Have I “had anything done”?

A certain person found out that I’m going to be 47 in three months. Not being one to hold back, he blurted, “No way!! Have you had anything done?!”  Complete with dramatic interrobang at the end of the question.

It occurred to me that I’m getting to an age where people might wonder if I’ve “had something done” if they think I look younger than I should.

The guy’s question made an impact in my mind because not long ago, Callaghan and I somehow became ensnared in Botched, a reality T.V. series about plastic surgery that horrifies and depresses me as much as it fascinates me. I always anticipate the cases where the patients got botched during surgeries they had had for medical reasons (birth defects, disfigurement resulting from accidents, etc.), rather than for cosmetic ones. Those cases seem to be rarities, though.

 

thatasianlookingchick.com-Botched

 

I’ve never had anything “done,” and I don’t plan to ever get anything “done.” The idea of having non-medically-necessary surgeries is anything but appealing to me. I’d run from cosmetic procedures involving chemicals, lasers, needles, etc., too.

I have no problem getting shots and getting blood drawn. I’m fine with needles used for tattooing art on my body. I would not be fine with a needle injecting botulinum toxin into my face. I’m not judging those who do opt for such procedures – to each their own! – it’s just not something I can see myself doing. I wouldn’t get tattooed make-up, either; again, this is just my personal preference.

You could say, I guess, that I’m hyper-squicked at the idea of it all. I wouldn’t even get Lasik surgery! When it comes to surgery, words amounting to “medically necessary” have to be included in the documentation. If insurance won’t pay for it, I probably won’t get it.

I had a facial once, about 10 years ago, and even that was a little invasive for my tastes. The facial was a component of a spa package that someone had given me as a gift, and while it wasn’t a bad experience, I didn’t enjoy it enough to want to do it again. The aesthetician was gentle and methodical, and I remember that she used a botanical line of products, which I appreciated, but I found the whole thing to be strange-bordering-on-gross. I think I just prefer my own fingers and hands working with the skin on my face.

I’m particular about how I handle my skin, as well. I once tried a motorized facial cleansing brush after years of hearing people rave about their Clarisonic facial cleansing brushes. It kind of spooked me, and I didn’t like the way my skin felt during or after using the device. I gave it to Callaghan, who also tried it once and never used it again.

Body work – therapeutic massage therapy – makes me swoon. I love scalp massages even more. I could have my feet massaged for hours, which is odd considering that I don’t like people looking at my feet. And if I could hire someone to do nothing but trace designs on my back with his or her fingertip all day, I would. That spa facial, though! It was just kind of uncomfortably weird lying there while someone cleansed my face for me.

 

I'm really not happy in this pic that was taken last night, but a fake smile is supposed to lift your spirits somehow, so this was the experiment.

I’m really not happy in this pic that was taken last night, but a fake smile is supposed to lift your spirits somehow, so this was the experiment.

 

Of course I’m flattered when people remark that I look younger than I am. I’m not immune to vanity, I’m not a humblebraggart, and my mother taught me well regarding taking care of myself, so in a sense, the compliments are a tribute to her. But as far as anti-aging efforts go, I do my own thing, and whatever happens, happens. Just because I have a skin care regimen and use some products that say “anti-aging” on the labels doesn’t mean that I’m actually anti-aging.

Currently, in the morning, I wash my face and use an eye cream and sunscreen under my make-up (I apply the latter to my face, neck and upper chest, as the appearance of your neck and décolletage can make a huge difference)… and that’s it. I stopped using daily moisturizer on my face months ago. The sunscreen I use seems to do a good enough job, so I leave it at that.

At night, I remove any make-up I might be wearing, wash my face, and put on the same eye cream before misting my face with water and adding a layer of night cream. I do a mask once a week, usually on Sundays. I also spend most of the weekend (if not all of it) make-up-free, to give my skin a rest.

As for my hair… when I go gray, I’ll continue to color my hair, with the purpose shifted from enhancement to coverage.

So I do my routine, I make sure I’m consuming the right nutrients, and I drink lots and lots of water. I try to get adequate sleep (ha!). I avoid direct sunlight on my face as much as possible, and I avoid things like refined sugars and alcohol in my diet. After that, though, I’m eager to see what I’ll look like at each stage as I mature.

Because aging is life, and life is good.

Gym Rats: There’s a new poster child for calves-training in town.

It’s surprising how a simple virus can change your body in just a few days.

When I concern myself with my weight at all, I look at it through the lens of the combat sports weight class system. I just prefer to view my body as a tool, as in, what can my body do for me? Could I defend myself using my own body? From this perspective, I dropped from the Jr. Bantam class to Jr. Flyweight within a week, just from being sick. What’s more, I’ve been eating normally for five days now, and I’m still in Jr. Fly. Is this just my new weight class? Should I start re-imagining my fantasy opponents?

But returning to the questions What can my body do for me? Could I defend myself using my own body?  I’ve got my goals set for 2015: I want to make my body stronger, and I want it to be better-versed on the ground. I’ll try to find a place in my schedule for some kind of strength-training, as well as for some basic submission training and practice. I feel like I need to work on the basics. Also, getting stronger will get me my lost poundage back, I’m sure.

Callaghan’s been mapping out his training goals for 2015, too. I’d known that he was borderline obsessed with the whole process, but I didn’t realize to what extent until we were at the movie theatre a couple of weeks ago. Actually, it was on my birthday. We were standing in the lobby when I noticed that he was distracted as I was talking to him.

“Sorry,” he said when he noticed me noticing. “I was mesmerized.” Naturally, I turned to look at the object of his attention. The only thing I saw was this promotional display:

 

thatasianlookingchick-spongebobmovie

 

It took a few seconds.

“SpongeBob?”

“His physique,” Callaghan explained.

I looked at the display again. Then I started laughing. Then I started taking pictures. Because Callaghan was too “mesmerized” by SpongeBob SquarePants to pay attention to what I’d been saying, and come on, how many people can say that about their partners? My husband wasn’t listening to me because he was mesmerized by SpongeBob’s physique.

Later, downloading the pics onto my laptop, something caught my eye as I flipped through them. I looked closer, and suddenly, it all make sense! There it was in all its glory… Callaghan’s biggest gym pet peeve:

 

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SKIP LEG DAY, SPONGEBOB.

THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SKIP LEG DAY, SPONGEBOB.

 

Callaghan must have been looking at the proportion of SpongeBob’s legs – especially his calves – to the rest of his body!

I was gleeful with my discovery. I went back to him with the pics.

“Were you mesmerized by SpongeBob’s non-existent calves?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Or were you just mesmerized by his ripped upper body?”

“I was mesmerized by his non-existent calves. Actually, no, I was mesmerized by his ripped upper body. I didn’t even see his calves!”

Okay, well. Whatever. All I have to say is, once again, my partner is weirder than yours.

And SpongeBob SquarePants is now the official poster child for not skipping leg day… especially calves!

You want to know what mesmerized me over the holidays? Iggy Azalea performing “Fancy” with Charli XCX on New Year’s Eve:

 

 

How’s that for random?

Calf Encounters of the Third Kind.

Wednesday night after Body Combat class, I met Callaghan out on the floor, as per usual. [Side note: have I mentioned that I’m doing Body Combat class three times a week now, since our gym changed its group fitness schedule and replaced Wednesday night Boot Camp with another Body Combat? I love the extra Body Combat, of course, and the instructor is excellent, but “Find another way to get someone to kick my ass with a varied workout combining strength-training, compound exercises, plyometrics and cardio on a weekly basis during a day/time slot that works with my existing schedule” has since been a lingering, problematic item on my “To Do” list. I had relied completely on that weekly Boot Camp class for strength training, and one thing I’d especially appreciated was that the class was different every time. No two Boot Camp classes were the same, so your body never knew what was coming, and therefore, it couldn’t plateau. Plus, that instructor was excellent, as well.]

[Additional side note: Word did not recognize the word “plyometrics” when I keyed it in just now. This, I believe, points to a deplorable deficit in our system somewhere. I mean, what does it say about us as a society when Word doesn’t recognize “plyometrics,” other than the obvious conclusion that the people who develop that software must not work out?]

[Another additional side note: due to a recurring rib injury I was nursing at the time, I wasn’t even able to attend the last two Boot Camp classes, so I didn’t know it was going away until it was gone. I was still attending Body Combat because there I could power through the pain to the best of my ability and simply avoid the weight-bearing (push-ups) part at the end, but there was no point in attempting Boot Camp class at all with that injury.]

Anyway, so I met up with Callaghan – he lifts weights while I’m in class on Wednesday evenings – and as we walked out through the parking lot, he suddenly remembered he had something to tell me.

“Oh I talked to John tonight!” he blurted.

“John? John who?” I was thinking, John? Jean? Who is he talking about?

“JOHN, the Beautiful Calves Man,” he answered, leaving a silent “duh!” hanging at the end.

“Oh.”

“He told me that he’s a massage therapist,” he informed me.

“So are you going to get a massage from him?”

“Oh yes,” he said. “Actually, I’m going to ask him if I can massage his calves.”

We laughed at his joke. But I had to follow up.

“To see if they’re real?”

“I’m sure they’re real,” he replied. “Why would he put so much work into his body and then get fake calves?”

I went online last night in search of a video about calf implants, figuring I should educate myself. This was the first one I found:

 

 

So clearly, there’s a niche of jokes about calf implants out there. In a weird way, though, the video gives me additional impetus to find time for another gym session each week. I’ll have to give this challenge some serious consideration.

Meanwhile, Happy Friday!

Callaghan’s new pick-up line at the gym (calves edition).

Ever since Callaghan started lifting weights seriously… so that would be since March… he’s been in the habit of commenting on the size of the calves he sees on men in the gym. His remarks are always in the context of the proportion of the guy’s calves to the rest of his body, usually to the effect of, “I saw this guy and I don’t understand why guys refuse to work their calves! This one guy’s upper body was massive, but his calves were like twigs! I never forget to work my calves. I don’t want to look like that.” After which we spend a half hour or so debating genetics vs. strength-training for calf muscle shape and development, the merits of various types of calf exercises, plastic surgery (faking it with calf implants) and sheer negligence in training the calves.

 

Random calves in action at the gym.

Random calves in action at the gym.

 

I’ve gotten so used to Callaghan vocalizing his observations that when he starts a sentence with “There was this guy in the gym,” I already know that the guy’s calves are the subject of the sentence. Also, I know that there’s a 95% chance that his remark is going to be unfavorable. Every once in a while, he’ll tell me about a guy he saw with well-proportioned calves. And there’s one guy in particular whose calves he greatly admires. I remember the first time he mentioned him.

“There was this guy in the gym,” he began. He’d just come home.

“…and he had skinny little calves,” I finished for him.

“No! His calves were beautiful!” he exclaimed, surprising me. He went on to effusively praise the beauty and magnificence of not only the guy’s calves, but of his entire physique.

After that, every time Callaghan saw this guy in the gym, I heard about it afterward.

Then Callaghan started working full-time and had to cut back significantly on his weight-lifting. He still does the Body Combat classes with me twice a week, but for now, he’s only lifting weights on Wednesday evenings (while I’m in boot camp class), and sometimes once on the weekend, usually on Sundays.

“I haven’t seen the guy with the beautiful calves in a long time,” he said at one point. But on Wednesday night last week, when I met up with him after our respective workouts, he gushed, “You know how I said I haven’t seen the guy with the beautiful calves in a long time? He was here tonight, and he came up to me and said, ‘Hey, I haven’t seen you here before.’”

“Hahaha!!” I didn’t know why I thought that was hilarious, but for some reason, I did.

“His name is John. He introduced himself. I asked him, ‘Wow, what do you do to have beautiful calves like that?’”

That was exactly what Callaghan said. Imagine it in a French accent. Quite a pick-up line!

“What did he say?”

“That he has to thank his Mom. So I wanted to ask if his Mom had big calves, too,” he said, starting to laugh. “But I didn’t. Although I don’t think he would’ve minded.”

So we know that in this case of the Guy with Beautiful Calves, it’s genetics at play… and maybe it’s the beginning of a beautiful new gym bromance for Callaghan. The immediate effect of this whole thing, though, which I find kind of distracting, is that now I’m always checking out the lower legs on the males of our species. Yesterday, when I was talking to a guy at work, I found myself staring at his calves and thinking, he has nice calves! I laughed, but not out loud.

What I’m Digging Right Now – January Favorites

Happy Chinese New Year! Gong Hey Fat Choy! It’s the Year of the Horse, and we’re off to a galloping start.

It’s also the last day of January, and I’m wrapping it up with a list of things that brightened my world during the month. Anytime is a good time to celebrate “the little things,” though, I figure.

So let’s start with food, because I stumbled on a great light late-afternoon nosh this month, and I’m eager to share it.

1). A cup of Trader Joe’s Pomegranate White Tea with a LÄRABAR über Roasted Nut Roll (sweet and salty fruit & nut bar).

 

My current favorite late afternoon energy-boosting combo.

My current favorite late afternoon energy-boosting combo.

 

This antioxidant and protein-packed duo bridges the afternoon to the evening really well with just enough caffeine to get you through, but not enough to interfere with your sleep later… and it’s tasty, healthy and substantial. You get a little bit of tart, sweet and salty all at once. Liveliness all around!

2). Learning to drive a manual transmission – Tara’s corvette!

 

I never would have thought you'd find me behind the wheel of a Corvette!

I never would have thought you’d find me behind the wheel of a Corvette!

 

I’m 45 now – I’m entitled to that long-awaited mid-life crisis, and we all know that where there’s a mid-life crisis, there’s got to be a Corvette. (Hey, I know my stereotypes.) My friend Tara indulged me one night a few weeks ago with her car and her patience, and it was exciting! Thanks again, Tara!

3). Returning to the gym.

I didn’t take a picture of our new gym, so here’s a logo from the web, instead:

thatasianlookingchick.com-FavThingsJAN2014-24hourfitnessWe knew when we landed back in AZ that we’d join a gym and start working out. After some lengthy research and consideration, we finally decided everything and made it happen.

Our new memberships came with a complimentary session with a personal trainer. I met with mine the first Friday morning after we signed up. My trainer was nice, although there was some kind of disconnect between us.

“So what are we doing this morning?” He got right into it.

“I’m horribly out of shape,” I told him. “I haven’t worked out regularly in like three years.”

“What do you mean you’re ‘out of shape’?”

“Well, after three years of mostly just sitting around, I’ve become one of those “skinny-fat” people, you know?” I explained. “I’m not overweight, but I’m out of shape, and my body fat composition is probably a mess.”

We’d joined a gym in France, but we went all of like three times, so it didn’t count. I’ve literally been 95% sedentary for three years.

Fitness and martial arts training used to be a serious business with me, as those of you who used to read my LiveJournal may remember. I’d been a dedicated gym rat and student of various martial arts, I went to yoga regularly, and at one point I’d studied to get my personal trainer certification. I never followed through on that, but I read the whole darn book in preparation for it. I also studied nutrition, and I continue to keep up with the ongoing scientific research in the areas of fitness, nutrition and health.

I would have thought that my trainer would measure my body-fat percentage to get an assessment, but he did not. Instead, he decided to kick my ass as if I was in better-than-average shape.

Consequently, the next day, I could hardly walk.

“What part of ‘I haven’t worked out in three years’ was unclear?” I complained to Callaghan later. But still, it was fun. And the gym is super nice. I especially love doing laps in the pool, stretching in the sauna afterward, and then sitting in the Jacuzzi.

4). Starbucks travel drink container

 

Blinded by the shiny things. What can I say.

Blinded by the shiny things. What can I say.

 

This was one of those frivolous impulse purchases, but it was a delayed reaction impulse, which sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not. I saw a bucket of these cups glinting in the sun at the Starbucks that day we broke down on our way to Palm Springs. It ended up being one of those situations where something catches your eye, you note to yourself that it’s interesting, and you ignore it and move along… then, later, when you’re sitting at home 159 miles away, it pops back into your head with the realization that you would really love to have it, and you kick yourself for not having gotten it. You can’t stop thinking about it. You’re mesmerized by the memory of its lid’s shiny coppery facets. It’s sitting in a bucket in Blythe, California, 2.5 hours away, and you’re not going to drive 2.5 hours just to go get it. Thus, your quest begins… every time you pass a Starbucks, you ask your husband to please wait just a second so I can run in to see if that one carries those cups! until finally one of them has them… at which point you discover that it’s stupidly expensive, but by then it’s become The Holy Grail, so you HAVE to get it.

Now I feel slightly guilty about it, but a). the guilt is not as bad as the mournful feeling I had when I thought I’d missed my chance to get it (first world problem alert!), and b). not really, because I’ve been drinking water non-stop since I got it, I love it so much! And that’s a good, healthy thing. No buyer’s remorse here. Nope. None.

Plus, I discovered that it’s sweat-proof, which is a great feature. I keep it filled with ice, and the surface of my desk stays dry. WIN.

5). Townes Van Zandt and the documentary about him, Be Here To Love Me: A Film about Townes Van Zandt

 

One of the best music documentaries I've ever seen. I recommend it.

One of the best music documentaries I’ve ever seen. I recommend it.

 

In my November favorites post, I talked about my passion for Steve Earle, my favorite country music artist. Townes is Steve Earle’s collection of Townes Van Zandt covers, and it’s a favorite CD of mine because I’m a huge Townes Van Zandt fan. He’s regarded as a “songwriter’s songwriter,” covered by many other musicians, and I find the story of his life to be as fascinating as the brilliant and haunting lyrics he wrote. I mean, as a poet, songs like “Rake” and “Marie” simply floor me.

I love Steve Earle’s Townes Van Zandt covers more than anyone else’s. Here’s his version of “Marie”:

 

 

If there was ever to be an anthem for the homeless, that song would be it.

6). The requisite beauty product item on this list has to be the Simple Sensitive Skin Experts foaming facial cleanser.

 

My current favorite nighttime facial cleanser is by Simple

My current favorite nighttime facial cleanser is by Simple

 

My Mom loves this cleanser. She gave me a bottle of it when I visited them in December, and it’s grown on me since then, as I’ve used it routinely. It’s almost-but-not-quite overkill for my skin (I have normal skin, and foaming cleansers are usually best for oily skin), but I’m used to it now, and it’s true that my face feels especially clean after I wash with it. I use it at night after I remove my makeup.

7). The girl who hula-hoops on the grass across from our place.

 

Wednesday morning hula-hoopin'!

Wednesday morning hula-hoopin’!

 

I’ve mentioned her before. She continues appearing on the lawn to practice her hooping, so finally I had to take a picture; I feel like it’s a terribly stalker-ish thing to do, but I made sure to avoid getting her face so as to respect her privacy. I wish that her inspirational energy could come through to you in the picture, though. She’s diligent, and she’s a delight to watch.

8). French blue and white toile plate – Luneville “The Cottage”

 

Blue and white toile  Luneville "The Cottage" plate from Callaghan's family in France. The candle is the “Melt” Lemon Verbena and Sage pillar candle (Nest Fragrances)

Blue and white toile Luneville “The Cottage” plate from Callaghan’s family in France. The candle is the “Melt” Lemon Verbena and Sage pillar candle (Nest Fragrances)

 

What is it with me and small collectable plates these days? It’s a new thing. Also in my November favorites post, I’d talked about the handmade Greek one (Bonis Ceramics) I’d found in the corner of a used bookstore, and since then Callaghan discovered this plate, a family piece from France, in one of his many boxes. Somehow, it immediately found its way to the corner of my desk, where it’s resided ever since. All month long, the sight of it has made me smile.

9). My boys. Ronnie James and Nounours have taken to cuddling so close, they almost look like conjoined twins.

 

Look, Mom! Parallel arms!

Look, Mom! Parallel arms!

 

Joined at the hip, those two!

10). Finally, venturing into Callaghan’s office/studio more and more gives me a gateway to the realm of the strange and unexpected as he’s started creating more, and you know me. I love it. Yesterday, I caught this in my peripheral vision as I left the room:

 

Is that a...?

Is that a…?

 

…so I stepped back to take a closer look.

 

...why yes, that would be the gruesome remains of a teddy bear hovering above a death-like mask. Moving right along.

…why yes, that would be the gruesome remains of a teddy bear hovering above a death-like mask. Moving right along.

 

Now let’s see what February brings!

Deep Conversation about the Feminine Mystique of Eyelashes

Callaghan predicts that within 20 years, false eyelashes are going to become a hot new trend for guys.

I disagree.

“Not eyelashes,” I said. “They cross the line. I can see guys who are goth, punk, metrosexual or just into the vanity thing or whatever wearing…”

“But within 20 years, don’t you think?”

“…concealer, powder, eyeliner, brows… maybe some kind of contouring, maybe some kind of lip product… but not eyelashes!”

“Why not?” (He followed up the question with a French exclamation: “Hein!”)

“I just don’t think that a guy who’s not into cross-dressing would go so far as to wear false eyelashes,” I said. “Eyelashes totally define a woman’s face. They make the visual difference between male and female.”

“How do you mean?” Now I really had his attention.

I cleared my throat, as if I was going to present my pivotal scientific findings before a panel at an international research conference.

“You’re an illustrator. YOU know. How do you make anything female? You give it eyelashes. Want a girl dolphin? Eyelashes. A girl seahorse? Eyelashes. A girl car? Eyelashes!”

It’s not the color pink. It’s not lipstick. It’s not boobs. It’s eyelashes. It doesn’t matter what it is. You can draw a black cartoon helicopter with no mouth and an asexualized build, but give it eyes that include long, curled, flirty eyelashes, and it’s automatically understood to be female.

“That’s true…” He looked thoughtful as he visualized cars with eyelashes. We’ve actually seen two of them in real life tooling around Austin. Cars with headlights fringed with thick black plastic eyelashes.

“Adding eyelashes instantly feminizes animals and inanimate objects, so I can’t see non-cross-dressing men wearing false eyelashes,” I concluded. “But maybe things will evolve. Who knows.”

I was thinking, I don’t even put on false eyelashes… I never have, and I don’t think I ever will, so why would an average guy want to engage in that kind of time-suckage? I’m not dissing false eyelashes, or women who wear them. I just prefer to stick with mascara. Blackest-black, one coat. 30 seconds and you’re done.

Callaghan was convinced.

Later, he recalled an example of a non-cross-dressing male movie character wearing false eyelashes, and he made this brilliant NOT UNLIKE banner in his honor:

 

Female car on the left, Alex in A Clockwork Orange on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

Female car on the left, Alex in A Clockwork Orange on the right. NOT UNLIKE.

 

Also, you should see this seahorse that Callaghan drew for me a while back (that’s why I’d mentioned a seahorse in our conversation):

 

The seahorse (l'hippocampe) that Callaghan drew for me. Eyelashes! It's a girl!

The seahorse (l’hippocampe) that Callaghan drew for me. Eyelashes! It’s a girl!

 

 

It’s meant to go on a t-shirt. Aww!

Body Image and the Great Strip-Down

When I sat down to write about body image, I found myself mired in writer’s block before my fingers even touched the keyboard. Where could I begin to talk about this issue? It’s intimidating in its vastness, and thousands of articles on the subject have already been written. So many of us struggle with our self-worth where our bodies are concerned.

What came to mind first was the following incident:

When I was in Arizona, I had a boyfriend whose family lived in a large house in a semi-rural suburb. The lot on which it sat had a modest expanse of lawn and a scattering of shrubbery fringing the perimeter around the front yard. Though it could have used some work, the yard was by no means ill-maintained; still, the neighbors took it upon themselves to show up one day with hedge-trimmers, weed-whackers, gardening shears and the like. They stood on the front porch (I was there to witness it), ready to work. They exuded good intentions with the sort of self-satisfaction that goes with donating precious resources to a charity case.

You see, that yard just had to be brought up to “standards,” and if the occupants of the house weren’t going to do it, then by god, someone else had to. The yard was an eyesore, they figured. It was bringing down the neighborhood. Maybe the appearance of the yard would even decrease the value of their homes. This is all speculation; I don’t know what they were thinking, exactly. People can be persnickety.

My boyfriend’s parents were mortified. They stood on their side of the security screen door at a loss for words. “Thank you,” they murmured… because what else could they think to say at that moment? What do you do with unsolicited volunteerism to correct something of yours that you never knew was wrong?

Good intentions aside, the neighbors came across as critical, maybe even judgmental, and their collective action seemed more insulting and intrusive than akin to a random act of kindness. They actually took time out of their weekends to impose their aesthetics on someone else’s house. “We thought we’d get together and work on your yard,” their spokesperson announced in so many words, full of vim and vigor. I couldn’t believe the nerve. Plus, the yard really wasn’t that bad. In fact, I’d thought I’d seen the same or worse here and there throughout the neighborhood. It wasn’t like this was a shabby yard surrounded by “perfect” ones.

So what about this memory brings to mind the issue of body image? The concept of aesthetic “standards.” Other people’s standards, and the pressure placed on us to meet them.

In this era of obsession with physical perfection, very few of us feel that we look “good enough” to count as worthy. So how to overcome the persistent messages that being attractive (according to other peoples’ definitions) should be a paramount goal in life? How to become impervious to the messages of society-mandated physical perfection plastered all over the media? How to not care?

I thought about it. For me, I found that the answer lies somewhere in this truth: My body is my house, and it’s prime real-estate… because it’s mine to do with as I please. It’s the only thing I truly own, me, by myself. I live here, I want to shout to the tentacles of the media. Get off my lawn!!

The space I inhabit within my body is the same as the space I inhabit within my home, and it’s no one’s business what I do with those spaces. Those spaces are sacred to me. I’m not okay with “good neighbors” on my doorstep telling me what’s wrong on the outside, and I’m absolutely against the idea of intruders coming in to dictate what will happen on the inside.

It seems that we’re fixated on altering our bodies for the gratification of others and to match the innumerable images of what “desirable” looks like. Though men aren’t entirely exempt from the bombardment of these subtle and not-so-subtle directives, women remain the central targets. Focus on women’s bodies far exceeds the focus on men’s bodies. Feelings of physical inadequacy aren’t quite the equal opportunity demons they should be.

My thoughts keep returning to that house and its yard. How the neighbors came with their gardening tools to trim, shape and prune the vegetation until its contours resembled their own ideals of not only acceptability, but desirability. When did it become permissible to judge the exteriors of our homes to the point where others will come to impose their ideals on us? The problem is that when any space we inhabit is regarded with a critical eye, it’s difficult to avoid self-consciousness… and self-consciousness brings us down. It can lead to irrational thinking about how we can “fix” ourselves. It can lead to self-starvation and self-mutilation in our quest to comply with the beauty ideals of our time.

It’s like comparing our living spaces to those of others. We find ourselves examining the walls that surround us, becoming as critical of them as our critics… maybe even more so, since it’s true that we’re often our own worst critics. Suddenly, what we have isn’t good enough. Where we are isn’t good enough.

Then we think about it. We take stock of what we need, compare it to what we have, and then realize how lucky we are. We have a functional structure in which to live.

We have somewhere to lay our heads when we’re tired. Somewhere to bathe our bodies. Somewhere to sit and think and be alone. Somewhere to spend intimate time with others when we don’t want to interact in public. Somewhere to store, keep, admire, use and enjoy the things we have.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could feel this appreciative and secure within the homes that are our bodies?

Now that current economic realities have somewhat stifled the “keep up with the Joneses” mindset that influenced our sense of self-worth in the extravagant ’80’s, why can’t we nudge ourselves out of that same mentality where our bodies are concerned? Why continue trying to “keep up with” anybody in terms of how we look?

There’s just no point in comparing ourselves to others.

So I ask myself this question: If make a list of things I need in order to feel good about myself, what would it look like?

I came up with this: Lasting harmony, growth and passion with my life partner. Mental, spiritual, physical and emotional health. Contentment and joy. Accomplishment and satisfaction. Triumph and progress. Acceptance and dignity.

The list isn’t without its “oh my god impossible” factor, but it’s invigorating nonetheless. I feel motivated for the right reasons. It’s time to separate my body from my self-worth, and I can start by trying to shrug off the bullshit messages of our body-centric society. In doing so, I’m freeing myself to nurture and enrich other areas of my being and my life. I’m happy with my aspirations to focus on interiors, rather than exteriors.

For one thing, I know that when I look in the mirror, there are more terrible things I could see than my physical “imperfections.”

I wouldn’t want to look in the mirror and see money I don’t have, and feel poor. I wouldn’t want to see what’s gone from my life, and feel a desperate vacancy. I wouldn’t want to see what’s been taken away, and find ghosts where my reflection should be. I wouldn’t want to see the pride I can’t swallow or the temper I can’t control. I certainly wouldn’t want to look in the mirror and find a guilty conscience in the aversion of my gaze, because above all, I have to be able to look into my own eyes. That is where I should see beauty. And that’s where others should see it, too.

What feels healthy and good on the inside diminishes the importance of what people see on the outside, and that renders them impotent. My self-worth becomes immutable.

So this is the strip-down, the way I see it. I’ll make a point of baring myself to the elements every once in a while, just as a reminder of the value of what’s really there. I could stand in my entryway completely naked while I’m at it. Come and tell me what needs to be fixed. I might hold a mirror up to your face before I quietly close the door.