from Anna, likes by Anna all night, trying to figure out what she had that I didn’t (besides boobs). Trying to figure out why he wanted her when I was already in love with him. That night led me on a decade-plus long cycle of “feel inadequate, stalk, feel more inadequate, stalk.” It’s some sick, masochistic sh*t, and while I’d love to say that’s all changed in the 10 (okay, 12) years since I sat on my twin bed, crying to P!nk… uh, no such luck.
Social media has absolutely obliterated my self-confidence, my happiness, and my mental health. And it’s probably done some serious damage to yours as well.
Now, it’s pretty much common knowledge that social media is basically the devil. It’s addictive. It’s dividing. It leads to depression, anxiety, and unrealistic perceptions of beauty. It gives you sh*tty posture. But, in case you didn’t watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix like everyone else (which was probably suggested to you by a friend on, yup, social media), here’s the deal. From the National Center for Health Research:
“25% of 18-25-year-olds report having some form of mental illness. Depression is particularly increasing among girls. Some researchers have suggested that this increase in mental illness is, at least in part, connected to the rise of social media use among adolescents and young adults.”
Wait, there’s more. From Child Mind Institute:
“Teenage and young adult users who spend the most time on Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms were shown to have a substantially (from 13 to 66%) higher rate of reported depression than those who spent the least time … A 2017 study of over half a million eighth through 12th graders found that the suicide rate for girls increased by 65%.”
Last one for good measure, from McLean Hospital (affiliated with Harvard Medical School):
“In recent years, plastic surgeons have seen an uptick in requests from patients who want to look like their filtered Snapchat and Instagram photos.”
So yeah, social media is super bad, which is something you — just like I — probably already knew. But, much like tequila or texting exes, that hasn’t stopped any of us from continuing to pose, post, and peruse. And while once upon a time we had to log onto a computer and search for people to investigate, algorithms are now so smart, they decide who we stalk, when we scroll, and how long to keep us engaged.
It wasn’t until my wedding in 2018 that I actually realized how bad Instagram made me feel. After waltzing down the aisle, I quickly found myself jealous of engaged friends — total hater sh*t, I know. But after spending so long planning my own event, the post-wedding blues hit hard, and I hated seeing other people post their ring selfies and bachelorette photos. I was sad, I was uninspired, and I was jealous. So on a whim, I muted every single one of my engaged friends. Every. Single. One of them.
I didn’t want to unfollow or block them, because frankly, that felt too b*tchy, and besides, it’s not like I didn’t like them anymore. I just didn’t like seeing them so blissfully happy. I felt empty after spending months DIYing and pinning and being the center of attention. It wasn’t exactly rational, but their posts made me feel bad and instead of just continuing to feel bad, I decided to stop seeing their posts altogether. And just like that, my love of muting became a way of life.
After the engaged people came the girl in my friend group everyone else loved but I couldn’t stand. Then competitors in my field who always seem to be outpacing me. Then the really hot people. Then some of my best friends whose posts just kinda… annoyed me. I used to think muting someone was the ultimate “f*ck you,” but now I look at it as a means of self-preservation. I’m literally under no obligation to look at someone’s over-filtered picture. And just because I muted someone, it doesn’t mean I hate them IRL (unless, of course, I do). It just means their posts — at least at the moment — make me feel bad. So why not just stop looking at the thing that makes you feel like trash?
Nowadays I mute freely and without thought. Sometimes it’ll be just for a brief period of time and then eventually I’ll go back and unmute, and other times friends are muted for the long haul. It doesn’t really matter, because the worst case is I forget and I never unmute someone. And like, not to quote Kourtney or anything but, “there’s people that are dying” — not liking someone’s weight loss picture isn’t the end of the world. Ultimately, social media made me feel fat and lazy and untalented and jealous. Now, I’ve whittled down my timeline so it makes me feel, well, not good, but at least a little less horrible.
While it’s not a cure-all — muting is an avoidance tactic, and you need to do internal work to figure out why what you’re seeing makes you feel inadequate — it’s definitely a way to not only make social media more enjoyable, but take back a little control over what you view. It’s not a great idea to just stopping looking at things that make you feel uncomfortable altogether. It’s important to see differing political views and perspectives to form rounded opinions. But social media doesn’t have to be a way of life and if looking at your sorority sister’s abs a month after giving birth makes you feel sad, then bon f*cking voyage. Mute away.
Granted, deleting your social media accounts would probably make you feel the best and free you from the toxic cycle, buuuuuut if completely nixing your handles feels off-brand, editing your timeline is the next best thing. The next time you look at someone’s post and feel that pang of inadequacy, instead of spiraling down into a vat of self-pity, just mute them! Before long you’ll probably find that your self-confidence has risen and your screen time report is slightly less embarrassing. Win-win.
Images: Kate Torline/Unsplash; Giphy (3)
A few months ago, when I was on my second or twelfth break from writing a paper I should have finished weeks ago, I turned to one of my favorite forms of distraction: TikTok. When I opened the app, I was greeted by a young woman with a heart drawn on her cheek describing some personality traits that she never realized were related to her ADHD diagnosis. This was the first time I had seen a TikTok about ADHD, though it didn’t surprise me at all to see that type of content on the app. Nice. The app I use to constantly distract myself from whatever work needs to get done that day is trying to tell me I have an attention problem. The more I watched, though, the more I noticed that this went a lot deeper than the FBI agents in our phones knowing way too much about us; there was an emerging trend of people, particularly women, talking about what it’s really like living with ADHD.
In fact, there are so many people talking about this that if you search “ADHD TikToks” on YouTube, you’ll find hours of video compilations of TikToks about the condition, especially in women. There are TikToks about the unusual symptoms in girls, TikToks explaining misconceptions about ADHD that have prevented women from getting a diagnosis until later in life, and videos of women describing the difficulties of their lives before they were able to receive a proper diagnosis. There are even tweets and TikToks from women who didn’t get an ADHD diagnosis until they recently saw a TikTok about ADHD—very meta. So, what’s really going on that stopping these women from getting the diagnosis they need?
Why Are All These Women Not Getting Diagnosed?
Many of the women in their TikToks discuss a common experience: how the belief that ADHD is a “boy’s disease” prevented them from getting a diagnosis. It’s true—when ADHD was first being researched, it was thought to be a hyperactivity disorder that only affected men during their childhood years, and the studies would only include young white males. That racist and sexist research is what was used to guide the writing of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders), and science’s foundational understanding of ADHD. At that point in time, only the most hyperactive young girls who presented similarly to boys could hope to get an appropriate ADHD diagnosis. Today, the gender difference in diagnoses of ADHD persists, and about three boys are diagnosed for every one girl, but this might have less to do with more boys actually having ADHD and have more to do with them exhibiting the more “stereotypical” features of it.
@princessaspien🌻ADHD Traits In Girls🌻 #adhd #fyp #autism♬ original sound – Chloé Hayden
In addition to the bias in diagnostic criteria, boys with ADHD who have hyperactive traits just tend to get noticed by professionals more often: they are more often hyperactive, aggressive, and impulsive, while girls tend to be usually dreamy and easily distractible. The boy who can’t sit still in class and talks over the teacher multiple times a day is probably going to get more attention than the girl who spaces out in math class.
So, Are The TikToks Right?
Obviously, anyone can post anything on TikTok at any time, and you can’t blindly trust every single video that you scroll past on your page. That said, it is absolutely true that ADHD can present differently in women. Unfortunately, the research is still pretty slim, but there is some literature on the differences. In a recent episode of ADHD Experts Podcast, Ellen Littman, PhD describes some of the lesser known problems that women with ADHD can face, which include tactile sensitivities, headaches including migraines, stomach aches, sensory problems, sensitivity to changes in light, and sensitivity to odors. Littman also describes how the evaluation tools are still skewed toward male behaviors, and how “many instruments are not normed for women’s values, so we are still perpetuating the idea that it is much easier to be diagnosed if you look similar to hyperactive males.” In addition to being dreamier and more distractible versus hyperactive and impulsive, young girls may be more likely to internalize their symptoms and feel anxiety around them. This makes getting a diagnosis even more important. Girls who aren’t told they have ADHD and given appropriate help and accommodations may feel like they’re less competent than their classmates or peers or that something is really wrong with them.
@peterhyphenAs a guy with ADHD, I don’t know what it’s like firsthand for the girls and women out there. Please make yourself heard in the comments! #ADHD #ADD♬ original sound – Peter Hyphen
It’s important to note that no two people are going to have the exact same experience with any diagnosis, so a video about TikTok-user-7543009’s individual experience with ADHD doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone who has it. And, if you find yourself relating hard to the symptoms described, and feel that it is negatively impacting your daily life, you should reach out to a medical professional.
Regardless of whether the videos apply to every single person with ADHD, the important part of this trend is that TikTok is providing a platform for women to express experiences that were underrepresented in research or in clinical tools, and having these conversations can help more people get the help they need.
And It’s Not Just ADHD
TikTok has opened the door for important discussions surrounding women with ADHD, but that’s not the only medically underrepresented group it’s helping to shine a light on. For example, there is a large community of women with autism, like @Paigelyale, who discuss having faced stereotypes about what autism looks like, which led to issues getting a diagnosis. Beyond autism and ADHD, there are TikTokers making content about their experience being deaf, living with OCD, even what it’s like to try to make pie with Tourette’s.
Social media platforms have come under scrutiny in recent years for issues such as promoting the spread of misinformation to being designed to negatively impact users’ mental health. (A 2017 survey dubbed Instagram the worst social media platform for mental health and wellbeing.) But the silver lining is that for some reason—whether it’s the algorithm, the nature of sharing quick videos, or the unfiltered approach—TikTok is creating a space for people to speak openly about a slew of important issues, including mental health. TikTok has given these creators a platform where they can talk candidly about their experiences and bring to light the issues that truly matter to them, and has given scrollers a community of people they can relate to, in ways they may not be able to with their IRL friends. This content has also provided some of the 800 million TikTok users with exposure to these groups that they may not have otherwise had. Mental illness, neurodivergence, and disabilities often come with a heavy stigma, and more representation from people who seem funny, cool, and relatable helps correct misconceptions and remove that stigma.
Kristin Wilson, LPC, Vice President of Clinical Outreach at Newport Academy, a mental health facility for teenagers dealing with mental health issues, told Yahoo! that the type of mental health conversations happening on TikTok “can help teens feel that they are not alone in their struggles and create an online community of support.” Psychiatrist David J. Puder, MD, told Psycom.net, “I think we can do a lot to reduce stigma and get people into mental health treatment. Knowledge is empowering to people who might not otherwise have access.”
These types of conversations can also be a double-edged sword, with some experts fearing that these videos could glamorize mental illnesses. It’s also crucial to keep in mind that TikTok isn’t a substitute for receiving treatment. Still, experts stress that if you do your own fact-checking and don’t take TikTok users as armchair mental health professionals, these types of videos can help reduce stigma and encourage people to seek out mental health treatment. In a time when social media has a reputation for doing more harm than good to our mental health, these communities on TikTok are consistently proving otherwise.
Images: XanderSt / shutterstock.com; princessaspien, peterhyphen / TikTok
In what feels like an endless scroll of unattainable bodies and faces on Instagram, model and activist Hunter McGrady is the “it” girl you never knew you needed. She’s taking over the fashion industry in more ways than one, and remaining humble af while she does it.
Her new fashion line, All Worthy by Hunter McGrady, recently launched with QVC. Think style meets comfort, with no limitations. With inclusive sizes ranging from XXS to 5X, McGrady is at the forefront of an important movement in women’s fashion and history—style for everybody, regardless of their size.
When she’s not designing beautiful clothing, you can find McGrady gracing the pages of Sports Illustrated, using her platform to uplift others, and donating her time and efforts to charity work.
I caught up with McGrady to ask her about her experience as a fashion model, what working in the industry was like for someone who’s not a size 0, what inspires her to keep going, and more.
On Her Journey As A Model
“So, I started in this business when I was 16 years old. I was six feet tall and about a size two. I was consistently told to lose weight off my hips, to lose inches, I mean—it was just a constant, ‘change this, change that.’ I was a kid, I wasn’t even developed, and I was still being told to lose weight. From ages 16 to 18, I tried being a straight-sized model and it was just really going against my natural body and how it was supposed to sit. It was also going against everything I started to believe in. Fast forward, I took a few years off, and at age 20 I started plus-size modeling. I had no idea about it because, again, this was something that was still very new. I never grew up seeing plus-size models. It was just not something that was in my magazines. I started plus-size modeling at size 14. I really had grown into my body and learned to love it after therapy and self-love, and finding who I was. Now I’ve been modeling for gosh, seven years.”
On Inclusive Brands
“To be completely transparent, there’s not a ton . I’ve always been a fan of Christian Siriano, he gets it every time. He always puts plus on the runway, he dresses the plus-size actresses. It’s funny, because I am friends with a couple of these girls who go to the Golden Globes, The Emmys, The Oscars, and we always joke about, “that’s it.” Of course, Jason Wu dresses larger, and there are some others as well, but it’s still very small. We are progressing, but very slowly. I would love to see more high-end designers jump on this train because, I mean, it’s 2020. 72% of America is a size 16 or above. The demand is outweighing the supply. I would love to see these companies take this chance. I think it’s a beautiful thing, bringing in a new fresh customer who has the money and is willing to spend. I still can’t go shop on Fifth Avenue or in SoHo… it doesn’t exist for me, and that’s crazy.”
On Areas Of The Industry That Need Improvement
“Brands across the board. Things you wouldn’t even think about. I mean, even finding underwear and lingerie for a larger girl is so hard, I can’t even tell you, and that’s a necessity. I always encourage brands to make a change, make a change past XL . That’s not inclusive. I’m talking like really go up- 2X, 3X, 4X, 28, 30. Go larger, because the customer is there, and she WILL buy.”
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I’ve seen lots of negative “self talk” during this time, especially about our bodies. I think so many of us are feeling the pressures of having to fill every hour and every minute of the time we have right now. The truth is, we are going through a traumatic crisis and we may have the time in our days but most of us do not have the mental capacity. This is an event that none of us could have ever prepped for and our minds are still trying to wrap our head around this. I ask that you be kind to your body, Nurture your body, Love on your body fiercely,respect it, and even better, be PROUD of it. It’s getting you through this time! I stand with @anastasiagphoto to stop the body shame and love yourself, even during times of crisis. Here’s #MyQuarantineBody ❤️
On Her Own Brand, All Worthy
“I was so fed up with plus-size women getting basically cut from fashion and not having fashionable things to wear. I felt like we were always put in something that was an afterthought. What is great and cool about my line is that it is designed from a plus-size perspective, and then sized down. In fashion, you will typically find the opposite. I just wanted to create fashionable pieces that look fabulous on everybody, and I believe that fashion is for every body, every size, every age. I was so sick of talking to my girlfriends that were smaller than me and saying, “omg, I love this dress, where did you get it?” and them naming a store where I could never shop. It’s nice to be able to have the same exact item, whether it’s XXS or 5X, where it costs the same too. For the fall line, I wanted to create something cozy and comfortable. I love mixing fashion and function… A lot of us right now are home, which is kind of perfect, because my whole aesthetic is kind of comfortable. I had already thought about this prior , and now we’re home, so it works.”
On Social Media And Its Impact
I think social media can be such a blessing but can also be such a curse. I had to learn that I have the power to follow people who make me feel good, people who resonate with me, people who are authentic. I can’t be in Bali every day with a fruit basket in the water with my boyfriend, that’s just not my realistic life. It looks fabulous, but for the majority, that’s just not what it is.
I had to do an and say, ‘ok I want to follow people who make me feel great,’ because I was noticing it was kind of seeping in, and I know this is the case for a lot of other people. This measuring up. ‘Why am I not doing XYZ? How come they did this?’ I think that social media is one of the biggest catalysts right now in the mental health problem in our world, and now we’re moving into TikTok and Facebook, and of course, it’s so fun… and I am not saying don’t look at that stuff, but just be cautious of who you are following. Follow people who have your same values and morals, people that make you feel good. We have the power to do that.
I know I try to be as realistic as I can on social media. I mean, the other day I was talking about nipple hair and butt acne—things that are opening the door for this conversation in women. I got such an overwhelming response of people being like, ‘wow I felt so alone in this.’ It was really eye-opening to me because we really shouldn’t . Social media can be this place to have these conversations. It’s important to find those people that, again, make you feel good and make you feel heard. That’s what we all want at the end of the day, to feel heard.”
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LETS TALK ABOUT BUTTS!!!! Earlier today I shared a story basically telling my followers that I don’t remember a time where I DIDNT have some kind of ingrown or pimple in between my legs and on my butt. I got an influx of DMs from both women AND men saying that they felt they were the ONLY ones to experience this. Welp. Let’s normalize it!!!! I’ve never in my life had a smooth, pimple free butt, I’ve never had smooth inner thighs that didn’t have discoloration or ingrowns, and I’ve never been without cellulite and stretch marks! It’s important to remember that what we see on social media is quite literally a “perfected” version of ourselves (I’m guilty of this too sometimes) and because we’re so used to seeing that in others, we feel alone in instances like this but alas, You’re very much not alone. Let’s be butt pimple friends, welcome to the club 😆❤️
On Using Her Platform For Good
“I think the most important thing when you have a platform, you have a responsibility to talk about things that you are passionate about. Anything across the board, that is how we are lending our voices these days. I have used my platform to be loud about equality, body positivity, different movements, mental health, and as far as the fashion industry goes, I have no problem calling people (and brands) out who I find are hindering the progression of fashion and moving forward and inclusivity. Inclusivity across the board. For the last three fashion weeks, I have taken a stand and not attended any fashion shows that weren’t inclusive. Let me tell you, I had to turn down 60+ shows and I think that has been very eye-opening.
I encourage my friends to put our money where our mouth is. Dollars speak. We have to support brands that support us in our everyday life. Even my girlfriends who are women of color; I want to support them and buy from companies who are supporting them. There is still a long way to go.”
On Her Role Models And Influencers You SHOULD Follow
I have to shout out some of my girlfriends. Katie Sturino (@katiesturino) is one of my very very close friends. She keeps it so real—there is zero B.S. behind anything she does. Sarah Landry (@thebirdspapaya), she is absolutely amazing. She is a mom of three with one on the way, and she has a totally different perspective. She’s not plus, but she’s just a beautiful human. I love Maxey Greene (@maxeygreene), she has a really fun perspective. Right now, she’s pregnant, but she’s plus-sized, another thing that is never talked about in the media. You never see it. How your bump maybe doesn’t look totally perfect—so any plus-size pregnant mommas that have come to me, I’m like, ‘omg go check out Maxey. She’s amazing, she’s glowing, she’s a goddess.’ I would go through who I’m following, because I’m very proud of who I follow, and everyone has a very positive message.”
On Tips For Loving Yourself
“At 16 when I was told I had to lose weight, and then losing the weight and being so small, that really ended up being a huge detriment to my mental health. I struggled with depression and anxiety my entire life. I went to therapy and my therapist said, ‘Hunter, I want you to take a shower, I want you to take your makeup off, I want you to slick your hair back and look at yourself in the mirror naked and tell yourself 10 things that you want to love about yourself.’ I thought it was so crazy and sounded so silly, but whatever I am just going to appease her. I went home and I did it, and I broke down and felt very emotional. I realized that that’s what I needed to continue doing, and I’ve done it every single day since (not naked after the shower) just looking at myself in the mirror and doing affirmations. Telling myself how worthy I am to just see even another day here. My body has taken me here, my heart is still beating. Affirmations truly changed my life. The way our mind works, our mind follows, and what we tell it is what we believe. So, if we were so convinced the sky is gray, we would think the sky is gray. Think about that with your body, tell yourself how beautiful you are, how worthy and valued you are. That is one thing I have done for 15+ years and I always tell people, listen, it changed my life. Do it, trust me I know it sounds silly. I do it when I’m driving and everyone probably looks at me like I’m a cook but I don’t care because it’s what we need.”
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Maybe one of my favorite pictures of all time of me. I knew taking it that it would be. I felt sexy, I felt sure of myself, and utterly confident. You know, sometimes I don’t feel this way during shoots. I’m human, I have bad days and good days. I have days where I feel like a bad photo is inevitable because i don’t like my hair or my clothes or my poses, or my body, but then I look back and realize it wasn’t the photo, it wasn’t the hair, it wasn’t the clothes, or the poses or the body but rather the way I was thinking about myself that was the problem. Again, I’m human! We all have these days, albeit sometimes mine get captured. I always try to enter every day, every shoot, every encounter with the intention to have confidence, energy, and grace. ❤️
On Four Consecutive ‘Sports Illustrated’ Spreads
“The fourth time feels like the first time. It’s still just as surreal and it’s still such a “pinch me” moment. I never thought as a size 18, which I am now, that I would be in a magazine like Sports Illustrated, but that just goes to show how amazing Sports Illustrated is. They really have been at the forefront of this entire inclusive movement. The reaction is always incredible. I get women being like ‘thank you so much’ because it’s nice to feel represented. I’m like, ‘don’t thank me, thank SI.’ It takes these publications to put women like me in them. We need to be seen, representation matters. It’s been amazing and I feel very proud to be a part of that family. Every year I feel like it’s more and more diverse.”
Images: Provided by Hunter McGrady, Instagram; https://www.instagram.com/huntermcgrady/, Instagram; https://www.instagram.com/qvc/
When I first got the email about returning to my office in July, I was overwhelmed with emotion, both negative and positive.
Let’s backtrack a bit. I am a twentysomething living in NYC. I’ve stayed here throughout the entire pandemic thus far. I stay inside, I wash my hands, I wear my mask, I respect other people’s space, and I do my part to keep myself and those around me safe. In other words, I’m not an a**hole.
So, that being said, when I found out I was headed back to the office on the first day of phase 3 (July 6, to be exact), I was kind of shook. COVID had (has) made me quite an anxious person over time, and this felt like my worst fear coming to life. Public transportation? Sitting in an office with 50 other people I could not control? WEARING JEANS AGAIN? A lot of scary stuff here.
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On the contrary, sitting in my apartment day in and day out had also been quite an unhealthy habit. I made every excuse not to go outside, washing my hair became a task, and I had literally become one with the couch. Going to work meant I’d have an excuse to focus a bit more again on self-care and to get up and do something.
Here I am almost two months later, and I am here to spill what it’s actually like to be back in an office in the midst of a pandemic.
I take one subway and one bus to get to work. The first day I went all out and prepared for battle in the form of a mask, gloves, paper towels to hold the handles on public transportation (yes, even while wearing gloves), and a big bottle of hand sanitizer in my bag. The subway was fairly quiet, with some essential workers, and some others in suits who looked as nervous as I did. The bus was even quieter. Quieter as in, I was the only human on the bus and therefore it was a straight shot to work, with no stops in between. As time has gone on, the subway has gotten a bit more crowded, but the bus remains empty. Public transportation overall hasn’t been scary, but when someone gets on the subway without a mask (which is obviously against the rules but nothing I can do much about), my stomach still drops.
When you arrive at my office, the first thing you must do is have your temperature taken. Of course, if you have a fever, you will be sent home immediately. Upon entering the building there is a mask, glove, and hand sanitizer station. They are also set up throughout the office building. Most people wear cloth masks, but should you have a paper mask on and want a fresh one, it is available. The little things, ya know?
The elevators are limited to four people per ride (which I think is pretty standard across NYC now), but typically I opt to ride solo even though that means waiting longer for an elevator. We have an open floor plan in our office, with rows of tables as desks. As you can imagine, we are limited to one person per row, so there is forced social distancing in place. In some ways, it’s so distant that it’s lonely. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the luxury of being able to turn and chat with someone next to me.
During the workday, in fact, there is little to no human communication at all. Despite being in office, meetings are held via Zoom to avoid any large groups. If you’re reading this and thinking “sO wHy ArE yOu BaCk In An OfFiCe”, the answer is… unclear.
In terms of further safety precautions, while a mask is not required when sitting at our desks, it’s encouraged. You can bet my paranoid lil self has one on all day. All community snacks have been taken away (sad), so has the coffee machine (sadder!!!). Safety > coffee, obviously, but I know you all feel me on the heartbreak there.
We also can’t leave for lunch. Once you’re in the building, you are in for the day until you go home. This one hurts the most simply because I take my lunch hour seriously, but again, I get it. I did reach out to the few friends I have who are also back in the office, and they have similar limitations. On the bright side, I’ve saved money by packing my lunch daily, something I didn’t know I was even capable of! (Only half-kidding).
The best (and most important) safety precaution/perk of the office is weekly COVID testing. Once a week we are required to take both a COVID and antibody test. A team sets up right in the common area, and we have to walk a maximum of one flight of stairs to get there. As someone who lives with a roommate, this is a huge relief for not only myself but for him as well. Given the fact that he is working from home and did not sign up to be put at risk, the fact that I can come home and show him a negative result each week puts us both at ease. And even better, the antibody test has only a 15-minute turnaround time, the COVID test only a 24-hour turnaround time, so we don’t have to wait long for our results.
Being back in an office has forced me to make small but important changes. I set my alarm for 8am now (instead of 8:59am). I wake up and actually have to CHOOSE an outfit (remember that???). I style my hair. I wear makeup. I use time management skills to give myself a work-life balance. All of the things that gently slipped from my mind during my four-month quarantine period. It’s had a huge impact on my mental health, and a good one at that.
While the world is still gloomy AF, and the news cycle hasn’t gotten any better, at least leaving the house daily has provided a healthy (and easy) change I didn’t know I needed. Despite the fact that I have essentially left one room where I work alone to head to another room where I work alone, there has been something very refreshing about the act of getting outside and doing something daily.
Since I started going back into the office, I’ve been valuing my weekends and nights in a new way. Aside from sleeping, I’ve also used my downtime to capitalize on more *important* hobbies (like binging Selling Sunset, obviously).
So, in all seriousness, being back in the office isn’t so bad. It feels good to get back into a routine, and even if I am still questioning “the point” of putting myself at risk to travel to work and be in an office with others, I do believe there was some method to the madness.
Images: Marina Andrejchenko / Shutterstock; whenshappyhr / Instagram; Giphy (2)
Do you hate spin class, CrossFit, and workouts that involve people with conventionally “perfect” bodies yelling at you? Are you a millennial having an existential crisis? If you answered yes to both or either of these questions, I highly recommend spiritual yoga.
When I hear the term “yoga,” I automatically think of girls with perky butts doing the splits. The truth is, though, yoga was never meant to turn into what it is now. Many people forget, or just flat-out don’t know, that yoga was around looooong before Lululemon started charging $125 for stretchy fabric. Yoga originated in India all the way back in 3,000 BCE (Boomers hadn’t even been born yet). Its original purpose was to serve as a practice to help people achieve Samadhi, a state of pure awareness. Since its creation, yoga has branched off into a ton of different forms. They all maintained the common goal of connecting the mind and the body, just in different ways.
The thing is that the kind of fitness yoga that is so popular now tends to take the mind out of the equation and focuses on just the body. Basically, Americans did what we do best: we commercialized something meaningful and rebranded it into a way to achieve “hotness.” A spiritual yoga class probably won’t get you much closer to achieving Michelle Obama’s toned arms or Rihanna’s phenomenal ~cake~ but that’s kind of the whole point. It hangs on to the dangling thread of the mind-body connection. One of the best things you can do going into a spiritual yoga class is drop the CorePower Yoga mindset of “I’m paying $150 a month for this, so I better look bomb in a bikini.” If anything, just don’t overthink the experience. That being said though, here are some things I probably should’ve thought about before my first spiritual yoga class.
Finding A Spiritual Yoga Class
“Yoga” has turned into such a broad term that it can be hard to know exactly what you’re getting into when you sign up for a yoga class. Here are a few signs that a class involves fitness yoga: the class uses the words “burn” or “sculpt” in its name, your friend suggests you take the class as a way to get over a hangover, or the studio the class is held in has floor-to-ceiling windows so the public can watch you like some sort of zoo animal in spandex. Spiritual yoga classes will usually reference specific types of yoga in their names/descriptions. The type of class I did involved hatha yoga. Some other common types of spiritual yoga include ashtanga and vinyasa yoga. The website YogiApproved offers a quiz to help you decide which form of spiritual yoga best fits you. So, take a break from BuzzFeed quizzes on what type of cheese matches your zodiac sign and try it out.
Once you’ve figured out what type of spiritual yoga you’re interested in, the obvious next step is to turn to the almighty Google. Include the name of the specific type of spiritual yoga you are looking for in your area, and, depending on where you live, you should find a decent amount of studios that offer these classes. Keep in mind that just by typing in the word “yoga” your search page will also include some of the big-name yoga studios like CorePower or YogaWorks. The likelihood of you finding traditional spiritual yoga classes at one of these studios is slim to none. Your best bet is to stick to the smaller studios. Think of the big-name studios as Olive Garden, and the smaller studios as a family owned Italian restaurant. While Olive Garden can offer you a great deal on an endless amount of breadsticks and salads, you can’t go in there expecting nonna in the back cooking her baked ziti recipe that’s been passed down in the family for generations.
It’s okay if you don’t own a $200 matching spandex outfit. In my opinion, nobody should. For spiritual yoga, throw on your $30 leggings, and I guarantee you’ll feel a little money saver’s high when you tell the woman who pulled up to class in a Range Rover that they’re from Target. Do NOT wear a loose T-shirt, though. It will expose your boobs during a majority of the positions, and you might feel the urge to say “oopsies” each time you pull it back down. Also, keep in mind that the people in these classes are usually the type who own multiple shirts that have different plays on the phrase “namaste” written on them. So, avoid wearing tops that say things like “I swear to drunk I’m not God” (totally random example…I didn’t definitely do this).
Before the class begins, you might be offered the opportunity to choose from essential oils with names that sound more like titles of Enya songs than actual fragrances. The scents are supposed to evoke different emotions/states of mind. Lavender is meant to calm you, peppermint helps with focus, tea tree makes you flashback to drinking too much vodka then throwing up in a Pizza Hut, etc. So, if you’re unsure of what emotion “myrrh” is supposed to bring out, just ask the instructor. When you pick one, remember that these oils are not poppers. Do not stick the vile directly under your nose and huff it like you are in a bathroom stall at a night club. Just rub one on the inside of your wrists and pretend that “sandalwood” doesn’t actually smell like a cedar closet that someone has been chain-smoking in.
One thing that really separates spiritual yoga from your typical fitness yoga is that the poses go beyond butt sculpting. Each of the poses have a different story and meaning behind them. My personal favorite pose was the “corpse pose” which consists of one of my biggest passions, lying on the ground. The corpse pose has a pretty literal meaning—you’re mimicking death in order to prepare yourself for it, which is actually very millennial for an ancient practice.
The “warrior pose” is a deep lunge accompanied by what essentially looks like pointing a finger gun in the air. This pose symbolizes the God, Shiva, who created a warrior, Virabhadra when she got pissed and ripped out another God’s hair (not in a Jersey Shore way, but in a dignified way). I respect the hell out of Shiva, and I suggest you look her up if you’re in need of some “I am woman, hear me roar” energy. The overall meaning behind the warrior pose is to overcome our ego and ignorance, and, if social media has shown us anything, it’s that most people are stupid and full of themselves.
The “tree pose” has to do with an epic poem (epic meaning a type of poem, not how people described skateboard tricks in the mid-2000s) about a woman named Sita who waited out in the woods for her exiled husband to return. Sita isn’t waiting for her man in the toxic Disney princess kind of way. She is using waiting for him as a time to practice patience, and this pose is your chance to practice this very important life skill for dealing with people’s BS. The tree pose is basically standing as firmly as you can with your arms by your side.
Some of you might be thinking that these poses sound nothing like the type of workout positions that will make you feel sore the next day. Once again, remember that you are not there for abs. You are there for something way more meaningful than 300 likes on a bikini pic. This is only a brief rundown on a few of the poses. Take some time to learn about the stories and meanings behind the poses you can expect during a spiritual yoga class. You will get so much more out of it.
At one point, the instructor was helping me get into a position that I’m pretty sure I saw a Russian gymnast do during the Olympics, and… how can I put this delicately… I “ripped ass.” I braced myself for the middle school moment when the earth stops turning, and everyone in class turns around so they can really punch in the humiliation. But, something amazing happened. The teacher patted me on the shoulder like the kind of mother I’ve always wanted and said, “Goooood. Let it out.” I was receiving praise for performing a bodily function, which is the kind of energy I’ve been searching for my entire life. This is what true self-acceptance must feel like. So, if you find yourself in this situation, don’t be alarmed. That’s just the sound of your unhealthy lifestyle leaving your body.
The Singing Bowl
No, that is not a pill crusher your instructor just whipped out. It’s a “singing bowl.”
The singing bowl started in ancient Tibet. It’s basically a metal bowl that emits a sound when you circle the top of it with a mallet. This is not like when people wet their fingers and play “Viva La Vida” on wine glasses. The sounds that the bowl produces are frequencies that target different mind vibrations. Before you start rolling your eyes, hear me out. I won’t go deep into the science behind it because I’m the type of person who hears “beta” and thinks of a fraternity, not the brainwaves. Essentially, the sound frequencies stabilize different parts of your brain, which results in a calming effect. When the instructor first started using the singing bowl, I started peeking around to see if everyone else was buying into this. They were. Even Range Rover Lady seemed at a higher level of peace. So, I accepted that, as a person who could receive a medal for excellence in paranoid thinking, I’m not above giving vibrations a try. It felt like three years of therapy within five minutes. So, GIVE IN TO THE VIBRATIONS! Give in to every part of the spiritual yoga experience.
If you’re living in an area that doesn’t offer any in-person spiritual yoga classes, or you’re trying to be COVID-conscious, online classes are a superb option. YouTube has taught us about everything from the electoral college, to algebra, to making guacamole, to perfecting the smokey eye, etc. So, why shouldn’t we give it a shot to teach us spiritual yoga? There are soooo many classes on YouTube that can offer you an authentic experience for whatever type of spiritual yoga you are interested in. There are also yoga-specific websites that offer online spiritual yoga classes. These sites usually require you to pay for classes or for a subscription, but they are great for keeping you on a schedule. Whatever type or way you choose to practice spiritual yoga, I encourage you to give in to the full experience. If you do, you WILL thank me and feel free to send me an Edible Arrangement. Namaste, Betches!
Images: Dane Wetton / Unsplash; Giphy (3)
I’ve read a lot of thrillers, and let me tell you, after a certain point it feels like if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. Often times, I feel like, for whatever reason, every single author writing a mystery in the same year uses the same twist (the narrator suffered from amnesia all along, two sisters switch places). It’s like, do they all meet at a convention beforehand and discuss the twist of the year? That said, it’s rare that a thriller surprises me. Yeah, I’m that person who knows who the perp is within 15 minutes of a Law & Order: SVU episode. So when I picked up Don’t Look For Me, the buzzy new suspenseful novel by Wendy Walker out September 15, I wasn’t expecting much. But let me say that I was taken aback by at least one of the curveballs in the novel, and I definitely didn’t predict who did it. (Hey, you can’t win ’em all.)
Wendy Walker is the bestselling author of All is Not Forgotten, Emma In the Night, and The Night Before, with rights sold in 23 foreign languages as well as options in film and television. In her latest thriller, Don’t Look For Me, a mom with a past that’s been weighing on her is trapped in a storm in a small town, when she considers running away from it all. Then, she goes missing. The police are convinced she ran away, but her daughter is not so sure, and is determined to find the truth at any cost. Betches readers can get an exclusive first look at the first chapter of Don’t Look For Me, and be sure to pre-order it before its release on September 15.
The sky grows dark as I drive.
I tell myself to concentrate, to focus on the two narrow lanes of smooth, black asphalt and the double yellow lines that divide them.
The road feels like a tunnel, carved between walls of brown cornfields which flank the road on both sides and go on as far as the eye can see.
Darkness now hovers above and below, and from side to side. It’s everywhere.
I hear the woman on the radio talk of the storm, but she is muted by thoughts that will not relent as the events of this terrible day unravel in my mind.
This stretch of Route 7 passes through an endless chain of small New England towns—not the quaint villages farther south, but the old industrial hubs that have been left to decay.
Neglected farmland, dilapidated houses, abandoned factories—they stand like tombstones. I wonder where people live. Where they buy groceries. Where they work and go out to dinner. Why they don’t leave.
The unease causes my shoulders to rise and my back to straighten. It’s the same every time I pass through. These towns will haunt me well into the night.
There’s a gas station up ahead. The Gas n’ Go. It sits at the intersection of Route 7 and an eerie road that leads to the heart of one of these towns. I have never been down that road, and I don’t ever intend to. Still, this seems to be the spot where outsiders find themselves in need of gas as they journey from southern Connecticut into western Massachusetts. There must be half a dozen boarding schools and small colleges which are accessed from Route 7. Sometimes I recognize cars, even faces, when I have to stop.
And I will have to stop today. The gas light has been on for miles now.
After the Gas n’ Go, it’s two hours to my home at the southern end of the state. I have already passed the green welcome sign. Welcome to Connecticut.
It will be just after nine. My husband, John, will likely be out. At the gym. At work. Having drinks with a friend. My daughter, Nicole, will also be out somewhere. Anywhere that’s not near me. She just turned twenty-one so she has options now. Options that keep me up at night, watching the clock. Listening for the door.
The dogs will bark and jump on my coat. They’ll only want food. They save their affection for my husband. He was the one who brought them home after Annie died, so they’ve been his dogs more than mine.
The house will smell like Fantastik and lavender dryer sheets because it’s Thursday, and on Thursday the cleaners come. I wonder if they’ll remember to clear the ashes from the fireplace in our bedroom. It’s late October and cold enough for a fire. John likes to sit in bed with the fire burning while he watches television. He had one going last night. He was asleep by the time I made it up the stairs, though now I remember that the fire had a fresh log. Conclusions are quick to follow and one hand now covers my gaping mouth.
Am I too sensitive? Am I just being too me, too Molly? I hear these thoughts with John’s voice. Stop being so Molly. He has come to use my name as an adjective that allows him to dismiss me. But, no—I’m not wrong about the log on the fire. He was pretending to be asleep.
The day unravels and I can’t stop my thoughts.
My son, Evan, attends one of the boarding schools off this road. He was recruited as a freshman to play football. He’s a junior now, and a starting lineman this season. I make this trip every other Thursday to watch his home games. The season is half over and they are leading the ranks. They may win the entire league this year.
The drive is four hours each way. John tells me I’m crazy to make the trip twice a month. He tells me Evan doesn’t care. Nicole has harsher words for me. She tells me Evan doesn’t want me there. That I embarrass him by going. That he’s not a little boy anymore and he doesn’t need his mommy watching him play.
He has changed. She’s right about that. He knows the power he has on the field. I hadn’t seen it before today. It was in his stance, his walk. It was in his eyes.
And it was in his cruelty. I wonder when that began. If it’s new. Or only new that I can see it.
I waited for him outside the field house where the team enters the locker room. I picture him now, as the day plays out again, slowly, painfully.
How he walked with his friends, the enormous bag hanging over his shoulder, high-tops unlaced, baseball hat turned backward, and a mischievous smile that probably had something to do with talk about a girl.
In that moment, before his eyes caught sight of me and his face changed, I felt my heart fill with pride.
These thoughts come, and like the log on the fire, they don’t go. My boy, my sweet Evan, the easy middle child, walking like he owned the world. A smile pulled clear across my face as I waited for his eyes to turn and see me at the door.
And they did turn. And they did see.
And then they widened and looked away. He grew closer, and still, they did not return to me. He positioned himself between two of his friends and passed through the door, leaving me in awe of his dismissiveness.
It is just now, one hundred and eleven miles later, that I feel the bite of it.
My vision blurs. I wipe away tears. Christ, I hear John. Stop being so Molly! He’s a teenager.
But the thought won’t leave, this image of his back turned as he walked into the building.
I look up at the dark clouds stirring in the sky and see the sign for the Gas n’ Go sitting atop a giant pole. The storm is a hurricane. I am driving right into its path.
John said this was another reason I shouldn’t make the trip today. The school could cancel the game if the storm got too close, and even if they didn’t, I would surely run into it on the way home.
The storm, Evan not caring.
And Annie. He stopped short of saying it, but the words lingered between us.
Today is the anniversary of her death. Five years ago, on this day, we lost our youngest child. She was nine years old.
No. I will not think of Annie. I will not go backward. I will go forward.
Put one foot in front of the other.
I learned this in grief counseling. I used to be a middle school science teacher, where the focus is on learning to analyze problems by breaking them down into pieces and forming hypotheses—so I studied the grief this way. Objectively. Clinically. We are not wired to witness the death of a child. To endure it. To survive it. But like every other human defect, we have used science to outsmart our own biology. We can take a brain that is shredded ear to ear and we can put it back together with mantras like this one. Mantras that have been tested in clinical trials. Vetted in peer articles and TED Talks and now appear in self-help books.
You just put one foot in front of the other, Molly. Every day, just one more step.
Had I not had other children to care for, I would not have been able to take these steps. I would have died. Let myself die. Found a way to die. The pain was not survivable. And yet I survived.
But the day continues to unravel, back now, to the morning.
Nicole was just coming in from one of her nights. I don’t know where she slept. Her skin has gone pale, her hair long and unruly. She’s become lean from running. She runs for miles and miles. She runs until she is numb, head to toe. Inside and out. Then she sleeps all day. Stays out all night. She is a lean, fierce, unruly warrior. And yet the pain still gets inside her.
Where have you been all night? I asked. The usual exchange followed, about how this was none of my business … but it was my business because she’s living in my house and what about her GED class and trying to dig herself out of this hole … but it’s my fault she’s in the hole; she’s in the hole because of Annie and her grief and because not everyone can just get over it … but when is she going to stop using her sister’s death as an excuse for getting expelled from her private school senior year, never going back?
She shrugged, looked me straight in the eye. When did she become like this? This soldier, ready to fight off anyone who comes too close?
What about you? When are you going back to work? she asked.
She likes to remind me that I, too, stopped living—breathing, yes, but not really living.
I had no response to my daughter this morning. I had no response to my son this afternoon.
I didn’t even see Evan after the game. I waited by the door but he must have gone out a different way. I almost marched straight to his dorm to tell him what I thought of his behavior. To do what a mother does when she knows she’s right and when her child needs to learn a lesson.
The sign for the Gas n’ Go grows closer, the clouds darker as these thoughts come. I didn’t find him. I didn’t do what I now think a mother should have done. A good mother.
Suddenly, I know why.
The car slows. I step on the gas, but it doesn’t respond.
I am not a good mother.
I can’t hold them back now, the thoughts of my dead child. Annie. Not that they ever really leave me. They are always lurking, hiding, wearing disguises so I don’t see them as they sneak up.
I steer to the shoulder. The wheel is stiff. The car is dead. When it stops, I try the ignition, but it won’t turn over.
I see the message on the dashboard. I have run out of gas.
How long has the light been on? I have been preoccupied by this day. By these thoughts. John was right. I should not have made this trip. Not today.
I look down Route 7 and see the entrance for the station. It can’t be more than thirty feet. The wind whips hard, rocking the car. I can see the rain coming on an army of clouds. A blanket closing over the sky. I can’t tell how far away they are. How much time I have.
Thoughts exploding. Heart pounding. What have I done?
Now comes the thought about the fire last night. We have four fireplaces in our house, all of them wood burning. I have been making fires and stoking fires since we moved there twelve years ago. I know what a log looks like when it’s just been placed on top of the flames.
I have no umbrella, just a flimsy jacket. I put it on anyway. I reach for my purse and tuck it inside. It’s only thirty feet.
I open the door, get out, close it behind me. And I run, clutching the purse. I run into the wind which is more powerful than I imagined.
I run and think about that log which had just been put there—last night—on the fire. John wasn’t asleep. John was pretending to be asleep so he wouldn’t have to see me, even just long enough to say good night.
It’s not the first time.
Flashes of the fight with Nicole break free as my body pushes through the wind. We fight every day now.
Open your eyes!
The fight had been so fast and furious, I had not processed each word. But I do now.
They are open. I see you clear as day, Nicole.
Not to me. To your own husband!
I can’t see what’s right in front of me. He never comes home for dinner. He pretends to be asleep when I come into our bedroom.
My husband doesn’t love me anymore. My husband loves someone else.
This thought feels old, like a jagged stone I’ve been carrying in my coat pocket, trying to rub it smooth. But no matter how much I dig my fingers in, the edges never soften.
And then, the words I had not heard before, but had felt many times. Still, hearing them from my own daughter twisted the knife.
I hate you!
Tears fall as I run.
Annie. Wispy blond hair resting on delicate shoulders. Big, round eyes and long lashes. I can still feel her in my arms. Her life just beginning. Annie.
And now I know why the thoughts have all come. They have been leading me to this one, last thought. This naked admission.
I am not a good mother because I did not drive four hours to watch my son play football so that he would feel loved. I drove four hours so that I could feel loved.
The log in that fireplace. My daughter’s words. I hate you.
Evan was all that was left. I had to see his face, see him thriving, so I could validate my life.
Gasps of breath. The wind is strong and the air cold. My lungs are on fire.
Maybe Evan knew. Maybe he could sense it seeping from my skin. The need I wanted him to fill which must have felt like poison. A mother shouldn’t need things from her child.
I caused Nicole’s demise. She is certain of it and it now feels real, though disorienting. I went to my son under false pretenses, caused him pain. Caused him to lash out with cruelty. My husband pretends to sleep so he won’t have to look at me.
Yes, I think as the grief spins violently in my head. I am a bad mother. This is an objective fact. There’s no way around it.
I let a child die.
I am at the entrance to the Gas n’ Go. I look up and see there are no cars. No lights on inside the store. Orange cones stand in front of the pumps.
The rain comes suddenly. The blanket covering the sky is now a broken dam. It’s dark but I can still see the writing on a cardboard sign. Closed for storm!
I stop and let the rain wash over me as I stare at these words.
Evan, Nicole, John. I am a burden to them now because they don’t love me. Because they can’t love me.
It’s been five years to this very day that they stopped.
Five years since Annie died.
Five years since she ran into the road.
Five years since I struck her with my car. Since I killed her.
Tears, rain, wind. I walk a few paces to the intersection, to the road, Hastings Pass, that leads to the town. There is nothing but pavement and dirt riding over hills, and the dead cornstalks in fields that go on and on. Not another car in sight.
The hurricane is a category four. That’s what they said on the radio. I remember the voices now. I remember the name of this town. Hastings. I have driven into the eye of the storm. I hear the mantra in my head. Don’t give up. I feel the weight of my guilt like a rock I hold above my head. How I fight to keep it from falling. I think now that maybe it’s time. Maybe I can just let it fall.
Maybe I can just walk away.
These words bring a sudden, jarring euphoria.
Walk away. Just walk away.
The road with the brown cornfields, darkened by the angry storm, is now a thing of beauty. An oasis. An escape. My legs begin to move, pulling my body. My mind is in a trance. Sedated by these words and the promises they offer.
You can leave all of this behind.
You can start again.
You can put down the rock, the burden you carry.
I walk along this road until I am part of the storm. Numb to the wet. Numb to the cold. Numb to the truth about the promises. And for the first time since I killed my child, I am at peace.
Please let me go. Let me walk away. I feel the words in my head like a prayer.
Please, they whisper. Don’t look for me.
I don’t know how long I walk, or how far, when I see light coming from behind. I turn to find headlights moving slowly toward me. They’re high and bright. It’s a truck of some kind. Tall but also long. And in spite of the trance I am in and the peace it has brought, I feel both of my arms rise above my head and wave wildly, the purse still clutched in one hand.
The truck pulls in front of me and comes to a stop.
I walk closer until I am inches beside the passenger window. There are two figures inside.
I make a shield with my hand, just above my eyes to keep the rain from my face. I lean in closer and see the window come down a few inches.
“The storm’s coming, you know—you shouldn’t be out here.” It’s a man’s voice. Friendly. But also urgent. “Do you want a ride to town?”
Another voice calls from the truck. The window comes down a few more inches.
The voice of a little girl. The face of an angel.
“Well? Do you or don’t you?” she asks.
I stare at her, at her blond hair and bright eyes, and beyond her to the man.
I stare at her, this young girl, and, God help me, for a split second I see my dead child.
And then I see this road for what it truly is. A mirage. An illusion. And the words that caused my legs to carry me away from my life—liars. Their promises nothing more than cheap deceptions.
The guilt will never leave me. I will never leave my family.
“Yes,” I say.
The passenger window of the truck closes and the girl disappears. But now I hear the click of the locks opening. I reach for the handle of the door to the second row, desperate to be out of the storm. Desperate to get back to my family. To forget what I have almost done. This storm might have killed me. The wind and the cold. Then the guilt would be theirs to carry. John, Nicole, Evan. How could I be that selfish after everything I’ve already done to them? I will never think of it again.
I climb inside, close the door. Relief fighting with despair.
And before I can clear the rain from my eyes and see what’s really before me, I hear the click again. The doors locking.
Copyright © 2020 by Wendy Walker
“Shedding for those wedding bells, I see!” said an oblivious male trainer friend of mine the last time I was at a gym (which feels like 200 years ago), distracting me from a personal best I was about to make. Because we have a personal relationship, I said straight to his face, “excuse me, that was incredibly rude,” and we moved on. But, truthfully, rude doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how problematic this assumption is.
Shedding for the wedding has somehow become a cultural phenomenon that not only requires a bride to put on the most expensive party of her life, but also forces her to spend the months leading up to the wedding (that should be spent drinking champagne and shoving her hand in people’s faces) hangry and stressed. Disclosure: I am talking about female-identifying brides, as I rarely hear about grooms training specifically for the big day, but for the record, body shaming harms everyone.
First, let’s break down how little sense the idea of losing weight for your wedding makes. You’re marrying the love of your life, who loves you for you. Now you want to go and crash diet and/or binge exercise to drastically change your appearance for one day? There’s no reason to make yourself miserable in preparation for what’s supposed to be the happiest day of your life.
One could argue that the ritual ceremony of a wedding itself symbolizes entering adulthood. For me, it definitely does in a much more real way than graduating college or doing my taxes for the first time ever did, and for some, that can be a call to consider their health seriously for the first time. That is not inherently a bad thing, but the problem with the wellness industry as it stands is that it conflates health and well-being with beauty. That notion of “beauty” is further limited to Eurocentric features, so it’s problematic in multiple ways. True health and well-being aren’t as sexy to promote on Instagram, though, because it’s tougher to market what we can’t see from the outside, but diet culture has officially infiltrated the spaces we look to for health information.
Diet culture is the belief that thinness = “health” and status. This is dangerous to us all, but especially to women, BIPOC, people who are differently-abled, anyone over size 6, the trans community—basically anyone society “others”. It sends the implicit message that if you don’t look like the imaginary health ideal—which, according to stock photos, is exclusively thin white women (who can usually be found laughing at salad)—you’re not only unwell, but a whole slew of other unconscious judgments that come along with it (lazy, unmotivated, etc.). Wellness becomes inherently political in this regard. It is impossible to talk about health without addressing the fact that we all have varying levels of access to wellness resources and that we continue to glorify some bodies as beautiful and others as not—which lurks somewhere deep in our brain when we think about what would make us look *perfect* on our wedding day.
I so, so, so get wanting to look your best for the big day. These are photos you’ll have forever, after all. And yes, you better believe my skin care regimen is 234209243 steps long, and I’ve obsessed about the hair and makeup and the dress, but the idea that we need to lose weight to be and feel beautiful is sexist, and while we’re being honest, it’s racist. At the same time, I fully support your right to be autonomous with your body, in every sense of the word. If you want to lose weight to feel special on your special day, that is entirely your right and you shouldn’t feel shame for that—but you should know where that desire comes from, because I’m willing to bet my dream honeymoon that the desire to lose weight comes from a hope that we will be more worthy, better versions of ourselves once that finally happens. The thing is, though, losing weight doesn’t usually accomplish that. If you aren’t armed with this information going in, you’ll probably be disappointed when you get to that final dress fitting and you don’t feel as changed as you thought you would.
To be clear, I am not against having fitness goals! But by fitness goals, I mean actual fitness—not physique goals. A fitness goal is “I want to run a marathon” or “I want to carry this overpacked suitcase without breaking a sweat.” A fitness goal is not, “I want to lose x pounds or fit in this dress”. Personally, my biggest “wellness” goal is staying sane in 2020 and making it to my wedding alive amidst a GLOBAL PANDEMIC, PEOPLE.
As a bride and pilates instructor (with no wedding date in sight), what I am doing is continuing to do the exercise I enjoy because it feels good and helps me deal with COVID-19/wedding/2020/self-employed stress. Listen, movement is objectively good; I’ve literally made it my career and can personally vouch for the life-changing magic of moving your body every day. The problem is, shedding for the wedding puts the focus on changing your body for aesthetic purposes only, instead of enjoying it or even focusing on health itself. Not only can that get punish-y and dangerous, but it’s also just not fun.
I move my body regularly, whether it’s a full workout or a sanity walk around the block, because it feels good and also so I don’t lose my sh*t when my dress is indefinitely delayed or trips get canceled. Choosing to exercise in appreciation of your body and as self-care increases body satisfaction and helps you be nicer to your reflection, which, wedding or not, is always welcome.
Unfortunately, you’re not likely to get through your engagement without hearing the phrase “shedding for the wedding”. So what do you do when someone puts their nose where it doesn’t belong? It’s actually quite simple: Call them out and remind them (politely or not, up to you) that it’s not only not their business, but it’s also harmful and promotes an outdated beauty ideal. Let them know that your wedding does not revolve around an arbitrary number of pounds lost or gained, but the fact that you found yourself a life partner. What a concept.
It’s time to cancel “shedding for the wedding” and start celebrating body diversity with the same fervor that we do one particular type of beauty. 2020 brides have had to sacrifice dancing, hugging, and uh, human interaction in general with the rise of stoop and Zoom weddings. But, we’ve also started to see an edit of superfluous traditions in favor of celebrating what’s actually meaningful about a wedding: the love! Maybe, *JUST MAYBE* we can make engagements about being engaged instead of dieting, and “shedding for the wedding” will go the way of the garter toss.
Images: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock
It’s hard out here these days, obviously, and we’re all probably coping in less-than-healthy ways. Whether you’re spending half of your work day on TikTok, can’t remember the last time you wore real pants, or haven’t eaten a vegetable in weeks, you might not be taking the best care of yourself. With all of the additional, unprecedented stressors in our lives right now, it is especially important to watch out for your mental health. Instead of airing out your frustration on Twitter or switching from cream to bourbon in your morning coffee, there are healthy steps you can take to make your wellbeing a priority. We consulted a few wellness experts about common unhealthy coping habits, and better ways to deal with your stress.
Binging. On. Everything.
You know the feeling when you blink, then suddenly you’ve been on Twitter for an hour, finished half a season of Schitt’s Creek, and eaten an entire bag of Skinny Pop? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there, especially recently. These habits make perfect sense right now, says Yael Shy of meditation distribution platform Pause + Purpose, since when you’re stuck inside, “you may want to consume whatever there is to consume so that you don’t have to think about the uncertainty, difficulty, anxiety, and other difficult emotions swirling in the air right now.” RT. While binging on your vice of choice can bring temporary comfort, though, it won’t bring you lasting relief. Shy suggests that when you feel the urge to binge, first, “SLOW DOWN. Pause. Take a breath,” as she explains, “Addiction feeds off mindless behavior.” Even if you do eventually decide to binge, she says, “taking a pause before you do just reminds you that you have agency over your body, your decisions, and your time.”
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Additionally, Shy recommends getting to the root of your impulse to binge: is it loneliness? Anxiety? Grief? Since, she explains, “we make behavior changes not by berating ourselves, but by accepting and loving our underlying impulses,” recognizing what sparks you to binge in the first place is a necessary step. If you can’t beat your urges, that’s okay, but try to go in with open eyes. If you’re about to embark on a social media binge, Shy recommends setting a timer so you won’t be scrolling forever, and to actually stop when the timer goes off. Or, if you’re eating, she says, “eat really slowly and mindfully, tasting each bite. Try to remove the ‘mindless’ nature of the activity and replace it with some ‘mindfulness.’ It will undoubtedly transform your experience.” Getting a handle on the behaviors that make you feel out of control can be extremely helpful in adjusting to the changing times.
This is a hard one. When you feel as though someone has ~wronged~ you, it can be difficult to simply forgive and forget. However, holding onto feelings of resentment does not serve anyone in the long run. Getting over a grudge, Paula Pavlova, a yoga teacher and wellness educator and founder of Pavlova Wellness, says, “often starts with authentic conversations, apologies, and true forgiveness, no matter how challenging it might be.” While grinning and bearing it can suck, “Once resolved and released, you will notice the difference. You might never agree, but you can forgive. And forgiveness is not for the other person, it’s for you to remember your peace and self-worth,” she reflects. If you’re as stubborn as me, this is easier said than done. Pavlova suggests saying to yourself, “‘I am feeling (fill in the emotion) about x, y, z AND I am okay. I can handle this.’” If you need to cry, scream, laugh, write, or dance? Do it, as long as the discussion—whether it’s with yourself or the person you are having issues with—remains constructive rather than destructive. TL;DR: as RHONY’s Dorinda Medley says (and often forgets, but we’ll forgive her), “say what you mean but don’t say it mean.”
It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere
We’ve been in quarantine for nearly six months, so you’re probably making way more Drizly orders than you used to. While the “Five O’Clock Somewhere” rule may be fine for the occasional brunch mimosa or drink by the pool, it can be a harmful mentality when you’re stuck at home 24/7. According to Dr. Cassie Majestic of Dr. Majestic, a blog where she writes about wellness and her work as an Emergency Physician, those who have significantly increased their alcohol consumption recently are likely doing so “due to boredom, depression, or as a coping mechanism.” Like, duh.
But she says that while drinking may make you “feel more relaxed and happy initially,” Majestic recommends keeping the drinks to a minimum, because those upping effects are only temporary. She also advises limiting the amount of alcohol that you keep in your home, so there is a barrier to drinking in excess. Kind of a buzzkill, but she’s probably right. Instead of turning to your trusty glass of red, Majestic suggests “keeping yourself busy with other projects, goals, or interactions.” For instance, you could redesign your room, plan a socially distanced outing with friends, or craft an itinerary for your first trip post-quarantine. Plus, we all know the hangover hits way worse in quarantine.
While the occasional b*tch session is perfectly natural, at a certain point, complaining too much about something just makes you more aggravated than you were to begin with. Instead of focusing on any unwanted parts of your life, “manifest the things that you do want or like by talking MORE about them,” advises Juliet Okonkwo of Pure Skin & Scalp, a salon that provides therapeutic hair and scalp treatments. This will help you become more in control of your emotions, and it allows you to reframe your outlook on life in a healthier way and “celebrate the amazing things that you used to not give the time of day,” says Okonkwo, like “nature, sounds of birds chirping, plants and trees, a simple smile or hug from a loved one…These are BIG things that are worth celebrating, but we tend to take them for granted.” In the words of Hamilton’s Aaron Burr, “Talk less. Smile more.”
Too Much Introversion
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Lockdown is a great excuse to cancel plans, and with so much information and controversy swirling around in the world right now, it’s reasonable that you might feel like cutting out social interaction altogether, says Majestic. However, too much isolation can lead to depression and anxiety, so it’s important to recharge your social interaction battery every so often. Yes, that means getting off the couch every once in a while! Majestic recommends keeping your loved ones close, as ”they can really help you forget about some of the negativity in the world by bringing other topics into your conversation and life. I like to recommend keeping a friend circle small these days. It helps to avoid controversy and anxiety.” And don’t let social distancing measures let you forget about therapy—many therapists are currently holding virtual sessions. If you’ve never been to therapy but have been considering trying it, now is a great time to start. Opening up about your feelings is obviously never easy, but doing so from the comfort of your own home can help the start of your mental health journey feel safer and more secure.
Lack Of Structure
If you’re WFH, going about your daily tasks can feel a bit like freestyling these days. Having a more flexible schedule and to-do list, along with limited human interaction, “can prove challenging for your mind and body,” Majestic says. If you’re in charge, she suggests scheduling a regular Zoom lunch meeting with your team. You never thought you’d miss the weekly Bachelor chat you had with Brenda over mid-morning coffee, but here you are missing her opinions on Pilot Pete. As Majestic says, “Those little daily human interactions in an office or work space have huge positive effects,” so any way you can connect with your team will be beneficial, even if you’re not face-to-face. Additionally, Majestic recommends making yourself a schedule to structure your work day. “Consider using an old school planner since everything involves technology these days,” she says, “and get out of those sweats! Then you can look forward to putting them back on when your work day is finished.” (Ok, call me out.)
people who post their at-home desk setups need to chill. like I lie in bed all day with my laptop on my chest, what about it?
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) August 19, 2020
Another way to add more structure into your day is creating a set workout routine. Just because most gyms are closed does not mean that you have to give up on exercise. “Even if you don’t have a Peloton or weights at home,” Majestic says, “there are SO many workouts to choose from on YouTube or Instagram. HIIT workouts are my favorite and you often don’t need any equipment.” And, if nothing else, she suggests that you “get outside for a walk and keep your body moving throughout the day in short intervals.”
The past few months have not been easy, and it is super important to give yourself some grace if you’ve fallen out of your normal routines or behaviors. By identifying things you want to change and making steps to do so, you can pull a Rachael Leigh Cook in She’s All That and come out of quarantine even better than before!
Images: mariakray / Shutterstock; lexniko, dietstartstomorrow / Instagram; betchesluvthis / Twitter