Cellulite: It’s Time We All Just Get The Hell Over It.

I’m not sure there is a trait that is used more ubiquitously to shame women than the presence of cellulite. Case in point:

SJO

Listen folks. Cellulite is not a ‘problem’. It is not a flaw. Cellulite is a normal function of the way women’s bodies store fat. 80-90% of women have cellulite to some degree. Lean women have cellulite, healthy women have cellulite, vegan women have cellulite, paleo women have cellulite, celebrities have cellulite, body builders have cellulite, bikini models have cellulite, women in isolated cultures who still live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle have cellulite, women with access to unlimited amounts of plastic surgery have cellulite. Most of the women reading this have cellulite. You’re not flawed. You’re normal.

An Anatomy Lesson.

cellulite-cells

 

Above is a depiction of the way women’s bodies store fat. From the Mayo Clinic:

 

“Cellulite is caused by fibrous connective cords that tether the skin to the underlying muscle, with the fat lying between. As the fat cells accumulate, they push up against the skin, while the long, tough cords are pulling down. This creates an uneven surface or dimpling.”

 

This is a matter of structural mechanics, folks. It’s not caused by poor circulation, PUFAS, animal foods, sugar, toxins, ‘negative energy’, poor diet, laziness, or any of the other novel and ridiculous things charlatans have come up with to sell you ‘cellulite cures’. Men are less prone to cellulite for three reasons: their connective tissues have more of a criss-cross pattern, their skin is actually thicker so any unevenness in fat below the skin is less evident, and they store more fat viscerally (around their internal organs) than subcutaneously (between the skin and muscle.). Their bodies are structurally different.

 

In 2008, Dr. Molly Wanner, from Harvard Medical School, did an in-depth review of cellulite treatments and the evidence supporting them. You can see the abstract here. I got my hands of the full text and wasn’t surprised at all by the conclusion she reached after examining the evidence:

 

“The best of the currently available treatments have, at most, shown mild improvements in the appearance of cellulite, most of which are not maintained over time.”

 

In other words, even the best treatments produce only mild changes and those changes are temporary. When you consider how expensive cellulite treatments are, and how painful and time consuming some of them can be, I have to ask WHY we are willing to spend the money and put ourselves through the discomfort for such a minimal return on our investment. I’ll tell you why: because the media and our culture have made us feel ashamed of something that is perfectly normal and that almost ALL of us have. And in response, we spend our emotional and financial resources chasing an impossible ideal. It’s time to get the hell over it. We have FAR far far better things to do with our time and energy and money than ‘fight’ cellulite.

 

And here’s another thing, for the single women reading. Once a man had seen a couple real-life women naked, he knows that real-life women have cellulite and stretch marks and jiggly thighs and other normal little traits that the media tries to convince us are flaws. Men who expect women to be perfect are men who have more experience with porn and magazines and blow-up dolls than real-life women. Any man who judges your worth on the basis of the presence of cellulite is only doing you the favour of letting you that he doesn’t have much experience with women, and that he isn’t worth your time. There are plenty of men out there who know what real-life women look like, and who will value you for who you are and not the dimpliness of your thighs. Do yourself the favour of not wasting your time on the former.

 

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Blue-Eyed Jazz & Love: 3 Lessons I Learned From Toni Morrison

As a writer when I feel the pull of creativity it is as seductive as the lure of a would-be lover, arms outstretched with whispers in my ear as sweet as honey mixed with molasses.  It is enough to keep you up all night and daydreaming throughout the day imagining the next thing to say that will capture the feeling, moment and emotion simplistically.  It’s beautiful.  Soul-stirring.  Inspirational.  Like sex that is so good it makes you wanna  cook good eggs or make good coffee.  But then there are the times, most times, when the words don’t come and their absence lingers like the smell of a former lover, arms long gone, and words long silent.  Emptiness where hope was.

Sometimes the words are there but I don’t feel like sitting with them or jotting them down or typing them on a keyboard so I distract myself with mindless television, meticulous housecleaning, or unnecessary errands.  Sometimes I read.

Lazy days and late nights in June, hard earned from busy days and long nights for several months straight, led me to a renewed love affair with Toni Morrison.  I first read Toni Morrison as a pre-teen.  A friend of my mother’s loaned me The Bluest Eye and Beloved and I marveled at the fancy script on the covers but was soon disinterested because I didn’t understand what I was reading.  I was too little, at the time, to make sense of the grown up tensions of incest and infanticide.

It took me years to pick The Bluest Eye back up, as much for the image of the blackgirl on the front as anything else.  And when I got past the first difficult pages (difficult, I believe, for any teenager to fully comprehend) I read words that made me make sense.  The Bluest Eye didn’t cure my depression but it made me feel less strange for my own misguided misperceptions of why I was so unhappy, as if light skin, long hair, and blue eyes would be the end-all-to-be-all of my problems.  The book pushed me to see my black as beautiful, to see all black as beautiful.

When I read Sula I was nearly grown and appreciated Sula’s fearlessness, even though I didn’t understand her grown-woman choices.  It wasn’t until I was fully grown that I could understand her better, though never fully, and appreciate her, even admire her.  When she declares her independence to her grandmother, rejecting traditional expectations of women to marry and make babies, saying “I don’t want to make somebody else, I want to make myself,”  everything in me leaped.  Those words were powerful.

Jazz is a good read, but it is complicated and jagged, melodic but intentionally scattered like the music, which kept me from getting all the way through it the first or second time.  Third time’s a charm and I read through it in one night.  Identifying with Dorcas, a motherless daughter seduced by a grown married man or seducing a grown married man (depending on perspective), got caught up trying to feel wanted and important.  Her memory haunted his wife’s house like a ghost because the wife could not be young and beautiful again.

My re-acquaintance with these stories and others (Love is on my nightstand) reminded me of how and why Morrison’s brilliant prose has always served as a writing siren and a blackgirl call for me.  The characters are black and female, bossy and complicated and real.  They laugh, they cry, they lose their minds and put them back together, they fall in love, they resist love, they want to be seen, heard, loved, made love to.  They are mothers, other-mothers, wannabe mothers, bad mothers, good mothers, best friends,  sister-friends, girl children, married, single, left alone, wanting to be left alone,  young, old, promiscuous, chaste, saintly, judgmental, loud, quiet, masculine, feminine, sad, abused, raped, murdered, resurrected, talked about,  beautiful and ugly.  They love each other fiercely and men conditionally.  They dance, philosophize, and complain.  They are real—everything at once and nothing in particular.  They put me in the mind of so many women I have known and loved and myself.

These characters are enough in their own right… fighting against films that often depict blackness and femaleness as  one-dimensional or broken, and spoken out loud words that sometimes forget that there are wonderful stories written down.  When black women write blackgirl stories… they are filled with all of the possibilities and dreams and hopes in the world. They also tell the truth and give us a place to see what we look like on paper.

Looking back at the books and their lessons I have compiled a few things I (have) learned from reading Toni Morrison this summer. (NOTE:  This is NOT an exhaustive list)…

SULA

1.  Ain’t nothin’ wrong with resisting conventional labels and expectations.   Sula was a revolutionary, a rebel, a pariah. She didn’t give a damn what anybody thought about her.  She lived life on her own terms and resisted conformity.  She did what she wanted to do and what made her feel good unapologetically.  Though she had a problematic view of love and relationships, brought on by how she witnessed it in her family, she was faithful and loyal in her own right.  And that was  more than enough.

JAZZ

2. Love that is desperate (even when deliberate) is dangerous.  Dorcas died in Jazz because of the lust-inspired love of a man who could have been her father (and the disdain of her new, younger lover who was more concerned with the blood stains on his shirt than her bleeding and dying body).  This love and need to be loved is sometimes too much.  Manic love can never be sustained.

THE BLUEST EYE

3. Internalized self-hatred distorts our views of beauty.  Pecola Breedlove saw herself as others did and took on all of the bullshit of the world and put it on herself.  I don’t think it was Pecola that was ugly, but rather what she witnessed, experienced, and endured.  Society has done such a number on little blackgirls that it feels like all we need to be happy and acceptable is to be entirely different.  Not black, not a girl, not poor, not vulnerable.  Pecola’s peers knew the truth—that blue eyes and black skin would not make her beautiful, but rather odd.  Strange.  Pitiful.  And pitiful as she was, her fragility and naivete, her young body made mature too soon by a figure that should have protected it, led to a mental breakdown and deep emotional blues.  Blackgirls are not unbreakable (or unbeautiful).

These stories offer commentaries about love, friendship, black culture, black girlhood and everyday experiences often hidden behind closed lips and closed doors.  Morrison is brave enough to tell unspoken truths and to teach her readers remarkable lessons about living and loving.  I cherish the stories she tells and will be re-reading Love this week, and ordering her new book Home when I am finished.

What is on your summer reading list?  What is your favorite blackgirl story?

Review: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time.

curious-incidentChristopher Boone is 15. He knows “all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7,507”. He lives in Swindon with his father and Toby, his pet rat. He abhors all yellow and brown things, thinks he would make a good astronaut, and has never been further than the end of the road on his own until his discovery of the “murder” of his neighbour’s dog turns him into an amateur detective.

Christopher has Asperger’s syndrome, though this is never specified. Mark Haddon’s study of the condition is superbly realised, but this is not simply a novel about disability. Haddon, rather like Daniel Keyes in his 1959 classic Flowers for Algernon , uses his narrator’s innocence as a means of commenting on the emotional and moral confusion in the lives of the adults around him. Christopher sees everything, remembers everything, but cannot prioritise – cannot sift out what most of us regard as important. On the day he is told his mother is dead, he records his Scrabble score, and notes that supper was spaghetti with tomato sauce. But he isn’t callous or indifferent. He can cope with facts, with concrete detail; emotions confuse and alarm him.

Autistic people are not easy subjects for novelists. Their interests are prescribed, their experiences static, their interaction with others limited. Haddon ingeniously uses Christopher’s admiration for Sherlock Holmes to lead him out of this stasis, not to effect some miraculous “cure”, but so that a story can happen. Detective fiction, relying on the accumulation of material facts, is the only fiction that makes sense to Christopher. As he collects facts relating to the death of the dog, he unwittingly pieces together a jigsaw that reveals to the reader the lies, grief and evasions of his parents’ lives.

There is, of course, a great novelistic tradition of children as observers of the darker side of adult behaviour – What Maisie Knew , To Kill a Mockingbird . But The Curious Incident is no out-of-Eden fable. The pathos of Christopher’s condition is that he can never understand the havoc his very existence has wreaked in the lives of those around him, however many facts he uncovers. I don’t want to give the story away, but the scene in which he reads his mother’s letters is one of the most affecting things I’ve read in years.

But there is comfort as well as sorrow. Christopher’s innocence makes him vulnerable, but it protects him too. At the end, when order is restored, we see that he is a touchstone for adult behaviour. Those concerned with his welfare have to learn to temper their emotional needs round his autistic inability to compromise.

“This will not be a funny book,” says Christopher. “I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them.” But it is a funny book, as well as a sad one. Christopher’s compulsive noting of mundane facts provides comedy reminiscent of the best of Adrian Mole, especially in his dealings with the police and his special-needs classmates. And Haddon’s inclusion of diagrams, timetables, maps, even maths problems, extends the normal scope of novel-writing and demonstrates the rich idiosyncrasies of the autistic brain. The Curious Incident is published simultaneously for adults and older children; despite its clarity and simplicity, it operates on several levels. I’d love to know what a reader with Asperger’s thinks of this book. I think it’s brilliant.