I Said What?…What’s Cute Got To Do With It?

“To all the little girls watching…never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world.” – HRC

During one of Bubbe’s sports clinics, I pulled out my writing notebook while Skootch was distracted by a fidget spinner. Two mothers, with their young daughters playing underfoot chatted nearby.

Mom 1 took out her phone.

Mom 2 leaned in. “Is that a picture of your babysitter? Wow. She’s cute. You don’t want to hire cute girls. They won’t be available to babysit on a Saturday night.”

I stopped mid-doodle and glared. Oh no she didn’t.

But she did. This woman, my peer, implied with conviction in front of her young daughter that the “cute” girl’s time, however she defined the adjective, was more valuable. A “cute” girl has more friends and a full social calendar. It is she who is considered successful and worthy. The less “cute” ones are not as good.

Skootch flicked at his spinner. “You okay, Mom?”

I lied. “Yes, sweetie. I’m fine.”

Growing up, I saw myself as the less cute and therefore less worthy girl in the photograph. Like many females, I was the recipient of direct and indirect messages equating physical appearance with societal and individual value.

The matriarchs in my family dipped their toes in feminist ideology. My mother was first in her family to pursue a college degree and worked throughout my childhood. My grandmother managed the household finances. But what overshadowed their progress, and what I remember more were the comments from adults about boys liking girls with long hair, quips highlighting my big bones and feet and being called belligerent whenever I voiced a passionate opinion.

A worthy woman was thin, pretty and pleasing; her role was to find a husband, care for him and raise his family. Anything beyond such convention made for trouble.

I was a trouble maker.

A women’s value being tied to and limited by her appearance as defined by tradition or opinion made zero sense from the outset. Still, it took me decades to apply the theory to myself. Even now, during the “this is who I am” phase of life, I will default to a negative personal narrative especially at first glance in a mirror or of a photograph.

The self-deprecation reflex feels unsettling because I know it’s wrong. It also reminds that the unhealthy messages and experiences we absorb as children leave a perpetual stain on one’s spirit. No matter how hard we scrub, they never fully disappear.

Today, countless organizations, authors, artists, public figures, communities and families are taking deliberate steps to reframe the conversation and encourage a generation of girls to equate worth and beauty with strength, curiosity, passion and personality.

The young ladies with whom I interact in my community are proof the shift is taking hold. There’s the middle schooler who competes as an Olympic weightlifter, the high school junior who uses food as fuel to build strength and endurance and the 18 year-old who responded, “It’s not about how I look, it’s about how I feel” after I told her she looked great.

Their sense of self is rooted in power, emotion and idea. Such wisdom at an early age will only nourish their confidence and embolden them to demand future employers, colleagues, friends and lovers to judge females based on human, not physical qualities.

Kudos to the mothers and fathers who are raising these women. And shame on those who didn’t get or care to read the Smart Girl  Like a Girl  Strong is the New Pretty memo.

While I can’t control what garbage spews from a random mom on a sideline, I can learn from inspirational young ladies and curtail personal comments rooted in insecurity. And I can use language around boys and girls that emphasize character over cute.

We adults have many things to be mindful of these days. Being careful not to perpetuate the “cute girl” cycle is no less significant.

Update: TODAY Parent’s Choice Award

As some of you know, Red said what? was a finalist for the TODAY Parent’s Choice Award. Thank you so much to those who took the time to vote. While I didn’t win, I feel lucky and humbled to be included on the ballot. If you like parenting reads, the winner was Mom Babble Blog. My favorite finalist was Tara Wood. Enjoy!

RED’S WRAP SAID WHAT?…The Lasting Memory of Exclusion

jan-profile

If you’ve never been the Queen Bee or held court in the hive
If you’ve ever ached alongside a child or grown friend who felt the sting of exclusion
If you’re climbing a social ladder or building one for your children

Then please read this post by Red’s Wrap.

Red's Wrap

jan-profile

The sting is at once startling and searing.

At first, you think. this isn’t what’s happening. You’re misinterpreting what you see. And then it hits you. You’re being purposely excluded. Those girls  are crossing the street to avoid you. You think you’re imagining something but you know you’re not. It’s real.

It happened to me in high school. When I went to California for a two week visit, I had a best friend, the same best friend I’d had for years. When I came home, she had left me. She said I was ‘different’ but never explained what that meant. I puzzled over this and thought it might be true. The trip was the first time I’d flown anywhere and I went by myself, hunched in the window seat, face up against the glass the entire way. I’d never seen things from that high up. In L.A, my sister handed me the keys to her…

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To The Young Lady Who No Repped Me During The CrossFit Open; Thank You

Courtesy: CrossFit

Courtesy of CrossFit

HuffPo Women

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get my chest to touch the pull up bar.

It was the third workout of the CrossFit Open; an annual fitness test involving judges and score cards where over 300,000 CrossFitters worldwide do the same prescribed workout once a week over a five week period, or as in my case, a scaled version of said designated torture.

The 2016 Open was the first time I paid the twenty bucks and entered my name in the system. After 4 years of pursuing evidence based fitness, participating in mild competition holds me accountable to an exercise routine. Besides, the Friday Night Lights set up gave me a reason to forego evening parenting responsibilities. Plus, the coach stores beer in the gym fridge.

I felt confident going into this third Friday.  The task at hand involved jumping chest to bar pull ups. I’m 5’9. I can jump. I know how to do a pull up. I thought; piece of cake.

But I underestimated the importance of the angle of the pull toward the bar. Perhaps during my pre-kids, D cup days it wouldn’t have been an issue, but now a deflated C, I left a sizeable amount of air between the girls and the iron.

Each unsuccessful repetition of the movement resulted in a “no rep” from the judge. I hung from the bar like a sloth, praying for the clock to run out while convincing myself to go at again. Then, 15 seconds before the final buzzer the coach said, “Switch your grip.” I held on to the rig in chin up position and jumped. Slam! My chest hit the bar with ease.  Unfortunately, my renewed optimism was short lived. “5-4-3-2-1…” The music went silent.

Afterward, a young lady who assists with the kids’ class asked, “How’d it go?”

“What a debacle,” I huffed.  “That switch grip was the golden ticket, but I ran out of time.” I skipped the beer and went straight home, determined to improve my score.

Two days later, I did what any self-respecting, half crazy CrossFit disciple would do; I went back to redo the workout during open gym.  The same young lady was the designated judge for the morning.

When I was ready, she cranked up the tunes and started the clock. I made my way through the jumping pull ups using the reversed grip. After a few rounds my forearms stiffened and quads stung. My chest began to miss the bar.

“No rep!” she called.  “Almost there.”

I tried again.

“No rep! Let’s go, Red. You got this.”

But I didn’t “Got this.” My thoughts turned dark. Who does she think she is with the no reps? I’m not an uber-athlete. I skipped my morning newspaper to be here. Not to mention the fact that I could be this girl’s mother.

I wanted a break and I wanted her to give me one. Miss teenager could have let the no reps slide. She could have turned a cheek.  But she didn’t.  She could have felt intimidated. But she wasn’t.

So, I took a few breaths, regrouped and forged ahead. By the end of the seven minutes, I had a beautiful battle scar of bruise on my chest. What I also had was a legitimate and nearly doubled score compared to Friday night. And I had my judge, who held me to the standard to thank for it.

The following week, I took note of the young CrossFitter’s approach during regular sessions and the remaining Open workouts.  Each time she completed an Olympic lift or moved through a workout, she held herself to a high standard of form and function; and when she made a mistake, she no repped herself. Turns out, my judge hadn’t asked me to do anything she didn’t expect from herself.

At seventeen, this young lady already owns the integrity and courage that took me half a lifetime to cultivate, making her a powerful role model for girls and us masters, alike.

Soon, she will apply to college, graduate high school and move out on her own. As she cycles through life events, I hope she highlights these qualities when speaking with admission officers and future employers. And I hope she seeks out similar traits in others as she builds friendships and falls in love. Resume worthy accomplishments, physical strength and youthful outer beauty will fade; character will endure.

Integrity and courage are sometimes met with gossip, envy, and judgment. So when she catches slack for the high standards or the backlash cracks her confidence, I encourage my judge to hang tough and perhaps recall the time she refused to let this old timer break the rules during the CrossFit Open; because young lady, when it comes to life, “You got this.”

Discomfort Revisited; To My Future Self (with a side of recipes)

Avocado health picture - April 1 2015 option

Dear Post Whole Life Challenge Self,

I see you my little sugar plum fairy.  Don’t even think about downing that bag of gingersnaps.  Come now, haven’t you learned your lesson?

Eight plus weeks ago, somewhere between plank holds and hollowed rocks you tuned into Coach BE’s voice pitching the latest gym event; a 56 day nutrition and lifestyle challenge.

Even though your New Year’s resolution had been to reign in copious amounts sugar consumption, the notion of trying, not muscle fatigue shook you at the core.

I chuckled and thought, here’s a woman who survived child abuse and child birth, Weight Watchers and CrossFit, and yet there she planks; paralyzed, petrified, and underestimating her grit again.

Competitive and conscientious, I knew you could steer clear of the Skittles.

A rule abiding perfectionist, I knew you could tweak nutritional habits accordingly, practice the weekly lifestyle challenge diligently, and input a daily score religiously.

At the very least, I knew visions of a chiseled six pack dancing in your head would keep the sugar, cheese, and gluten out of your mouth.

Still you remained frozen in the britches.

As the challenge approached and the chatter grew, the last thing you wanted was to be left out of CrossFitter conversation.  In the end, peer pressure prevailed.  You coughed up the fifty bucks and bought a one way ticket back to

The Discomfort Zone.

Lethargic, cranky, and craving ice cream scoops and pizza pie slivers; the first 12 days sucked.  By day 21, you felt less bloated and more energized, but the lack of physical change almost caused you to throw in the towel.

But you kept at it.  Today you’re done and writing a letter to your future self because the challenge creators encouraged participants to do so.

Yes, you expected to come out the other side a Photoshopped version of yourself.  And it’s hard not to fixate on the lack of dramatic weight loss.  Yes, the scale tips 160 and your thigh gap is more of a slit.  The funk pecking away at your ego stems from female stigmas, girlish insecurities, and societal expectations.

Ignore it.

In 56 days you gained stamina and muscle:  mental and physical strength, a revised relationship with food and cleaner insides.  Besides, a little bass never hurt anybody.

Try to embrace these true measures of health and remember that despite middle age, marriage and motherhood, you are far from humpty or dumpty.

Find future value in the required weekly lifestyle practices as well.  Thanks to the organizers, you got more rest, practiced gratitude, kindness and mindfulness, enjoyed activities you love, and trudged through meals technology free.

Remember waking up after seven hours of uninterrupted sleep wondering what the hell happened?  Hold on to that the next time you stay up futzing on Facebook to then be awoken by a five year old with a 2am water request.

Remember the morning you experienced a few minutes of peace in the car at preschool pick up?  Hold on to that the next time you think you can’t find space to just be.

Remember the conversation with Skootch about Superman’s powers and Robin’s lack thereof over a bowl of soup?  Hold on to that the next time you open a laptop during lunch.

Remember the appreciation you felt those hours after the nearby train accident just to be able to sit and watch television with your husband and children?  Hold on to that the next time you tantrum about life being unfair.

I’m sorry but this exercise does not mark the end of your journey.  Continue to be wary of the Achilles heel: portion control.

In the meantime, feel proud.  You proved you could switch up your diet and survive.  This was an obstacle you were not remotely willing to tackle until now.

Discomfort is in fact still good.  Moderation however is great.

So enjoy some emotional eating with your team to celebrate a job well done.  The party bus and hard cider you’ve been saving are waiting.  Next stop, Peter Lugers. Bring on the schlag

Sincerely,
Your Conscience

My Go To Recipes

Egg Muffins:
Courtesy of Coach BE

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Spray down either a muffin tray or cup cake tray with Pam/olive oil spray
  • Dice pepper, onion, and spinach (really any vegetables you like)
  • Chop up chicken sausage (some prefer cheese or both)
  • Make a 2 egg scrambled egg mix (salt, pepper, milk)
  • Add the raw vegetables and sausage to the mix
  • Pour into the cupcake/muffin tray. The mixture should fill up about 2 ½ cupcake spaces.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or until you can stick a butter knife through and the blade comes out dry
  • Store in the refrigerator and reheat in microwave for 1 ½ minutes

Baked Oatmeal Bars
Courtesy of Karen the Baker

Oatmeal Bar Picture

Note: Feel free to add nuts, apples, dates, and/or coconut.  Double the recipe and use a 9×13 pan.

  • 3 cups oats
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 2 eggs slightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk (use whatever type is acceptable)
  • 1/4 cup butter melted
  • 2-3 cups of frozen berries, a cut up apple, or whatever fruit you have on hand (Add a lot more fruit than it says here.)
  • Combine oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon
  • Combine eggs, milk, butter and add to dry ingredients
  • Stir in fruit
  • Bake uncovered in 8×8” pan for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees

Sweet Potato Chips

  • Preheat oven to 225 degrees
  • Peel and slice thin.
  • Toss sliced sweet potatoes in oil and sea salt
  • Bake for approximately 1hr 45 minutes