This quarter, for the first time in my life, I was the most conservative person in a class. And not just any class, a class on the history of the gay rights movement. It felt bizarre and impossible: I have spent half of the last decade trying to ensure LGBT equality, and yet I was the least progressive person in the room on that issue. I believe if I’d truly spoken my mind on the first day, some classmates might have even thought I was judgmental and narrow-minded. How?
We were discussing the word “queer” and why it has been reclaimed as a positive term by a growing number of people in the LGBT community. I have always passionately and viscerally rejected even the thought of using that word for reasons I could never fully explain to myself. An Asian, transgender student sitting next to me told the class, “I identify as queer because it’s more inclusive. ‘Gay’ often connotes a cisgender, white guy — you know, Neil Patrick Harris.”
“Exactly!” I thought. “That’s it! I hate that ‘queer’ is so inclusive.”
How could I, as a poster child for equality, possibly say that? Then I realized it wasn’t the first time I had. For years, I resisted even putting the “B” in LGBT. Maybe some people really were bisexual, but I wished they just wouldn’t talk about it because their existence makes it sound like being gay is a choice. I could get behind transgender, but was only fully happy with the stories that went something like, “I was definitely born in the wrong body and I know exactly who I’m supposed to be — and I’ve known since I was five.” In Fossil Free Stanford we start every meeting with introductions that include “preferred gender pronouns.” While I’ve always applauded the intent, I resented the consequences, thinking “You want to be called they? Isn’t he or she good enough? Most people finally understand transgender, why do we have to confuse them?”
After my very first speech about having two moms, a woman came up to me and asked if my upbringing had “affected my sexual orientation.” You wouldn’t believe how quickly, how vehemently, I rushed to convince her I was the straightest person she’d ever met. Oh, and my sisters? They’re straight too. My family? The normalest. I remember trying to be sly as I pulled my cross necklace out from underneath my collar. See? I’m just like you.
I am ashamed, but honest, in admitting that the real reason I’ve rejected the word queer has nothing to do with its history as an insult. It has everything to do with the fact that queer includes so many people who aren’t, in fact, just like her. I have spent my entire life judging the value of LGBT stories by how well I could sell them to straight, Christian conservatives. The more normal they thought all of “us” were, the less I feared they would exclude me.
Over the years, I’ve become better and better at convincing my religious peers that my parents aren’t going to Hell. Or, if I can’t do that, at least convincing them my parents should get to take the scenic route to Hell that includes a wedding. Truly, that’s all I’ve ever asked for. For my moms to be able to get married and for my family to be accepted in church. For the right to be and act “just like you.” I have never had the audacity to ask for something else: the right to not be just like you and still be treated with love and dignity.
I have always believed that the more “normal” I was — the straighter I was, the more Christian I was, the more successful I was, the more conservative I was — the more I could help all LGBT families who face discrimination. And in a sense I was right: the lawyer who wrote our Amicus Brief loved that I was “a woman of faith;” Thomas Roberts from MSNBC jumped on the chance to tell viewers I go to Stanford; when that woman in Kentucky asked about my sexual orientation, straight was the only right answer.
Of course, it was also the correct answer— true story, I got a zero on the Kinsey Scale test (so straight I don’t even register) on the same day I joined a Baptist church. But I refuse to continue thinking that is the reason my family deserves equality. I refuse to keep seeing “normal” as an accomplishment. I refuse to continue dismissing the parts of myself that aren’t. I will not keep forcing people into unnecessary boxes just so they make more sense to the “conservatives who wouldn’t hate us if they only understood.”
It is not our responsibility to make sense. It is their responsibility to quit fearing people who are different. That “Asian, transgender, queer classmate” I talked about before? Now, he’s just my friend Dylan.
In less than a week, my family may have more legal equality than my parents ever thought possible in their lifetime. But if in the process of achieving that, we ignore all stories that don’t fit inside our box of normal, we may never reach the day when all people have lived equality.
You want Pride? I’m proud as hell. But I’m no longer proud that “in spite of having two moms, I turned out just like you.” I’m proud that, despite decades of unrelenting discrimination, my moms still live unapologetically as their truest selves — and are teaching me how to do the same. I hope the Supreme Court is proud of them, too.
I watched Sunday’s Oscars Ceremony a lot like Meryl Streep did. Maybe not quite where she did — hey, we were both somewhere in California! — and I’ll admit, no one asked me that night “who I was wearing,” but I reacted like she did, sometimes jumping out of my seat to cheer on the winners as they passionately championed feminism, immigration justice, LGBT equality, and civil rights all in one night. I fist-pumped when Patricia Arquette demanded wage equality for women. I smiled ear to ear as Graham Moore encouraged us all to “stay weird” and be proud of exactly who we are. I was thrilled when Alejandro Iñárritu reminded America that we’ve always been an immigrant nation. And I had chills — and definitely tears — as Common and John Legend belted out “Glory,”their immensely moving anthem from Selma.
But there were two things said Sunday night that deeply troubled me in their truth. First, the opening line Legend sang.
“One day, when the glory comes, it will be ours, it will be ours.”
When I first heard that, I got excited. All of us who have fought for marriage equality are so close to our glory, and how wildly fortunate I would be to get to see the day we win it. Then it hit me: we might not be close at all. The “glory” we could reach in April — equal rights under the law — is something John Legend and Common’s families were given fifty years ago. “There are more black men under correctional control today than there were under slavery in 1850.” Is that really the type of equality my family has to look forward to?
As I wondered, “Fifty years from now will I still be saying ‘one day’?” I saw the transcript from Patricia Arquette’s backstage speech which included, “It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.” That’s true, but so deeply flawed. For one thing, half of those gay people and people of color are women. Still, let’s give her the benefit of the doubt for a second: yes, 100% of all people should actively support wage equality. And not enough of us do. But to suggest that one movement has to stop for another to start is ridiculous, especially considering how much the groups they affect overlap. And even worse, it’s an absolute lie to imply that 100% of straight white women have fought for black people and gay people. Wake up, Patricia! Michele Bachmann is still trying to “pray the gay away” and recently implied that Obama was only elected out of white guilt.
Here’s the truth she (almost) got at: all oppressed people must stand up for each other. It is time for equal rights in America: for women, for black people, for gay people, for transgender people, for immigrants, for impoverished people, for all people. But what Arquette failed to realize is that while she was standing up for “other people rights,” she was also standing up for her own. We may be fighting different battles, but we are waging the same war. Why don’t we always act like it?
Matthew Shepard is Trayvon Martin. Yes, there’s a difference in context, but every day we argue about it is a day we continue to let teenagers be shot down in the street like dogs for carrying a bag of Skittles, or brutally beaten, tortured, chained to a fence in the middle of an abandoned field, and left to die because of who they love. Can you accept that? It’s a day we ignore Deah Barakat, one of three young Muslim students at UNC shot to death at their own home. It’s a day we forget thousands of hard-working immigrant families who stay invisible out of fear they’ll be ripped apart, and it’s a day we’re blind to domestic violence victims who stay quiet out of fear they’ll be silenced forever. It’s a day we dishonor the memory of Private First Class Barry Winchell, an exemplary young Army recruit who was bludgeoned to death with a baseball bat by a fellow soldier because he loved a transgender woman. If you have straight, white, Christian children, you probably don’t fear they’ll be killed in a hate crime. Neither did Barry’s parents.
“One day, when the war is won, we will be sure, we will be sure.”
There are more than 45 million Black Americans, 12 million LGBT Americans, 54 million Hispanic Americans, and 103 million additional American women who don’t already fall into one of those categories. There’s still some overlap there of course, but it’s accounted for by groups like straight children of gay parents, white people with black spouses, religious minorities, etc. At least 214,000,000 people who have a personal stake in ensuring liberty and justice for all. Plus many, many more men who believe in full equality for all people. That’s not a minority anymore. What if we all showed up for each other?
If you are a woman, or Black or Hispanic man, and you don’t support LGBT rights, I’ll make a bizarre but sincere plea: lie. If you believe being gay is a sin, okay; I wish you didn’t (see last blog), but okay. When you are talking to God, speak your truth. But when you are voting in a country founded on separation of church and state, lie. Lie for my family’s sake, and for yours. The people who call my parents a threat to the sanctity of marriage are the same people who call DREAMers aliens instead of students, the same people who call the Ferguson demonstrations riots instead of protests, the same people who mock Hillary Clinton as “Grandma in Chief.”
(Maybe, if you realize that hateful discrimination looks different but feels the same, it won’t seem like a lie at all.)
And if you are an LGBT person, or you love one, and don’t think “Black Lives Matter” defends your life too, let me remind you that just 24 miles from where Eric Garner was suffocated to death on camera, Islan Nettles, a young transgender woman, was beaten to death — in front of a police station — as she tried to walk home. Her murderer was charged with a misdemeanor. The charges have since been dropped.
As long as we live in a world where our children are called f*gg*ts, we will live in one where they are called n*gg*rs. None of us are free until all of us are. Equality is not rationed; it is won. And it can only be won by empathy. So if one day, our glory comes, it will be ours. All of ours. Because we can only reach that day together.
“Hope will never be silent.” Harvey Milk
This piece is written in loving memory of the first two people who made me realize the price of my silence.
“Every Sunday’s gettin’ more bleak, fresh poison each week. We were born sick, you heard them say it… Command me to be well. Amen, amen, amen, amen.”
I walk toward my two best friends at dinner when one jumps up to hug me and says, “Kinsey, you look so pretty and — oh my God — is that a cross necklace?”
The other sighs, “Oh come on, Ben, give her a break, it’s not that surprising.”
“Nick, you don’t understand, her parents own a book called Misquoting Jesus.”
“Well, okay,” he laughs, “fair. But still…”
“No I’m happy for you Kins, I really am, I just can’t believe we switched places.”
“What do you mean?”
“I used to be you — well, the Jewish version of you — so I get it. When I used to feel scared or alone or lost I would always turn to God too.” I know what’s coming next but Nick looks confused. “Why not anymore?” “Because I’m angry with him —” Ben snaps, a little too loudly. Our table falls silent. “I’ve been faithful my whole life and he betrayed me.”
Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
This Christmas Eve, I took my sister Jillian to church for the first time in six years. I nearly cried when our friend Dan said, “Please tell BOTH of your lovely moms Merry Christmas for me.” Jillian had smiled, big. Maybe the congregation was changing. Maybe things could be different for her. Still, our newfound hope could not immediately erase our long-held fear. As we were getting ready to sing, she looked frantically up and down our row to see how everyone else already knew the words. Seeing the blue books in their hands, she reached for a Bible and started flipping the pages, when her boyfriend stopped her and said “No, no, here, you need a Hymnal.” By then I was already handing her one, having practically leapt across a row to grab the nearest copy; a guttural reaction to the look I saw in her eyes that I’d felt so many times in my own. The look of not knowing, of feeling lost. The look of thinking you’re an impostor, that any misstep could give you away. The fear that if anyone knew your whole story, they’d think you didn’t belong. The fear that you’ll never feel like you do.
Thy kingdom come, thou will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven.
September. Tuesday. 8:30 am. A 6’4 Texas cowboy in a lab coat stumbles into our chemistry section a few minutes late and sits down next to me. “Hi, I’m Triple! Like three.” Three weeks later, we talked about the transition to college and I laughed as I told him how I had a bizarre desire to go to church because of how much I missed Kentucky. “You should come to mine! And I lead a Bible Study on campus that meets tonight. We’d absolutely love to have you.” I sat for a few seconds, startled into silence. Stanford has a Bible Study? I have friends in California who go to church? It sounds silly, I know, but as my school had just been labeled the most LGBT friendly in the country, it had never occurred to me we could also have an active campus ministry. Does Triple know that I don’t actually have a church in Kentucky to miss? That I’d been to exactly one Bible Study in 18 years, and there I heard a girl explain that she “wouldn’t judge gay people on Earth, because God will punish them in Hell?” Could he possibly understand how I’ve never walked into a church without fear? He couldn’t. Not yet. But I trusted him. And when I raised my eyes back up to his, I wasn’t afraid. “We’d absolutely love to have you.” “I think I might love that, too. More than you know.”
Give us this day, and our daily bread, and forgive us of our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
I think my moms feel betrayed, too, but not by God. By the people who use His name to justify their hatred. By their own friends who say they would openly support gay marriage, but they don’t want to upset anyone at their church. By a country that believes only some deserve liberty and justice for all. They were both raised in conservative Christian homes, but left the church as adults because they didn’t feel they would ever be accepted for who they were. Accepted by God, yes, just not by some of the people who claim to follow him. They’ve adopted Ben as the son they never had: he visited us in Kentucky this summer after an extremely difficult time coming out to his own parents. He nearly came back with me for this Holiday Break too, because up until two days before finals, he didn’t feel comfortable going home. My family and closest friends have all been supportive, but Nick has been the most understanding of me rejoining the church in college. I think part of that’s because — for both of us — our religion or lack thereof is now a choice. He doesn’t go to church, but he could if he wanted to without a second thought. For the first time in my life, my church is explicitly accepting enough that I can go without feeling like I have to choose between a relationship with God and loyalty to my family. My sisters and my parents — let alone some of my gay friends in rural Kentucky — do not always have that luxury. Every time Ben goes to synagogue, he puts on a mask to hide part of who he is and prays no one sees through it. I do choose to go to church here, but as exactly who I am. It’s hard to understand a choice you can’t make.
And lead us not into temptation.
I open the door slowly to a circle of strangers, not sure I’m in the right place until I see Triple on the other side. “Kinsey! I’m so glad you made it!” I’m still nervous, joining halfway through the quarter, and suddenly realizing just how little I actually know from the Bible — Peter and Paul were different people right? But I begin to understand that while Triple is exceptional, his kindness is the rule here. To my shock, everyone else seems just as happy to see me as he is. We pass around Orange Peach Mango Juice, laugh that this is the first time Triple and I have seen each other without lab goggles on, and laugh harder when one of the boys suggests that since Jesus was God’s only son, we’re all technically “Sisters in Christ.” And already, it does somehow feel a little bit like a family. I sit back and swallow hard, thinking I would have loved this. I suddenly feel robbed, angry and sad that while everyone else in the room got to grow up in this kind of community, my family never felt welcomed in one. We are reading the story of the blind man, where Jesus’ disciples ask him who has sinned to cause the man’s suffering. “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that one day the works of God might be displayed in him.”
But deliver us from evil.
The church I love at it’s best has deeply wounded me at it’s worst, and maybe that’s the very reason I’m now called to it. I have learned immense empathy from my parents, and that is what I take into church now instead of fear. My years of pain in the darkness could help me show others the light: God’s unconditional love that celebrates the value and strength of every single one of His children. A love that transcends all hatred. A love that makes no exceptions. A love where everyone belongs. Finally, I know that I do.
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Whether or not you believe being gay is a sin, I implore you to accept that it is not a choice. It is not a choice to be gay, and it is not a choice to love someone who is. We must strive not only to tolerate differences, but to openly and explicitly celebrate them: it’s not that Triple was the first Christian who’d been kind to me, not at all. In fact, nearly all that I’d met had been. And yet with nearly every one until him, I was still afraid, because I feared their kindness was conditional. If any one of those Christians had openly affirmed that they believed gay people were equal in the eyes of God and the law, I might have started feeling safe in the church more than a decade ago. For every person you try to spread God’s word to who doesn’t want to hear it, there are a hundred who already want to listen, who you might be refusing to see. Look for them. Find them. See them. Until you do, you are both lost. How sweet it is to be found.
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch, like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see.”
She has such a beautiful voice (and clearly loves hearing it). T guarantees a non-stop musical revue, a maybe too long but entertaining story, or best (worst?) of all a combination of the two. I swear I’ve heard her sing about brushing her teeth.
She always makes you look better in a picture — not that she couldn’t be gorgeous if she tried, she just finds photobombing much more fulfilling.
You know she’ll protect you, no matter who she has to kill. Whether that’s texting the girl who stole your phone the monologue from Taken — “I will find you…” — or whispering to Jillian’s boyfriend “I can make your death look like an accident…” followed by a wink and a smile, you know you’re safe with her, even if no one else is.
When she tries, she can be so, so, sweet. I still remember her putting tape over her eyes just so she could sleep in my bed with me when I had to keep the light on doing homework. Glad to know she still thinks I’m cool (sometimes).
She does the best Grinch impression on the planet. “Are you having a holllyyyy, jolllly, Christmass?”
And Target Lady. And really anyone. “Stereotype busted!!”
She doesn’t always have much stamina, but usually that results in something really cute.
She didn’t get to be a big sister, but I think our cousin Piper is ready to adopt her as one! She LOVES her “Tee-Tee!”
She’s getting to be a Quick Recall superstar! Love that she’s picked up my favorite “sport” and is showing us more and more every day just how bright and hard-working she is.
She’s brutally honest, for better or for worse. REAL IS RARE. (But not with her!)
She has a lot more swag than I did at 12 — although as my mom Audrey reminded me today, “You didn’t have ANY swag, honey.” (Wonder where Teagan gets her honesty?!) But seriously, whether its with fashion or Instagram or selfies or the hottest current YouTube stars, she usually makes me feel very old, but I’m proud of her confidence and creativity, and willingness to be exactly who she is. Love that when she occasionally stops singing, she’s used her voice to speak out for our family.
I wouldn’t be here without her. I still remember holding T for the first time twelve years ago, knowing her life brought so much hope for mine. Absolutely cannot imagine our family without her! We love you so much Tot, Baby T, TT, T-Money, Sweet Tea, Teagan! (Just kidding with the title, we always love you!)
Please watch (and share!) our new short film, “Sanctity,” about what marriage equality in Kentucky would mean to our family. This video was our first opportunity, and in a way, last chance, to share our story before the Supreme Court chooses whether or not to take up the Kentucky Marriage Ban case on January 9th. Thank you and Happy New Year! Let’s finish the fight in 2015.
I’ve tried to write this blog twice already, but by the time I go to post it, it just doesn’t feel true anymore. During the past few weeks how I see myself and what I prioritize have been changing so much, so quickly that what I feel is the most important update in one moment seems almost irrelevant a few hours later. Things have slowed down a little bit and I feel more consistent the past few days, but I still don’t totally trust myself not to write something tonight that I’ll find totally insane tomorrow. So I won’t definitively try to predict exactly what has changed, but I do better understand now how I’ve changed, and why I’m proud of that.
On the surface I feel very much the same. I combed my hair with a key and still need my dance helmet. I destroyed a metal lid with a knife because I forgot to buy a can opener with the pumpkin pie filling. I lost my bike – and got lost on my bike – so many times during Orientation that my friends were afraid I’d end up at Cal. I talk all the time – to myself if necessary – although I swear, I really am better at listening. My room is in a constant cycle of Pinterest perfection and total chaos – to my credit, the bed is almost always made, but I won’t speak to what I’ve hidden under it. Just like in high school – and basically every school ever – there are moments like last night when I’m incredibly frustrated and feel like I’m running on empty and still don’t totally fit in no matter what I do. And then there are moments like this morning where I pass three palm trees whose leaves stand together perfectly to form a giant heart in the sky – it’s awesome y’all, Main Quad, right side if you’re standing in The Oval – and I see the beauty of this place like I did the first time I visited. It pulses with the energy of the amazing people who make it extraordinary, and I know without question why this was my dream, and that this is where I’m meant to be.
Half of my last blog was just about how much I love Ben, and the crazy thing is he is only part of why I know I’ve won the friend lottery here. We are so much alike, and especially when we’re with Stanford’s now officially most fashionable freshman, Stelio, we laugh so loud our voices probably DO end up at Berkeley. But I’ve also been lucky to find close friends who are totally different from me and – thank God – a little less high-strung. Nick amusedly watched the key combing with little (or at least well-hidden) judgement, and knows where my bike is parked even when I don’t. Alaina cooks with me – fortunately/unfortunately videotaped the can murder for all eternity – never fails to provide a much-needed dose of hilarious sarcasm, and makes sure I bring a jacket when it does get super cold – California, YOU LIED TO ME. I met Ben, Stelio, and Nick at Admit Weekend in April and Alaina on move-in day, so I’ve luckily had all four of them since the very beginning and have met even more incredible friends every day since. Because of them, I have never felt truly alone even in my toughest moments, and I know never will. The hardest thing about leaving a tiny school like St. Francis is losing the feeling that everyone around you really knows and loves you for exactly who you are, so finding those people who do in college has been one of the most important things I’ve done. That’s why I don’t feel like the core of who I am has changed either: I still would rather carve pumpkins on a Friday night than go out partying, I still believe that happiness is a choice, I still want not just to have adventures, but to BE an adventure, and relentless tenacity is still my worst – and best – quality.
What has changed – and continues to exhaustingly quickly – is something between the surface and my core. I cook and even SEW now, and go to church every Sunday. (Although I have moved on from the very strange day when I decided I was “half-Catholic and half Bapthodist.”) I’m an environmental activist. I’m an Iggy Azalea fan. I haven’t worn boots and sweatpants even once – well, yet. I certainly could improve, but I feel like I’m a better friend than I ever have been, and prioritize relationships and conversations way over anything you can put on a resume. I voted. I biked alone to Safeway in the dark because I could – and I wanted to make the pumpkin pie right then, dammit. (Yep, the impatience has not changed at all.) In grand adventures or little declarations of freedom, I am creating my own new life and making my own rules. My world is scarier but I am braver, and what I think of who I am matters more than what anyone else does.
Because the only person I will ALWAYS have…is me. This girl is all I get. Last night I wasn’t distraught by any means, but a little upset and disappointed and just kind of ready to be done. I had talked to both my moms, both my sisters, and all four of my closest friends in the span of a few hours which NEVER happens, and yet I still went to sleep with tears in my eyes. For whatever reason, they couldn’t help, and I was all I had left. This girl is all I get. Yesterday was unexpectedly hard, and normal sounded so good, and I was sick of her. But today she did what normal can’t. She chose to be happy. She didn’t wait to have a good day, she made it a good day. Normal sounded good, but bold sounded better. This girl is all I get, and tonight, I couldn’t be prouder of her.
“I did find lots of articles on a ridiculous new study rating the children of gay parents versus straight parents and claiming we were less likely to graduate high school – daughters of gay parents “considerably less likely.” I just got accepted to Stanford, bitch. Don’t tell me I’m considerably less likely to do anything.” Throwback from Blog #1
Today I finally got my own laptop, so I’m thrilled to write my first update from Stanford! Tomorrow will mark one month here and wow – what a crazy four weeks it has been. It’s somewhat different than I expected, but I love what this place brings out in me, and I wake up every day in awe that I’m living the dream I’ve had for so long.
Likely to most of your surprise, I survived my backpacking trip without getting horribly lost or eaten by bears! I still have 19 scratches on my legs from our trip through a briar patch – to complement my bike crash scab and perpetual bruises – but don’t worry, my foot fashion is still probably too distracting for people to notice. (No boots and sweatpants yet, but I’ve definitely been “rocking” socks and Sperrys.)
The trip was hugely influential in my time at Stanford so far – not only did I bond with amazing friends and coin the term “hella bitch,” but I met one of the leaders of Fossil Free Stanford, which completely unexpectedly has become what I’m most involved in outside of classes. Stanford divested from the coal industry last year, and now our team is working to get the school to divest from oil and gas as well, in an effort to help curb alarming climate change. That goal may take far longer to reach, but I believe we can and will. While I have done community service and fundraising my entire life, this is definitely my first rodeo in environmental activism; as someone who gets her feelings hurt very easily and is incredibly impatient, I know this will be a challenge for me on many levels, but I can’t wait to grow from it and become even closer with some of the bravest and most compassionate people I have ever met. One of those people recognized me at the first meeting and said she loved my blog! It truly blows my mind the support 321 has gotten, and I know I have only scratched the surface of what I hope to do with it. I thought it would be harder to write once I got to college since I’m now so far away from my family, but in fact I’ve felt the opposite: leaving home has made me realize just how wildly lucky I am to have people to miss so much. I appreciate my parents more than I ever have, and feel even more compelled to share why I think they’re so amazing.
The hardest part about college has been being away from sisters; the best part has been finally being a two-minute walk away from my best friend and the brother I’ve never had, Ben. I met him at Stanford’s Admitted Students Weekend, and we have been inseparable for almost six months; first online, then when he came to visit me in the amazing “Bentucky” adventure, and now as we experience college together – almost always side by side. He is the most courageous and resilient person I know; a gay Orthodox Jew (FYI, that’s apparently even harder than being a gay Southern Baptist) who fought epilepsy while working all through high school to help support his family as they recovered from the recession. While the challenges we’ve faced are so different, the perspective we’ve gained from them is very much the same, and I think that’s why we are so perfect for each other. A few days ago I told him – very seriously – that he’s made our search for my “Elusive Future Boyfriend” even harder, because knowing how much I can love him makes me not want to settle for anything less. The struggle is REAL, because Jillian’s – basically perfect – boyfriend Lucas sets the bar for Elusive higher still. BUT I have not lost hope that someone will be up for the challenge. 🙂 As of now, I’m happy to still be able to empathize with Teagan’s “Sixth Grade Single Struggles” and seriously do – sort of – love the freedom and independence that brings – especially in college when we’re all trying to find ourselves or make ourselves anyway.
As soon as I finish writing this, I’ll go visit Ben – many people get confused and think I live in his dorm or vice versa. We have laundry dates – Mom, no bras have been washed with the towels yet – and he is a huge part of why I’ve been consistently so happy these first few weeks. While I love Stanford and have so many incredible friends here, there are still moments where I know I would have felt lost or alone if I hadn’t known he was always a phone call or bike ride away. He’s in our family group text and by Parents’ Weekend in February, my moms may try to one up everyone else by saying they have a daughter AND a son who go here. 🙂
While you wouldn’t know it from how tough he is, I know the challenges he’s facing with his own family right now are unfathomably difficult, and that is maybe the most important reason why I’m so excited to start blogging again. I know sharing my family’s story can’t single-handedly change people’s minds, but I hope it will make them think. And at the very least, I hope that this blog will reach a few people who are going through what Ben is, and that they’ll know how deeply I admire and respect their bravery.
Up next week, some of the Kinseyist things Kinsey has done in college so far, including losing my bike three times in one day and combing my hair with a key.
As my sister and I got ready in front of the bathroom mirror, she said she hated how her shirt made her look fat. I ranted back, “What are you talking about? You look amazing in everything; you’re a size 6! That’s not fat, are you crazy!? Be confident, don’t talk badly about your body like that!”
I stopped cold. She was right. I do. And I am confident. I genuinely believe that I am smart, powerful, and beautiful. I sure as hell believe that both of my little sisters are. And yet, I still do criticize some aspect of how I look nearly every day. Somewhat ironically, I did so even more when I was her age and a size 6 than I do now as a size 12. I’ve gotten better. But I still do it. And I’m sick of it.
It’s the first day of summer, the height of bikini season, and Instagram’s finest hour. It feels like this time of year – more than ever – people care about how they look. And for me, this is a special summer – the one between high school and college. It’s a transition, the opportunity to reinvent myself, to look better, feel better, and be better, before I dive into a whole new world.
In the spirit of that, I started this morning with yoga and organic granola. I spent 15 full minutes picking out my outfit and earrings – WHAT? – and even put on a little make-up. I flossed and put on sunscreen. I took an hour long walk with Teagan as we’re both trying to get healthier. Today, I actually put far more effort into my appearance and health than usual.
But I also started this morning with a promise: at least for the rest of this summer, I will not say anything negative about my body or anyone else’s. I will not hide or edit my appearance in photos. I won’t compare myself to other women based on how we look. I won’t say, “Oh I wish I had her ____” or “She really would look better if _____” or “If I could I fix this about myself I would _____”. If I can fix it, I will quit talking about it and do it. If I can’t, I’ll let it go and shut up. I CAN make myself stronger, and I will. I CAN work on having a slightly more fashionable wardrobe, which will make me feel more confident and could even be fun. (Keep in mind that I’m starting from “wearing sweatpants with boots,” so take this with a grain of salt.) And yes, Dr. Pape, I can floss. I can do these things BECAUSE I value my body and want to give it the love it deserves. But for the same reason, I can accept it right now for what it is – right now.
I am tired of cropping photos to make my arms look thinner. Yes, seriously I did that.
I am angry that at a Scholars Weekend with 150 of the brightest and most accomplished high school seniors in the country, I worried that I looked way worse than the other girls – ON OUR COMMUNITY SERVICE TRIP TO PICK UP GARBAGE.
I’m even more angry because I know I’m not the only girl who’s thought that way – where your appearance compared to others is always on the back burner of your mind, and sometimes front and center – even in a moment where you’re all being recognized for your minds and hearts. I don’t mean to generalize, but I have a feeling this just wasn’t something the guys worried about. Like, ever.
I will no longer criticize a body that has been so resilient through so very much. My twelve little scars are not flaws but badges of honor. The fact that they are the only visible sign of a two-year fight for my life – when so many other survivors have lifelong, sometimes crippling side effects – is an immense blessing that I will never stop being grateful for. My heart has stopped seven times in one day, and I can still run. Does this body – that has escaped the fires of hell more than once remarkably unscathed – deserve for me to pick on it for not having a thigh gap? Hell no. For all the times I’ve narrowly avoided treatments that would have destroyed my ability to have children, my period should be a victory lap.
No matter our personal challenge, no matter who we are or what we look like, our bodies are probably doing the very best they can.
I am a teenage girl in an age where the rates of obesity and anorexia are both frighteningly high. So one day I hear, “Love your body as it is! You never need to change!” And on another, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels! Choose to change your life now!” For a long time I could relate to both but couldn’t pick which one to listen to.
But when my sister said, “you do,” I realized that this is not the choice we have to make. It’s not: “Love yourself as you are OR strive to be better every day.” Our choice is whether we live for ourselves or live for what other people think about us. Whether we make our decisions based on what is best for us and those we love, or based on what meets a standard created by strangers – and very often, strange men.
I will love who I am AS I strive to get better every day because I know I’m worth the effort. Today, I choose to live for myself, for my perfectly imperfect body that I’m more proud of than ever – and for my sisters. Because they are listening.
Happy Birthday, Mom! We hope you had a great day (although we know it was busy as always) and enjoy your new (noise canceling!!) headphones! Not that you would ever want to drown us out or anything, right? Since you’re 52 this year, (but look half your age!) this post is 26 reasons why we think you rock.
1) Your first selfie – though we know you’d kill us if we put it online.
2) Your quotes: “You can do anything but you can’t do everything.”
3) You love us at our worst but insist we strive for our best.
4) You put your heart and soul into your work but still manage to be hugely involved in our lives.
5) You’ve never missed a field hockey game, quick recall match, or speech, unless you were taking another one of us to a different game!
6) You put others first and empathize naturally.
7) You don’t see obstacles.
8) You never told me we couldn’t afford Stanford, and have worked incredibly hard to make sure we can.
9) You ARE an adventure.
10) Your laugh takes up an entire room and is contagious.
11) I believe without doubt that if I had anyone else on the planet as my mom, I would be dead by now.
12) You haven’t killed me yet. 🙂
13) You are a talented, poignant, and funny writer.
14) You know that helping is doing what is needed, not what you want to do.
15) You fit more than 24 hours worth of life into a day.
16) You are loved by many, liked by nearly everyone, and respected by all.
17) You don’t complain, ever. (Bitching is for bitches.)
18) The last word anyone would use to describe you is lazy.
19) You do unfun stuff before fun stuff, but manage to make the unfun fun.
20) You are a fiercely loyal friend, partner, and mother, a force to be reckoned with, and someone who makes me feel safer and more empowered than anyone else.
21) You is kind. You is smart. You is important. (And you read in your “free” time so you will get this reference to The Help!)
22) You care about being kind more than you care about being right.
23) You notice how other people feel and make them feel better.
24) You created a better life for your children than you had.
25) You don’t understand the word “no” expect in the context of “no excuses.”
26) You love us to the moon and back.
And we love you! You and me against the world, Mommy. The best thing I will ever be is your daughter.