February 12, 2015
I don't get it.
The whole Fifty Shades of Grey hype.
I just don't get it.
Let me start at the beginning.
I remember back to when the books first came out. Right on the tails of the Twilight series, I was intrigued by yet another love saga. (I am easily suckered into a good love story, despite myself). And I heard all about this Fifty Shades plot. And I was kind of like, "huh?" I mentioned to a few of my friends who had read the book that I didn't quite get the intrigue.
And their response to me was, "Steph. You really have to read it to get it."
I thought about it. I mean, tons of women are just rapt by this series. So how bad could it be? Yet, I couldn't commit to it. I'd gotten some tidbits into the trilogy. And the whole BSDM thing, Christian Grey's "I call the shots" persona and, especially, the various conditions he puts on the main character, Ana, bugged me.
So I vowed to myself that I wouldn't actually read the books.
But to build an informed opinion, I did read various excerpts on Amazon. (Which are, surprisingly, quite lengthy).
Now first let me say, everyone has their thing. The little treats they allow themselves, the little perk they look forward to each day. Bad reality television. Gratutious romance novels. A jar of chocolate hazelnut spread. We all have our thing.
So I'm not here to judge those who have read the Fifty Shades series. I'm not here to judge the people who got swept up in the story, who fell in love with Christian Grey.
I was not impressed with what I read.
My initial reservations were very much confirmed. I disliked the objectification of Ana by Christian, and how she was portrayed as so innocent and helpless. Sure, her character may have grown and developed over time, which I also understand happens to Ana and Christian's relationship.
But I think a balk a bit at the weak woman/strong man scenario. My husband taught me a lot through our 8 years of marriage. But, most especially, that I am strong, that we are equals. And I appreciate that. Yet, in a culture where women are still struggling to be seen as equal, as strong, I am conflicted over characters that only perpetuate that stigma.
And the conditions that Christian Grey attempts to put on Ana. Puh-lese. If I met a guy, however mysterious, intriguing, powerful and good-looking he may be, that tried to tell me that if I wanted to be with him, I had to agree to a rigorous schedule for eating, exercise and personal grooming? He'd have another thing coming to him. And, no, there would be no second date.
I don't really care about who Christian Grey was and who he becomes. I don't care that he's damaged or sexy or strong or interested in me. All of these things should be red flags to anyone considering a relationship. And if he starts to track your phone and whereabouts? Please call the police.
But above all of the issues I have taken with the various aspects of the Fifty Shades series, it is the writing that made me cringe the most.
The writing. Of all the uncomfortable things I encountered in those excerpts, by far it was the writing that was most painful. Poorly constructed sentences, wrought with editorial errors. Lame dialogue (how many times can someone say, "Holy crap!" to describe an emotion?), and a middle-schooler level of handling the intimate subject of sex.
I hesitate to describe myself as a writer. But I write. I guess. And I am sure there are many of you who pick up on my various contextual errors, cringing at my attempts to weave a story and describe my thoughts and feelings. We all have room to grow as writers.
But I'm also not trying to publish an erotica series.
And, so it goes, bad books that have a cult following get their time on the big screen. Over the past few weeks, the interwebs have been abuzz with the upcoming premiere of E L James' first book-turned-movie. I've seen the trailer. And I'm sure theaters will be packed with giggling, on-edge women.
But I won't be there.
Because I think we as women, as writers, can do a whole lot better.
I'm all about letting people do their thing, and I'm not here to judge. I don't care if there are women out there who like these books, who go to see this movie. And in a healthy relationship, if the kinky stuff is your thing and everyone is happy and respected? Go for it.
I just see so many women buying into this brand of "sexy." But this brand of sexy isn't so sexy at all. It is a weak, helpless woman and a controlling, damaged (abusive?) man. The story of women, the legacy we pass down to our daughters, is important to me. I don't want to continue to perpetuate this brand of sexy, this brand of woman, in our culture. I'd like to rewrite the story of women as strong, respected, equals.
And that is sexy.
So on this Valentine's Day, I'll be grabbing taking out with Hubby from our favorite asian restaurant. We'll probably watch some Game of Thrones episodes, since I'm trying to catch up before the new season begins. Maybe we'll get randy. Maybe we'll fall asleep at 10pm.
But I know, no matter how we spend our time, we do so as equals.
We do so with respect.
And we do so grammatically pure.
February 6, 2015
There are so many messages thrown at us each day.
This is sexy!
This is beauty!
This is healthy!
This is harmful!
From the commercials we watch, the ads we drive past, the magazines we read. If we sit back and really take it in, we realize we are truly bombarded. We are consumers. And every single thing we buy tells us something: about the way we eat, the way we sleep, the way we parent, the way we love, the way we live. Whether it's the ingredient list or the person pictured on the front, it is part of what forms our conscious (and subconscious) ideas, beliefs and perspectives about the world and about ourselves.
As a parent, I've come to simultaneously realize that we are bombarded with messages and that my daughters are sponges soaking up those messages. It's kind unnerving. If I innocently put on a TV show, the commercials between episodes tell my kids they need things.
Daughter: Mom! We have to buy a Stuf-It!
Me: A what?
Daughter: A Stuf-It!
Me: What's a Stuf-It?
Daughter: It's this stuffed animal thing that opens up and you stuff things inside it!
Me: First off, that's weird. Second, you've lived this long without a Stuf-It. I doubt that in the past 30 seconds it has become an actual need in your life.
It's not just commercials. It's the pictures of happy "healthy" kids they see plastered on sugary dye-filled fruit drinks. This message tells them that this drink makes you happy! And healthy! And not at all hyperactive!
It's the radio ad (that I don't always have quick enough reflexes to turn off before it begins) about laser hair removal that will make you more beautiful. It's the ultra-thin models donning the outfits we are told to buy.It's the astoundingly short skirts marketed toward 6 year olds at Target.
But the loudest, most profound messages they hear most of all?
The ones coming straight from my mouth.
I am so, so painfully aware that my little sponge girls pick up on everything I say. Whether it's the accidental curse word that flies after burning my hand on the stove or watching the kind of humor that makes me laugh - they note it. They start laughing at things that they've learned I consider funny. They say things like, "What the HECK?" after hearing one of our friends say it during a visit.
Raising girls is tough in this world of messages. Boys too, for sure. And all these messages affect both genders alike. Being a girl myself, though, I know exactly how the messages we receive day in and day out affect females. So while I can't catch everything that comes out of my mouth, there are certain things I refuse to ever allow to grace my tongue. I have vowed to never let my daughters hear me say:
Or any derivative sentiment:
"I hate the way I look today."
"I need to go on a diet - look at me."
"I'll never look the way I did in college."
"Ug. I'm feeling ugly today."
"I can't eat this because I didn't go to the gym today."
I won't say these things.
And friends, that isn't easy.
Because, hello, I'm a woman. So you know I have my fair share of image issues. I struggle just like the rest of you with what I see in the mirror. I'm trying to change my own self-image, to embrace the beauty that is there in all of us. But I fail daily, and I am internally haunted by the thoughts that arise about how my jeans fit, how my hair is laying, and wondering why I can't get rid of the weird gross phantom hair that appears every few weeks on my cheek.
I wrestle with these thoughts and I'm working on processing them (and I'm becoming more victorious each day!), but I wrestle with them outside of earshot of my girls. Because I remember growing up and hearing the women in my life agonize over the person they saw in the mirror. I heard their disparaging remarks, the off-handed comments about their weight or looks, their defeat against self-worth.
And it affected me.
Everything is a learning process with children. They take the things they see and hear, and it helps them build and understanding of the world. As a child, when I heard those comments, it taught me to be critical of the way clothes fit, of the person I saw in the mirror. We all experienced comments like these as a kid, and whether we realize it or not, it was part of how we came to understand our own self-image. How we defined beauty and being healthy. This is the breeding ground of poor self-esteem, of eating disorders, and of a general distortion of what beauty and health truly are.
While it is hard sometimes, I speak only positively about myself in front of my girls. Because it won't be too long before they come up with the disparaging thoughts about themselves on their own. They'll hear their friends distress about their outfit or weight. They'll see some episode of a TV show where the girl struggles with anorexia. We censor curse words in front of our kids (or, ahem, try to), so shouldn't we watch how we express thoughts that could affect their self-esteem?
It's important that the main woman in my daughter's lives - ME - is a role model. That when they hear me and see me, they see a woman who is working to think positively of herself, in the hopes that they'll learn to think positively about themselves too. So it's all the more important for me to watch my words, because my girls, and all the young girls I know, need role models.
I let myself say out loud that I like my outfit today or the way my hair is falling. That I'm proud of myself tackling a new recipe. I eat my meals with them, so they see I eat healthy, well-rounded (and filling) meals. They watch me suit up for runs, so they know I enjoy being physically active. They hear me tell Hubby that I love him.
And when I finally get dressed and ready for the day, I let them stand beside me in front of the mirror. We assess ourselves, and I make sure to finish off my preparations with a smile. I want them to see me smiling at the person I see in the mirror.
Each day, I'm embracing the beauty, worth and talent of the person in the mirror more and more.
January 21, 2015
In the past 3 months, I've been amidst a great baby boom. Not my own, of course (heaven help me!). But, rather, many of my friends have made the great transition to being parents. I love getting to visit these new first-time parents, snuggling new little babies (that I can give back when I am finished) and bringing these families a respite in the form of a meal.
When Chica was born, I didn't realize bringing new parents meals was a thing. I was among the first of my friends to have a baby, so I was new to the game. But all the people in my life who had gone on the Parenting Journey before me knew what was up and came prepared to hold a baby and provide me a meal. I loved it. I was so overwhelmed by embarking on this new life that I could barely remember my name let alone throwing together dinner. I appreciated that having meals on hand (in the fridge and the freezer) took one burden off of my shoulders so I could focus on my new little one.
Now that I'm several years into this parenting thing, I know the drill when my friends head to the hospital ready to give birth. I go to the grocery store, grab necessary ingredients, and prep a meal (or three) for them.
Some important things to consider when preparing a meal for a new family:
Make it Fridge AND Freezer FriendlySometimes new parents get (happily) inundated with meals. So it's helpful if the meals received can be thrown in a freezer. Otherwise, we leave the bewildered new parents with the task of scarfing 3 meals in the course of 24 hours. Making sure a meal is freezer-friendly allows for the option to eat immediately or freeze for later use.
Keep it SimpleThis is especially important for moms who are breastfeeding. Many of us know the frustration of gobbling up a delicious meal only to find that it does not agree with your baby a few hours later. When preparing a meal for new moms, consider leaving out common gas-inducing foods, such as cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli), beans, garlic or overly spicy foods. Basic, simple recipes are often the safest bet for new moms and babies alike!
Check Ahead for Allergies or AversionsThere is nothing worse than giving a meal to someone only to find they cannot eat it! Check with the family first to see if there are any food allergies to avoid (peanuts, milk, etc) or aversions that would keep them from enjoying your meal. Some moms are quickly put on elimination diets when breastfeeding to address feeding issues, so make sure they are still able to eat lactose (milk, cheese, etc).
Think Outside the BoxI also try to shake things up when bringing a meal. An easy go-to recipe for bringing a meal is baked ziti (my recipe is listed below!). WHICH I LOVE. But when everyone opts to bring it for you, you'll be eating ziti for days. Even an Italian girl like me has her limits! Thinking outside the box and looking for new and exciting freezer meals to bring can help break any meal monotony a new family may be experiencing.
Create a ScheduleIf you are close enough with the new parents, offer to make a meal schedule for them. Websites like Take Them A Meal help you create an online calendar that people can sign up for. It even allows all the volunteers to see what others are bringing so there aren't any doubles. Create them a calendar then send it to their friends and family to sign up with!
Accounting for the above, here are 10 fantastic meals you can bring to a new family (also great for anyone who is dealing with illness or grief). All of these have been tested by me and/or my Freezer Meal Club:
Pepper Steak | Six Cents
Baked Ziti | Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Mom
Pizza Casserole | How I Pinch a Penny
Homemade Chicken Soup with Dumplings | Pandora's Deals
Cheeseburger Casserole | Skinnytaste
Sweet & Savory Apple Pie Pork Chops | Confessions of a SAHM
Lasagna Roll Ups | Cooking Classy
Chicken Parmesan Casserole | Thriving Home
Crockpot Brown Sugar Balsamic Glazed Pork | Laura's Sweet Spot
Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew | Happy Money Saver
I'd love to hear what your favorite meals are to bring to new parents! Leave a comment and tell me all about it!
(And a special thanks for all of the bloggers for permission to use their fantastic links!)