“You can’t be ugly! Be Pretty!”

There’s a scene in the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where Clementine divulges the following to Joel as his memory of her is being erased:

Clementine: “Joely? Am I ugly? When I was a kid I thought I was. I can’t believe I’m crying already. Sometimes I think people don’t understand how lonely it is to be a kid. Like, you don’t matter. So I’m eight, and I have these toys, these dolls. My favorite is this ugly, girl doll, who I call Clementine. And I keep yelling at her, ‘You can’t be ugly! Be pretty!’ It’s weird. Like if I can transform her I would magically change too.” 

This movie is a beautiful piece of cinema, and you should definitely check it out if you haven’t done so.

All that aside, this scene in the movie has always struck a chord in me. In particular, I think it resonates with me now more so than ever.

An ex-boyfriend of mine introduced me to this film way back when it came out in 2004. I vividly remember us watching it together and him telling me I reminded him of Clementine. I took some grandiose offense to this, and it probably turned into a dramatic fight, which ironically proved his point. In the little over ten years since that movie has come out, I’ve simply embraced just how Clementine-esque I’ve become.

Lately I’ve been borderline obsessive over my appearance. Not necessarily obsessive in a Narcissus-complex way, but rather in a “You-can’t-be-ugly-BE-PRETTY” way that Clementine outlines in her above monologue.

Those of you who know me, know that this post is not intended as an act to retain sympathy. No, I’m too self-aware to try to illicit meaningless sympathy via the internet. I’m simply being introspective about the roots of my somewhat newfound obsession with trying to attain perfection.

Unlike Clementine, I never felt ugly as a kid. Sure, I knew I wasn’t “pretty” in the simplest form of the word. I can vividly recall being in my fourth grade class and having a moment of recognition for whom the pretty girls were. There were two of them; they were best friends. For all intensive purposes, we shall call them Mary-Kate and Ashley.

Mary-Kate and Ashley were what you might call “traditionally pretty.” They had all the physical characteristics of “cute” kids. Not to mention their parents dressed them to display all the staples of a well-fed, well-bred, American child.

Both girls were as sweet as pie, almost to a fault. Teachers loved them, boys (ever so unaware of their sexual beings) chased after them on the playground, and parents of other children could only hope that their kids struck up a friendship with these girls.

I, on the other hand, was a chubby, coke-bottle-glasses-wearing, stringy-haired, weird kid, adorned in my brother’s hand-me-downs (which I LOVED by the way). I displayed the annoying characteristic of always having my hand up to answer questions in class, wanting to be the Hermione Granger type character of being an “insufferable know-it-all.” At daycamp, I would laugh inside at the girls who would rather paint their nails on a park bench, than go out in the woods and expand their limited consciousness of what this great big world had to offer.

My mother never held being “pretty” as any standard on how I should live. She always stressed the importance of being myself, and not caring what other people thought of me.

But I always cared. I still do care.

One of the things I most admired about my mother was her endless ability to not give a fuck about what anyone thought of her. Sometimes when we were out in public I would be so embarrassed by things she would say or do, that I would literally run away from her in the grocery store and wait outside by the car in the parking lot, so I didn’t have to suffer the embarrassment of my mother. Now, looking back, I wish that I had observed her quirkiness more closely, immersed myself in her strangeness.

I never had body image issues growing up. I always felt like caring about your body was such a trivial matter. (Body image, as not to be confused with personal health. I always got plenty of exercise.) I just simply did not have the time to worry about counting calories, or worrying about how thin my waist was (or was not), or if I had a thigh gap (that really wasn’t even a “thing” yet in my day). I had a friend in middle school who started counting calories before she even started menstruating.

In high school, I dressed for comfort. I wore jeans, hoodies, minimal (if any) makeup. I was there to learn. Plus, I had somehow scored dating one of the hottest seniors when I was a sophomore, so it’s not like I was trying desperately to find a boyfriend. I dressed up for special occasions, but mostly I didn’t care. I had a boyfriend who loved who I was on the inside and out, and I figured everyone else who spent time with me, also felt the same.

My body image issues seemed to have started sometime after my mother’s death. So some time between 2011 and present day, I have developed a pretty severe case of what some doctors call body dysmorphia. Essentially, body dysmorphia is a condition by which the beholder sees something drastically different in the mirror than how others see them. Obviously, the issue is more complex, but that’s the gist of it.

Lately, I’ve become so overtly obsessed with what I look like that I will make self-deprecating jokes to my friends, as a way to justify my self-hatred.

“My thighs are 24 inches in diameter! Some people have 24-inch waists! I’m essentially walking around with two models in my lower half.” 

The day I displayed this zinger of a joke upon myself, was greeted with raucous laughter.  In that moment where I allowed myself to vocalize my hatred of my thighs, I in some way felt better about them. See thighs! I’m in control of you! I can make jokes about how big you are despite my rigorous exercising and carb-limiting diet! 

But then, later, at home in my apartment, I can stand in front of my mirror for 30 minutes at a time, just picking and pinching thighs, biceps, the sides of my waist, examining pores, pulling at my ears (like that will all the sudden make them symmetrical), or trying desperately to make both corners of my mouth raise the same distance so I no longer have a lopsided smile.

I wonder how I got down this rabbit hole. When did I care so much about the light wrinkles in my forehead? When did I care so much about my thighs (which are genetically larger than life) that I actually went an googled “liposuction thighs before and after?” When did I care so much about my weight that instead of simply eating right and exercising, I’ve started measuring myself weekly, getting a rush of adrenaline every time I lose .25 inches off my waist?

Where did that little girl with glasses, who loved to play in the dirt in her brother’s hand-me-down shorts go? Why have I become so concerned with getting random “likes” on selfies where I’m decked out in my best makeup look, in perfect lighting, my face in the exact right angle so I look my skinniest?

I work in an industry where everyone is constantly telling me, (whether implying or explicitly) “Be skinny! Have skinny legs! Be tall! Have a symmetrical face! Erase every line, blemish, and crinkle in your skin to look like a human robot! Be sexy! Have bigger boobs! Where’s your thigh gap!?” 

“You can’t be ugly! Be pretty!” 

I legitimately had a wardrobe person for a TV show where I was working background tell me after huffing and puffing that nothing would fit right on me,“Oh, you have really big hips and a small waist. It’s going to be tough to fit you.”

So I said back to her, “You know WHAT motherfucker? Yes, I have big hips! Yes, I have a waist that is a lot smaller! You don’t think it’s been difficult dressing myself with these fucking measurements for 27 motherfucking years!? PLEASE tell me how much you hate my body type and would rather be fitting the first-teamer who is probably a size 0 and has the body type of a teenage boy where literally EVERYTHING looks good on them!!!” 

No actually, I didn’t say that. I just nodded, smiled, and continued to take a verbal beating by this woman who clearly hated my body.

Then I went home and cried.

I wish that were a joke, but it was not.

And you know what, I drank the Kool-Aid. I got into the work-out-until-you-virtually-kill-yourself workouts, the starvation-tactic diets, the heavily contoured face that it seems women have to wear not only for special occasions, but ALL THE TIME.

Don’t get me wrong. I love making myself look pretty. I love makeup. I love my rock and roll hair. I love clothing, shoes, and bags!

I don’t however, like my unhealthy and constant obsession with how I look. It’s a never-ending cycle of self-hatred.

I will continue to work out. I will continue to eat “clean.” I will continue to wear makeup.

I’m going to try, however, not to pick myself apart limb from limb.

I cannot hate myself anymore.

It’s too exhausting to hate the way I look. I can’t change it. I don’t have a magic wand that will get rid of my big legs, or make my shoulders less broad, or my face more symmetrical, or biceps slimmer. (Or the money it would entail to make that medically possible.)

I cannot shout at my “ugly doll” and ask her to be pretty. “Like if I can transform her I would magically change too.” 

I know my issues will not go away overnight. I know that becoming that girl who used to play in the mud and throw her scraggly hair into a ponytail will be difficult to find underneath all this body image bullshit.

I know.

But I hope to get there.

xoxo

Shan Babe

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Adventures in Mind, Body and Soul

I’ve had a really fabulous few weeks.

All those blog posts in the last 2.5 years where I’ve said I’m tired of being a struggling artist, and how I sometimes think of giving up, or how I feel bad about my body, are just blips in the past.

Those thoughts are GONE! I’m in a place right now where I feel wonderful, and I’ve outlined a plan in the next month to keep me feeling even MORE fabulous!

MIND:

I’m not really sure when I decided that I was going to be happy 100% of the time, but I believe it has a lot to do with the people with whom I’ve surrounded myself. I cannot express the amount of gratitude I feel toward the friends and family I have. I have a “New York Family” that is largely made up of artists and creative types who keep me motivated and positive. I also have my actual family, who I can call/text/FaceTime any time I need to. Not to mention the friends I have spread out over the country, whom I love and adore.

It is still tough to not know where my next paycheck is coming from, or know when I’m going to have my “break,” but once I let go of the idea that I needed to “be famous” by a certain age and just focused on my love of my craft, the stress melted away. I now feel like I can share my art with the world, and that will naturally lead me to success.

Also, success does not equal fame. Success to me, I’ve realized, is being able to do what I love for a living and be proud of the product I’m putting out in the world.

BODY:

Here’s a touchy subject I’ve written about many times. I know that I have a beautiful body, but it took me a while to get there. Recently, I’ve decided that I want to optimize this beautiful body and make it everything it can be. This doesn’t mean I want to drastically change myself, I just never want to stop improving.

So what does this mean?

Well first of all (you all know how I roll) I had to do it in style. I received a Victoria’s Secret VSX sport bra and yoga pant complimentary of Influenster in the mail. I have had the same ratty sport bras on rotation forever so I was in much need of a “sport bra breakup” with these babies.

Here is Influenster gift

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My new bra and pants accompanied me on my West Side Highway run, and I felt great afterward. Nothing like a good bra to keep the “sisters” happy.

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I also popped over to the GIGANTIC VS store in Herald Square where I dealt with some delightful associates who helped me find my perfect sport bra. Anyone who knows me, will know that this bra absolutely suits me:

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THEN, the ladies helped me order a new, hot pink track jacket that will be absolutely DIVINE for my breast cancer walk. Which BY THE WAY… my breast cancer walk is a month from today. If you would like to donate, I’m still pretty far from my goal of $1,800. It is a wonderful cause that I believe in very much.

Here is the link: http://info.avonfoundation.org/site/TR/Walk/NewYork?px=7595905&pg=personal&fr_id=2366

And this fierce jacket accompanied me to Central Park the other day.

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(PS: If you want the hookup with amazing free gifts in return for testing products and writing reviews, click on the badge on the right side of my blog that says “Citizen of Influenster Nation.” You can thank me later.)

Once I re-vamped my workout style, it was time to get down to my fitness plan. Last night I signed up for a personal trainer, who is going to give me a 5 week bootcamp 3 times a week along with a diet plan to optimize my weight loss. Now, when I use the word “diet” that simply just means what I’m putting into my body. I’m not doing some sort of “fad diet” or “quick fix.” This eating plan is something that I can carry with me for the rest of my life.

I’m a singer/actress/performer. My voice and my body are my instrument. Anyone who wants to condemn me, go ahead, but I see this as almost as if I’m taking my instrument to the repair shop. When I get my “instrument” back at the end of this 5 weeks, it will be fixed, tuned up, and shiny. I’m still the same girl I’ve always been, but now I’m getting a “tune up”

SOUL:

My soul feels at peace right now. A few months ago when I wrote that post about moving to Austin, and re-thinking my life plan, I was lonely, sad and confused. This summer has been a journey to repair my soul. I had to put a big bandage on my heart for a while, until I was able to carefully peel that bandage off and appreciate the scar that difficult part of my life left on me.

Every single “scar” and “scratch” I have on my soul is just a reminder that I need to keep pushing, working and remaining true to myself.

This month I’m going to focus on my artistry and let my music soothe my soul. I’m going to learn everything I have yet to find about my voice, my piano/guitar playing abilities, my sound, and my performance techniques. Even if this means using all my weekend time staying inside and writing music instead of going out.

It’s crunch time, and I’m ready for it all. I’m ready to have the life I’ve always dreamed about.

And guess what? Everything I’ve accomplished up until now is a result of my hard work.

Not too shabby, Shan Babe. Not too damn shabby!

This is the face of a happy girl

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Love, Rock, and Roll

Shan Baby

Excuse my Thighs as they Rub Together

So the recent news about the “thigh gap” becoming the new “skinny arm” just has me baffled.

I have never, I repeat, NEVER had a gap between my thighs.

I can specifically remember being a little girl and wondering why my legs looked so much bigger than my friends’ legs when we would have play dates.

Why do my thighs look so big when I sit down and they flatten out?

Why do I have the same general structure than my friends, other than my gigantic legs?

These were actual thoughts I had as a child. I remember asking my mom why I had bigger legs and she just simply said, “Because you were made different.”

Just like that.

If you’ve read my blog, you know that my mother wasn’t much for apologizing, especially when it came to her shape. One of the things I loved most about her was her ability to brush off superficial societal standards, and literally look and feel however she wanted.

I was always told I never had to wear makeup, shave my legs, or dress like a girlie girl, if I didn’t want to.

When I hit puberty, in middle school, I was a cheerleader. Back then I was also a dancer and gymnast, so my legs, although still big, were incredibly strong. HOWEVER, that did not mean that they didn’t get their share of attention. I remember one of the basketball players, who was one of my friends, affectionately calling me thunder thighs. At the time, I embraced it, but now as I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to resent my thighs in all their glory.

I work out five to six, sometimes seven days a week. When I flex my legs, they are NOTHING but muscle, and yet, there’s still that desire for thinner, leaner legs. My thigh/hip ratio compared to my waist is pretty drastic, which gives me somewhat of an hourglass shape. This might SEEM like it’s great, but shopping for pants and dresses is a nightmare. I can rarely find a pair of jeans that fit not only my legs, but my waist. It’s virtually impossible. And the wider the pants get, the longer they get, which doesn’t work for my tree-trunk legs.

My large ass/hips/thighs often also get backhanded compliments. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these phrases.

“Your legs look so strong!”

“You look like a ‘real’ woman.”

“I love your curves.”

Is this just everyone’s way of telling me that I don’t look good? I know a lot of times when theses slighted comments are made, that people genuinely mean no harm, but it’s hard to take them for face value, when I’m constantly feeling like they are trying to sugar coat how they really feel about my big legs.

I suppose now I’m just thinking out loud.

I guess what I’m trying to say, (or what I’m trying to convince myself,) is that we all have our body issues. We all attributes where we look in the mirror, and think, “If only I looked like ‘x’ instead of ‘y.'”

I know I do. All the time. I wouldn’t spend so much time at the gym if I didn’t want to look a certain way. But there’s also a point where I can only do so much. My legs are never going to get skinnier. Believe me. I’ve TRIED. The thigh gap, unless I get plastic surgery, will just never be a reality for me. The skinny arm will never be attainable for me either. I have BIG limbs. I always have. I’ve always had big legs, a big ass, wide hips, big biceps, broad shoulders.

So what do I do from here? Do I continue to consume myself with negative thoughts every time I look in the mirror; pulling at my chubby cheeks or pinching my sides or squeezing my legs, trying desperately to make them look thinner, smoother… better?

Maybe… or I could just say “fuck it” and just eat another piece of cake.

In all seriousness though, I’m trying to figure out how to get over this destructive behavior/these destructive thoughts.

Every single casting, every single audition, everyone seems to be thinner, prettier, taller, better proportioned than me. It’s my business. I’m in the business of beautiful people. And I’m not every going to be the industry standard of “beautiful,” so I have to find my own way…

Being me.

All 5’5″, stubby-legged, thigh-touching, small breasted, chubby cheeked…. me.

Here I am.

I’m beautiful in my own way. I’m different. I’m talented. I’m strong, and I work hard for the body I have.

And please excuse my thighs as they rub together.

xoxo

“Thunder Thigh” Shan Baby

 

 

 

 

Body Talk

Ok so this blog was named after an album I’ve been listening to A LOT lately, which is Robyn’s Body Talk.

(Side Note: This album was SO ahead of its time and would have been even BIGGER in the States if it had come out now instead of 2010…)

But I digress…

What I really want to talk about is body image.

Obviously this is a topic that is absolutely worn out in the United States.

And I’m not just talking about women…

Most of my male friends (gay and straight) have just as many body image issues as I do.

(And BELIEVE me… I have A LOT of body issues)

Now you might be saying to yourself, “Shan! Why don’t you like your body!?”

Let me tell you all the things I don’t like about myself.

1. My Thighs.

I don’t know what it’s like for my thighs not to touch when I walk. I can distinctly remember being called “thunder thighs” by one of the male basketball players in middle school when I was a cheerleader. Here I was, 13 years old, an insecure human being trying to figure out how to grow up, and being labeled as a “thick” girl. I knew he was just jesting, but that wasn’t the point.

The POINT was that people noticed.

My thighs are thick.

They jiggle.

They don’t always fit into the pants I buy.

When I wear shorts or skirts, they ride up.

They have dimples, imperfections, flaws.

2. My Ass:

My ass sticks out further than the average person’s ass. Much like my thighs, it makes it difficult for me to find a nice pair of pants. I get “plumber’s ass” sometimes when I wear pants/shorts because it creates this annoying gap in my lower back where the waistband meet my skin.

It is the subject of a lot of unwanted attention. Men on the streets of New York always comment on my “fat ass”

But here’s the problem: The word fat.

Do people even realize the connotation of the word “fat.”

Fucking A, women are so sensitive.

Yes, I’m sensitive about it.

I’m sensitive about my BIG FAT ASS.

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3. My Arms:

I can remember when I was in elementary school, and I was a big Tom-boy. It used to be amusing for me to arm wrestle the boys at recess and for them to talk to me about how “strong” my arms looked.

Turns out they might be strong… but they are also BIG.

My arms look terrible in photos. I’m constantly having to pose in a certain way for me to get what we ladies like to call the “skinny arm.”

Lately I’ve been toning my arms and I’ve felt better about them… but still not happy.

Let’s see… what else can I pick apart about myself.

4. My fake teeth.

(Yes, I have two fake teeth. Read my blog post about my medical ailments if you want the full back story)

5. My small eyes

6. My ear that sticks out further than the other.

7. My wide feet.

8. My chubby cheeks

9. My fair skin

10. My small boobs

But here’s the thing:

Fuck ALL of those things.

Fuck numbers 1 through 10.

Fuck everyone who has EVER made me feel “fat” or “ugly” or ashamed of my body.

My body is what it is.

I work out like a FIEND. I lift weights. I do yoga. I run. I go to spinning class. I walk EVERYWHERE.

Sometimes you just have to work with what you have.

And you know what… I’m TIRED of getting a compliment from someone and coming up with some excuse about why I shouldn’t take it.

Recently, someone told me I was beautiful.

And I couldn’t believe it.

Not to say that I’m not absolutely self-aware. I understand that I am not a hideous human being. I understand that I am not obese. I understand that there are people I look at, who may be bigger in size than me who I deem the most gorgeous people in the world. I understand ALL of this.

But when it comes to self image, we are all fucked up.

Let’s be real about that.

We all hate things about ourselves.

And I’m TIRED of it.

I’m TIRED of self deprecating.

I’m TIRED of hearing my friends talk about how men/women won’t love them because of their bodies.

I’m TIRED of feeling like I will never be skinny.

I’m TIRED of not being able to have a compliment be given to me and not being able to take it.

So let me go back through that list of 1 through 10 and rewrite them.

1. My STRONG thighs.

Do you know that I can use those thigh machines with 110 pounds of weight? that’s more than a lot of women I know. Hell… that’s more than a lot of men I see using that machine at my gym. My legs can move mountains. My legs are my essence.

My thighs are my genetics.

I have an entire family (on both sides) with thick legs. It’s who I am as an Allen. It’s who I am as a Falasco

My thighs are Ro.

My thighs are me.

2. My fat ass.

As much as it pisses me off that I can never fit into the perfect pair of jeans, I HAVE to have love for my ass.

I think it gets me the most amount of male attention of any part of my body.

It makes me curvy, voluptuous, sexy.

3. My arms

Please… just PLEASE try to arm wrestle me. I may have been just bluffing when I was in elementary school, but now that I actively lift weights, I WILL DESTROY YOU!

My arms are never going to be thin.

That’s just how it is.

But they will never be weak. They will ALWAYS be strong. They will ALWAYS have character.

4. My beautiful smile.

My fake teeth have given me the most beautiful smile I could have ever imagined.

5. My blue eyes.

They may be small, but I have the bluest eyes you’ve ever seen.

6. My asymmetrical ears.

If I were completely symmetrical, that would just be BORING.

And I am the furthest thing from boring.

7. My wide feet.

I don’t really have a way to turn this one around… but FUCK OFF. My feet are wide. I don’t care.

8. My cheeks.

My character. My smile.

I wouldn’t be Shan Baby without those cheeks.

9. I am Snow White

My skin is fair and I DON’T CARE

AND FINALLY.

10. My boobs are small…

But it makes me less likely to develop breast cancer. It makes me realize that when I get the results of my genetic testing, it will be easy for me to make the decision to cut them off.

I’m not attached to them.

My breasts are just a source of worry and anxiety.

Fuck my boobs.

…….

There you have it.

My physical insecurities listed out for you in a nice, neat little list.

And guess what…

I feel great.

I feel liberated.

I feel free.

Because now I can let go of all those fucking idiotic thoughts about my body and start LIVING my life with CONFIDENCE about my physical looks.

I’m gonna make my BODY TALK.

So for everyone out there with a “list” that may look similar (or be completely different) to mine…

FUCK THAT LIST.

FUCK THOSE THOUGHTS.

You are beautiful.

I am beautiful.

WE are beautiful.

Always.

xoxo

Shan BODY Baby

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LOOK AT THAT ASS!