Pay No Attention to the Muffin Behind the Curtain

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I need to lose weight.

Oh, bludgeoning badgers. Did I actually type that? Here I am, a body positive sewing blogger and ardent feminist, talking about changing my body. Any moment, my office door will burst open, with members of the Cool Modern Women’s League demanding my membership card returned.

However, the jiggling fact remains true. In the last year, I have gained ten unwanted pounds, all of which are currently dancing around my stomach and thighs. Between getting married, stress eating my way through a dissertation, moving to blue collar city whose local delicacy is–I shit you not–jalapeno-and-cheese stuffed chicken nuggets, wrapped in bacon, then fried, my skinny jeans are now compression jeans. I don’t feel bad about myself, or even notice that often, but the scale doesn’t lie. One more ice cream bar and I’m going to need a new wardrobe.

It’s really not that big of deal. I’m going to do more yoga, moderate my potato intake, and walk the dog more often. In a couple of months, I’ll be back in my golden window. My real problem isn’t the losing of the weight, it’s talking about it. In America, we can’t just leave well enough alone, when it comes to women’s bodies. A woman loses weight and people come out of the woodwork, complimenting her “new body” and telling her how great she looks, without those shed pounds. People intimate that she’s a beautiful skinny butterfly, previously trapped inside a horrid, fatty cocoon. Successful weight loss, especially on a grand scale, is treated with more reverence than a presidential motorcade.

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If there’s one thing that binds America together, it’s the knowledge that skinny is always better. The closer a woman can come to a size 0, the happier she must be. It’s a foregone conclusion. When we tell someone she looks super skinny today, or that her Sexy Bob Dole costume makes her waist look tiny, it’s a compliment. Who would argue with looking skinnier? After all, nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.

Wrong. Cake is actually really fucking tasty, y’all. Especially Black Forest Cake, with all that whipped cream and kirsch. I’m firmly in Julia Child’s camp on this one: “A party without cake is just a meeting.” People who love to eat really are the best people. Food, especially delicious, decadent food, gives life beauty and texture. I look forward to dinner; I love trying new recipes. I’d rather eat really great food for the rest of my life than ever fit into size 2 jeans. Skinny is not my goal.

I’m losing a modicum of weight, because I’m not a moron. It’s a slippery slope from ten pounds in a year to fifty pounds in five years. I would like to keep eating cake for many, many years to come, so a bit of moderation and care is required. It’s not that I think I’ll look better as a size 10 or that I am inherently happier or better at a smaller size. I just know the numbers and my body, so I’d prefer to shed a few pounds. What’s more, I don’t want to discuss this. I don’t want compliments about how great I look or about how such an endeavor must have been so hard. You know what’s hard? Writing a novel. Let’s talk about that instead.

When other people lose weight and revel in the compliments, that’s fantastic. I’m all for doing what makes you happiest. If you want to dance a jig in the street, next to a life-size cut-out of your “before” body, that’s fine with me. Hell, I’ll make a t-shirt and cheer you on. However, that’s not the only option. Losing weight does not define my life. It will not be the pinnacle achievement of my twenty-nine years. I just want to keep eating cake, without worrying about long term health, okay? There’s nothing intrinsically noble about that. I’m only a woman, eating less potatoes. I’m neither a before nor an after.

Thank you, in advance, for the compliments. You are correct, I have lost weight. It is not a magic trick I’ve performed to awe the public, but a basic tenant of the human body: we can grow and shrink in size. This is me graciously accepting your support.

It’s just, let’s be honest, I’d rather have a piece of cake.

The In-One-Ear-And-Out-The-Other Gene

dejected-croppedMy mother has a saying. It’s usually imparted in song form, when I’m mid-breakdown about some thunderstorm that has rained out my Grace parade. It goes a little something like  “In one ear and out the other, listen to your mother and not your father.” Admittedly, as I approach thirty, “father” is more often replaced with “the internet” or “moronic asscakes.” No matter what changes in the last stanza, the gist is the same:

Grace, stop giving any fucks. 

My mother is the queen of not giving any fucks. She is meme Julie Andrews, twirling empty-handed of fucks, while on a peaceful, flower-bedecked mountaintop. People can chatter in her ear all day long about how they disagree with her or think she’s doing something wrong, but if she wants something badly enough, she goes after it anyway. She rolls her eyes, does what she believes in, and keeps moving on. No grudges are held; no plans are changed. Criticism is filtered, analyzed, and tossed as needed.

I did not inherit this gene. Let’s break down my response to criticism, shall we?

Grace: Good news, universe! I have finally found my true passion in life, training Bichon Frises for competitive water polo!

Father: But, Grace, is there any money in that? Sure, it pays the bills, but don’t you want to be Surgeon General? You know, when you’re Surgeon General, you can train swimming fluff balls on the side. Mature people call that a hobby, not a job.
The Internet: You? You do know that, in order to be a true Bichon Water Polo trainer, you need 18 years of experience and a degree from Oxford in Canine Watersports, right? Amateur.
Moronic Asscakes: Ha! Chubby bitch! Go eat some cake, instead.

Grace: 

Which, of course, quickly progresses to this…

My initial reaction to strong criticism is, and has always been, boat loads of tears and buckets of ice cream. My emotions are directly linked to my tear ducts anyway, as Professor McGregor will tell you. The man has started fast-forwarding through SportsCenter’s daily human interest story, for fear of his wife becoming a puddle of feelings. Someone tells me I’m not good enough or that I’ve done something wrong? Grab a boat, Noah, a gully washer looms.

Usually, the tears are quickly replaced by righteous indignation. How dare they tell me I am a bad bowler! I shall reap vengeance upon them with my bowling badassery! Now, what are these holes for? The valid criticism I can handle. After the anger, comes the light of knowing that there’s a kernel of truth there. But the pure doubt in my ability or loathing for my person? That shit lingers. I can talk a good talk and act like the shade has gone in one ear and out the other, but it hasn’t. It lodges in there, insidious and sticky, telling me that I’m not good enough. It whispers that these things are pipe dreams, not practical, achievable goals.

However, part of being an adult is receiving criticism, both valid and not. Functional adulthood involves not going to pieces every time someone thinks you’re lame. In my chosen career, specifically, critics hide behind every damn bush. There are really only two options here. Either my skin thickens up or Professor McGregor and I will need to buy a horse farm in Montana, so far into the mountains that it doesn’t have reliable internet. There, we will live off the land, periodically have our neighbors over for raccoon stew, and avoid the outside world altogether. Considering my addiction to civilization and the dear professor’s aversion to rodent cuisine, we’re probably better off with the first option.

I must learn how not to give any fucks. I must hum my mother’s jaunty little tune. Teach me your ways, those without fucks.

I Live In Nebraska Now

Sorry for being gone for so long y’all, I was busy moving to fucking Nebraska. NEBRASKA. To be fair, Nebraska has actually been pretty good to me thus far but WINTER. IS. COMING. And, if the mannequins at the sporting goods store are to be believed, then winter here is like what will happen when the sun dies and the world is cast into bitter, cold, darkness. So, yeah, I’m panicking and frequently asking my hubs (who grew up in Ohio and is much more prepared for this sort of thing) if he thinks that I have enough thermal underwear and maybe should we buy more hand warmers and also can we move back to Texas for the winter? (One yes and two nos for the record).

We moved to Nebraska because my hubs is a Professor and got a badass job at the University of Nebraska. Did y’all know that both Grace and I are married to Professors? Isn’t that adorable? Best friends married to men in academia?! And also our Professor husbands are best friends!! We are best friends who married best friends!!!! WE ARE ADORABLE. (If you know any sexy single Professors please let me know, I am constantly on the lookout for a suitable Professor for Kate so we can complete the trifecta/braintrust).

Anyway, so far I don’t hate Nebraska. Really. They have two great farmers markets in Lincoln, a Whole Foods, a Trader Joes, an AMAZING burger place, a great place for brunch, cheap booze, a beautiful capital building, lots of great walking and biking trails, and just epic tailgating.

On the other hand, their DMW can suck it. When we went to get our licenses my hubs was in and out in about 10 minutes. They didn’t ask him any questions and he only had to show his passport and two pieces of mail. Getting my license took 45 minutes and a pretty intense interrogation. I brought my passport, my Texas license, my social security card, and our marriage license. My hubs laughed at all of the identification I brought and thought that the marriage license was overkill. WRONG. They fucking grilled me on my name change, which has been in place for over a year, and ALL OF MY IDENTIFICATION HAS THE CORRECT NAME ON IT. But they were like “Your middle name [which is my maiden name] isn’t legal because you don’t have a court order.” NOPE. THAT IS INCORRECT. My name was legally changed and this is my recognized name by EVERYONE including the US government. It is the name on my passport, my Texas ID, and my social security card. Y’all, they were literally not going to give me a license. For real. I could feel my blood pressure rising as I was trying to explain the way legal name changes work to the manager of the DMV – that in fact, no, you don’t have to get your birth certificate changed to take your partners last name, and no, you don’t need a court order either. The fuck? I kept referencing my Texas ID, my social security card, and my passport. He repeatedly told me that they didn’t accept any of these as valid identification. THE FUCK? If a US passport isn’t a form of valid identification I don’t know what is. It has my name and my picture on it and has been verified by the federal government. Of course, it was perfectly acceptable identification for my husband, just not for me because vaginas are tricksy y’all. Right before my head exploded and I stormed out of there – he noticed my marriage license AND THEN GAVE ME A LICENSE. Apparently a piece of paper with no picture on it that verifies I am married is good enough even though my passport and Texas ID weren’t. BOOM MY BRAINS ARE SPLATTERED EVERYWHERE. He told me that since I could prove I was married that was good enough for him. Except they still refused to put my maiden name (aka my LEGAL MIDDLE NAME) on my license because that is not cool – you should only have your husbands name. Whatever, I numbly accepted the license (because you have to get a new license when you move to a new state otherwise I would proudly carry my Texas license that was absolutely no trouble to get FOREVER) and got the hell out of there before they decided I was, in fact, a terrorist. Oh yeah, because several times in the conversation the DMV manager told me that they couldn’t give me a license even with all my identification because terrorism. TERRORISM.

After I left, I spent the next several hours on the phone with my Mother and Grace freaking the hell out about all I had just been through. Then, because I can be a real asshole about principle, I decided to do some research to see if other state DMVs would have given me such trouble. The answer is no. A valid passport and state license would have been more than enough for literally every other state. No marriage license needed. And then my brain exploded again. The end.

Cue the Fireworks and Exploding Brains, Please

6627903160d69678267f88bc2225dab4Good afternoon, kittens! As you may have noticed, all has been quiet at Spinsters over the last few months. That’s do to a few reasons, honestly–Mae recently moved to Nebraska with her love, Kate has been absolutely swamped in her corporate day job, and I…

Well, I’ve been really happy, y’all.

Since marrying Professor McGregor last winter, life has been a charmed existence of singing bluebirds and hazy weekends of love/pie. Well, mostly. I was also finishing, then defending my dissertation, and trying to form A Grand New Life Plan. Most blog posts would have been me rambling about how cozy yoga pants are (Why can’t I just wear them always!? Why!?) and waxing poetic about Oxford commas. No one wants to read the innermost thoughts of a lovestruck, pajama-clad, academically addled newlywed. Quite frankly, I didn’t want to write any of those thoughts either. So, I waited for something else to come along. I waited for something that made me so rabidly, bone-crunchingly angry that I either had to write about it or storm out of the house on a quest to kill and maim and destroy.

Then, of course, it happened. One can only go so long without running into a troll. This troll took the guise of a kindly grandmother from California, emailing me about my sewing blog.* In the sweetest, gentlest of ways, she informed me that I was doing myself a disservice by wearing floral dresses and posing cutely for my blog. A woman with a Ph.D. needed to stop discrediting herself with all this “twee” nonsense, grow up, and start wearing pants. The feminists of the seventies did not fight for equality of industry, so that I could wear flowers, infantilize myself, and pose with pointed toes. Perhaps I didn’t understand feminism, she intimated, because surely I was doing it wrong.

So…that happened. Once I’d scraped all the brain goop off my walls, I was properly enraged. I showed the email to Professor McGregor, complete with wild gesticulations and loud scoffs of disbelief. I called Mae, read it aloud to her, and ranted for an hour about demonizing the feminine. That conversation then devolved into mutual complaints about how fucking far away Nebraska is, because AARGH BEST FRIENDS SHOULD NEVER MOVE AWAY. ALSO, FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT WAS KIND OF A PHILANDERING ASSHOLE AND WHY DO ONLY MEN HOST LATE NIGHT TV SHOWS AND I AM SO TIRED OF BABY PICTURES. MAKE THE WORLD STOP BEING AWFUL!

If you’ve been timing how long I could go on being pleasant, without flights of righteous indignation or virtual stomping about, press the stop button now. Six months is my official limit. While I am incandescently happy with Professor McGregor and the home we’ve made, my patience with society is sapped. Hello, my name is Grace. I’m a comically angry blogger and I’ve missed you. Would you like to hear my feelings on gender reveal parties and professional football? Stay tuned.  

*Explanation for the uninitiated: In the non-anonymous world, I also write a sewing blog, on which I post the aforementioned floral dresses and periodically rant about fashion. It’s neat.

The Danger of Mummification & Other Marriage Perks

d1eb1177c2b3d3a71f15d30d944b782aThis morning, I did my usual “What’s going on in the world?” perusal of the internet. CNN, Jezebel, and BlogLovin all received their due attention, before I stumbled across a story that turned my arm hair white. A woman in a Detroit suburb was found mummified in the back of her car, after having been dead for six years.

These were, in order, my reactions:

  1. Egads! (Horror.)
  2. Eww! (Think of the smell! Unless there wasn’t a smell, because she was so desiccated. Does a mummy smell like anything other than dust? I need to reread the Amelia Peabody series stat.)
  3. How!? (All of her bills were auto-drafted and she traveled a lot, so her neighbors thought she was just a globe-hopping introvert. Until, of course, some hapless roof repairman sent by the bank that eventually took over her mortgage was directed to check out the house…and he discovered her mummy.)
  4. Oh plummy tartlettes, this could happen to me! I autopay my bills, too! (Modern woes.)
  5. Wait, no. I have the Professor. Surely, he would notice if I were a corpsicle, before I started imitating Queen Hatshepsut in the back of my Volvo. He would totally miss my sparkling observations on Logan vs. Piz and all the pies I bake. There is minimal chance of me becoming a vehicular mummy.  MARRIAGE IS THE GREATEST.

Yesterday, a dear friend of mine asked how married life was. My answer was “It’s awesome. Exactly the same as living-in-sin life!”, however, that’s not quite true. Being married to Professor McGregor means rarely having to worry about becoming a forgotten desiccated corpse. It’s still possible, but the Grace train would have to really go off the rails.

There are other things that are way better, too. The man knows me so well that, each and every morning, he pries me out of bed with a perfectly made cup of coffee. If that doesn’t sound extraordinary to you, then you never did a stint slinging lattes in college. In order for me to properly enjoy home-brewed coffee, my milk (1/3 of the cup’s worth) must be microwaved for precisely thirty-eight seconds, then one Splenda and the tiniest drop of vanilla are added, before finally pouring the coffee into the damned cup. Otherwise, it will taste weird and be lukewarm and my whole day will collapse around me. For the first part of our relationship, I wisely insisted on attending to my own cup of Joe, so as not to appear like the pretentious maniac I am. Now, Professor McGregor does it for me. Happily. At his own suggestion. With organic fair trade espresso beans that I have delivered from Austin once a month, instead of the economical and perfectly fine grocery store stuff he drank before.

Also, not to give y’all too much information, but the marriage bed is awesome. Maybe it’s because we don’t have kids and neither one of us burned up the hook-up trail, but having a partner who knows what you like and sleeps right next to you every night is bitchin’. The next time someone tells me they don’t believe in marriage, because it squashes personal freedom, I’m just going to tell them about all the bedsport that comes with it. That’s right, it’s so good, I’m calling it bedsport. The only things worth raving about are worth doing so in archaic Regency slang.

My official review on marriage: two thumbs up. What’s better than perfect coffee, great sex with your beloved, and probably not becoming a car mummy? Nothing.

- Grace

A Wicked Case of the Baby Shrugs

3c27d88be8a50583bbb40cb32f9dfc52All of Facebook is having babies. I don’t know what your feed looks like, but mine is filled with tiny versions of my high school classmates. Our late twenties hit and—baby boom!—people spawned. Suddenly, everyone is having gender reveal parties and cake smashes.

Everyone, of course, except me. It’s not that I don’t want kids. We totally want to start a family, one day. I definitely want a tiny Grace to shower in feminist values and bookstore love, one day. It’s just that one day, in this case, is at least two-quite-possibly-five years away. Right now, the dear Professor and I are perfectly happy not worrying about college education funds, dirty diapers, or gendered toy aisles. Despite everyone, everywhere, wanting to know when we’re planning to start popping dem babies out, we’re decidedly not planning.

Also, let’s be honest, I’m going to be a crap mom. I’ll love our wee McGregors, sure, but the mom instinct is not strong in me. This week, I developed suspicions that it may be missing altogether. Some virtual friends of mine were all atwitter over an “incident” that happened at their daycare: someone fed the children McNuggets and store-bought cupcakes.

Are you shocked and furious? Congratulations! You are a responsible enough human to become a parent. My reaction was a grand shrug and intense craving for fried chicken slurry. Not once did I fear for Wee Isabelle and Wee Lancelot’s delicate systems or scream “THE CHEMICALS! OH, WON’T SOMEONE SAVE THE CHILDREN FROM THE CHEMICALS!?”  on my rooftop. In fact, my only contribution to the discussion was to point out that everything is made of chemicals, so let’s not demonize a perfectly good scientific term, okay?

It’s not like I think children should only eat McDonald’s, but surely a handful of chicken nuggets won’t doom them to a life of crime and obesity. No one ever says “Johnny was such a good kid, until he ate that one nugget. Now it’s all hookers and Pokemon thefts for him.” Humans are way more resilient than that, even the small ones. Why, when I was a kid, I ate mountains of chicken nuggets and my left kidney only twitches occasionally. The moms were unimpressed. Some of them may have intimated that childless people just don’t understand kids. Which is…totally true.

I was never super great at being a kid, in the first place. When I tried dangling from the monkey bars that one time, I let go, fell to the ground, and couldn’t breathe for five minutes. When other kids wanted to play in the woods, I talked nonstop about ticks and Lyme disease. So, the thought of having kids–normal, happy, not convinced there’s a dead body in every empty field kids–is a distant one. It’s like considering the moon, when you’ve never even flown on an airplane. Or a chocolate mousse, when you’re allergic to milk and chocolate. Or children, when you are totally indifferent to their existence.

I have, in other words, the baby shrugs:

“When are you having kids?”

*shrug*

“Don’t you want kids?”

*shrug*

“You’ll want them someday, surely.”

*shrug*

“You won’t feed Isabelle high fructose pork syrup, right?

*shrug*

“Tell me you heard the thing about syrup!”

*shrug*

So many shrugs. Luckily, my beloved is currently shrugging, too. When we do have children, they’re probably going to eat chicken nuggets every once in awhile. However, all cards on the table, they’re going to be so damned weird that those evil chemicals won’t make a dent. Genes are wonderful, horrible things.

- Grace

The Cult of Side Eye: Fame and Blogging

4ed52b7429991528e46b0e4881512045This morning was a waste. Instead of curing male pattern blandness or writing the Next Great American Cocker Spaniel Novel, I hunted virtual big game. There were villains, unleashing side eye on the innocent, and they must be stopped!

You see, this isn’t my only home on the internet. Away from our wonderful world of sarcastic ranting, I run a small, personal sewing blog. It’s not exactly revolutionary stuff – pretty dresses, witty commentary, and sewing pattern reviews – but I love doing it. Unlike other parts of the internet, the sewing community is almost universally supportive, which provides a lovely mental respite. In the four years I’ve been writing it, there’s been nary a death threat nor a hateful body snark in the comment section. Meanwhile, my first big post for Spinsters earned both, in less than two days.

Unfortunately, checking my stats this morning was a wake-up call. A handful of people found my little slice of paradise, thanks to a site called Get Off My Internets. Despite an hour of perusing threads, I couldn’t find the link itself, but instead discovered an entire side of blogging previously unexplored. This is a site, complete with its own blog and forum, dedicated to making fun of other bloggers. There are threads for all the most popular blogs around, in which people discuss, tear down, and debate every aspect of those bloggers’ posts. From what I could glean, before running away screaming, a lot of that involves speculation about these bloggers’ personal lives. It’s a supremely meta, worldwide burn book. 

It’s, also, fucking terrifying.

First off, blog hate is understandable. The first rule of writing is that universal adoration is a pipe dream. People will find you annoying for all sorts of reasons, no matter how inoffensive your work seems. That’s just fine. I’m a believer in feeling your feelings, as Kate and Mae can tell you. (They’ve had to listen to this motto a thousand times, at least.) If your feelings say that I’m a man-hating socialist, that’s cool. Personally, I think have some redeeming qualities, but you can’t win ‘em all. What scared me about this site wasn’t the hate itself, but the in-depth research and dissection happening in its forums.

There were threads debating whether someone had gained weight, because she was pregnant, or just because she’d eaten too many of her picture-perfect cupcakes. People discussed the financial details of bloggers, down to how much their husbands made at their jobs, and the imprudent travel habits of one D-I-Yer. The attacks were personal, detailed, and sounded like the most salacious tabloid headlines. Only…they weren’t attacking celebrities. They were attacking normal people, who happen to blog.

Is there no longer a line between blogger and celebrity? There’s no denying that the internet is a public forum, of course. We write with the knowledge, often with the hope, that other people will come along and read our work. And yet, most of us don’t blog out of a desire for fame. The statistics are just too dismal. There are millions upon millions of blogs, filling every niche from snarky twenty-something feminism to anthropomorphic basket-weaving. The number of bloggers who have earned traditional fame–TV show, movie contract, book deal sort of fame–is scant in comparison.

We started Spinsters out of a desire for community. Kate, Mae, and I would meet for dinner and rehash all of the ridiculous things that we’d experienced that week, from workplace sexism to dating disasters. Our stories were normally funny, but also touched on what being a modern, single, twenty-something meant. We decided to blog, out of a suspicion that those experiences were common to other women like us and should be shared. Since then, our lives have changed quite a bit–from promotions, to big moves, to marriages–but we still blog for the same reason. We believe that speaking out, that sharing our rants, reminds other young women that they’re not alone. Plus, it’s really fun to wax poetic about beards every now and again.

Who’s to say that other bloggers, who may now be popular through their efforts, didn’t also begin out of a sense of community? Surely, it’s one thing to dissect people who put their lives out there for actual media consumption, for traditional fame, and another entirely to denigrate normal people who are sharing things on the internet. In this modern age, when so much of what we everyone does is on the web, that harsh spotlight could fall on so many perfectly innocent people.

There is a reason we blog anonymously. Originally, I thought it was to protect us from the censure of friends and family, but maybe the world at large is more the threat. If one lifestyle blogger is open to weight comments and financial dissection from a community of haters, why couldn’t three funny harpies be next? The internet is a fish bowl. I suppose it makes sense that, somewhere out there, piranhas are lurking. We have been warned.

- Grace

Coincidentally, my dad just sent me this video of celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves on Jimmy Kimmel. It seems remarkably apropos, no?