Falling in Love on Fridays: I Am Not My Hair

This week’s Falling in Love on Friday’s post is by one of my dear friends from college, Allison. Though I haven’t seen here in years — since her last layover in New York for a night — she inspires me every single day via Gchat and witty Facebook statuses. She’s one of those people who feel and care with their whole heart, and as this blog will tell you, with her whole head of hair, too. Her post goes to show the bigger meaning behind Falling in Love on Fridays: you don’t just fall in love with men or people, sometimes you fall in love with things as simple, and yet as necessary, as… hair. She’s doing something ridiculously awesome and brave that I’m totally supportive of – but you have to read to the end to find out what it is. Learn more about the beautiful Allison here, and to learn how to submit your own Falling in Love on Friday story here

I Am Not My Hair

July 8th, 1986

I emerge from the womb in a Long Island hospital, screaming bloody terror at 10:35 in the morning. The doctor who delivers me declares “It’s a girl! Look at that hair!”

Kindergarten, picture day

The school photographer calls me “Curly Sue,” and would continue to do so until the fifth grade.

Every morning of my childhood

sassyMy dad gets me ready for school, and lacking any knowledge about little girl’s fashion or hair, lets me wear whatever I want. To do my hair, he makes me lay upside down on the couch and bunches all the crazy blonde curls into something vaguely resembling a bun. Sort of. I look at the Disney princesses. Their hair is flat and pretty. I look at the villians. Theirs is messy and curly and wild. Princesses never have to have their wild hair stuck up on their head.

First day of seventh grade

Standing at the bus stop in a plaid flannel shirt and JNCOs, with my hair still dripping wet, I press my hands against my hair and hope and pray it stays flat. It doesn’t. I will try this every day for many years.

Summer, 2003

I dye my hair so many different colors it turns orange. It gets huge and poofy and damaged. I look like Bozo the Clown, if Bozo the Clown wore green chuck taylors and punk tshirts. I cry on the way to my senior portraits, which will be someday documented in textbooks under the “worst hair in human history.”

Spring, 2006

I move into my first apartment with a fellow curly haired girl. She tells me to throw away my shampoo and my hairbrush and shares her products with me. I start getting real haircuts. The frizz starts to look like real hair again. A friend flatirons my hair once and I hate the way it looks.

Summer, 2007

Men love my hair! This assumption is based solely on a handful of weird dudes touching my head in bars, but I can only extrapolate to entire male population. More importantly, I love my hair. For the first time ever.  My personality becomes an extension of my wild curls, or vice versa – I’m not actually sure. I cut it short and wear big earrings. I grow it out and wear it in an updo on any day of the week. I tease it up and out and put on too much lipstick. I weep when fellow curly girls straighten their hair. I weep harder when a friend’s three year old curly headed daughter says she has “bad hair.”  What have we learned of princesses and villains and what it means to be wild?

January 11th, 2014

weddingI have some drinks in an arcade with some cute boys in the middle of a storm. We joke about shaving our heads. I tell them I would never. I love this hair too much. I make them all touch it. It’s so soft! It’s so pretty! It’s my thing, I tell them. A few hours later, my best friend asks if I wanted to participate in St. Baldrick’s with her, in which we will shave our heads to raise money for children’s cancer research. I say yes. She makes sure I am sober. I am. I use the word “YOLO” anyway. I send a text to my mom that says “Don’t freak out, but I’m shaving my head in a few weeks.” (It’s less permanent than the previous two “Don’t freak out” text messages, which have been followed by “….but we all got matching tattoos,” and “I got another one, and it’s pretty huge.”)

In the three days since we’ve committed to shaving our heads, we’ve raised $900 to help fund research for childhood cancers, which are severely underfunded and under researched.  Our goal is $2500 by March 1st, when she and I will publicly get our heads buzzed and the thing that has been so linked with my identity will lie in a pile on the ground. For three days I’ve been looking up scarves and wigs and hats and imagining all the dramatic ways I can now get away with doing my makeup. I’ve tried to figure out how long my hair will be for the wedding I’ll be in later this year.

I’ve also been thinking about what it means to be bald. This is a choice, for me. I get to dictate what happens to my body, and what I claim to be linked with my identity. I get to find it liberating and freeing and I get to think about how much time and money I’ll save. But for so many people it is not a choice. Children with cancer don’t get choices, and I hope you’ll join me in changing the odds. To make a donation, visit here.

This Valentine’s Day, write a self-love letter to yourself and it’ll be published (anonymous or not) on Confessions of a Love Addict! And you enter yourself to win a prize pack of beauty products and a Home Goods gift card! Learn more here. Submit here

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Someone is Being Raped Right Now

A seven-year-old girl in the Congo, with braids and bright eyes who knows about the harshness of her land but has yet to experience it until now. A child bride who wears henna down her arm and color on her eyes but refuses sex with her 40-something husband because she doesn’t understand it and in result, is beaten. A woman, to pay off her family’s debt in Iran, is sold to another family and is abused every single day by her in-laws, sexually, physically, emotionally. A teenager who is sold into the sex trade in Cambodia and forced to please more than 10 men a day, often without any sort of protection, and will ultimately contract AIDS. On her way to school, just like any other 13-year-old, a girl in India is gang raped by men repeatedly until she nearly dies…and will never be able to have children. And a girl you may know, of any age in any state in the United States, is raped, sexually abused or prostituted. Usually by someone she knows. Usually by a romantic partner.

This may be a little much for your morning coffee but this is life for an incredible amount of women worldwide.

In the Congo, a woman is victimized every minute. Cambodia’s illegal sex trade generates $500 million a year. More than 55,000 women and children are sex slaves in Cambodia, 35 percent of which are younger than 18 years of age. If you go to Thailand or India — you can purchase a girl and essentially free her from slavery for as little as $100.

And yet, less than 1 percent of U.S. foreign aid is specifically targeted to women and girls. (Though the Violence Against Women Act did pass Congress and President Obama signed it yesterday, which is amazing.)

As a rape survivor myself, when I read alarming reports and statistics about violence against women, I’m completely flabbergasted. It often seems like a problem so big and so vast and so incomprehensible that its easy to turn away. To close out this blog window and play on Pinterest or Facebook instead.

And you’re right, that’s easier.

But there are things you can do, every single day with little effort, with little money that can dramatically change the life of a woman you’ve never met. And probably never will. Today is International Women’s Day and in honor of the day, I challenge you to do something to help. Every year, I pick a local charity in a place that’s extremely dangerous for women and I give a portion of my salary to help their efforts. It’s not a lot but I hope that somewhere, some wonderful girl who never had a chance — has one.

Below are some great organizations that are really working in a grassroots, hands-on way to make big changes. I hope you’ll celebrate every woman you know by contributing — or at the very least, read more about violence toward women across the globe. (Half the Sky is a great, eye-opening place to start.)

American Assistance for Cambodia
They fight trafficking and work to keep girls in school and out of the rings.

Apne Aap
They battle sex trafficking in India. They also welcome volunteers, anytime, to help and become teachers.

Averting Maternal Death & Disability 
Helping expecting moms get the care and consideration they deserve.

ECPAT
Network of groups fighting child prostitution in Southeast Asia.

Global Fund for Women
This organization provides capital for poor women around the world to start their own ventures.

Global Giving
Find a project — from disaster recovery education — that you’re passionate about.

Global Grassroots
Helps poor and trafficked women in Sudan.

Kiva
Microlending helps women in abusive marriages and relationships find a way to start their own trade business, make a living and change their husband’s culturally-accepted perception of a woman. Oftentimes when a wife starts earning an income, she has more power and balance.

New Light
This organization helps women and children prostitutes in India. They also welcome volunteers.

Pennies for Peace
Greg Mortenson’s organization that provides education for girls in Pakistan & Afghanistan.

Somaly Mam Foundation
A sex trafficking survivor herself, Somaly Mam started this organization and it fights sex slavery in Cambodia.

Women’s Dignity Project
Facilitates the repair of obstetric fistulas in Tanzania.

Worldwide Fistula Fund
They work to help moms in Niger.

You Should Go Running Today…

…for the families of Sandy Hook. You can donate any amount you want and run or walk whatever distance you can. Email me your photos and I’ll post them. Send me your running time and you could win. It’s only been a month since Sandy Hook and help is still needed to recover.

Learn more about the Sandy Hook Remote 5K here – and seriously, get up and go for a run! It’s only going to do good.

Don’t Forget Sandy Hook

I’m not a mom –but I’m like one. I’ve always had dozens of cousins and now I work in the parenting space, so I often find myself relating to mothers and tucking away ideas and tips for when that day comes. Maybe it’s that mothering mentality that everyone notices about me that made what happened at Sandy Hook so devastating to me.

It was a day like any other — I received an email from our news editor alerting us that there was a shooter in Connecticut and we planned to follow it to see what happened. I don’t think anyone was prepared for 20 children and the 7 adults to lose their life in under ten minutes at the hand of one shooter. And post-tragedy, I still don’t know what the answer is to make schools safer. Part of me thinks there will always be disturbed people who do these heinous things but a bigger part believes in the good that could come out of it — and in stricter gun control laws, too.

I spent most of the weekend following Sandy Hook in a daze — praying and thinking about those families who just lost a special little light that lit up their entire lives. I thought about their full stockings on Christmas day that will never be opened. About all of the things I’ve experienced that they never will. About how heavy and broken so many hearts were, are and will continue to be.

There isn’t really anything anyone can do. No way to get those moments back, no way to make the moments before last longer. No way to give them one more hug or one more kiss.

But I wanted to do something.

Inspired by what the Running Mama did for Hurricane Sandy, I decided to do something similar through Confessions of a Love Addict for the families affected at Sandy Hook. Regardless if you’re a runner or a walker or just want to give a donation, anything goes a long way to rebuilding lives and to keeping the memories alive of those lost.

Here’s how to get involved in the Run For Sandy Hook Remote 5K

How it Works:
On Saturday, January 19, you and a group of your friends will run/walk a 5K wherever you are and then email your race time to confessions.loveaddict@gmail.com. All who sign up for the race will be entered into a drawing for a fun, awesome grand prize pack. The winner will be announced on January 20. The more money you donate, the more chances you have to win! (**Note — if you don’t want to run, you can still donate!)

Sign up here to join the race
Donate money here ($20 suggested minimum, but any amount is great!)
(Note: you’re not officially signed up for the race until you donate something)
All money raised will go to the United Way of Western Connecticut Sandy Hook School Support Fund.

I will also post photos of runners, so send them race day!

Please feel free to spread the word and to ask me any questions you have. If you’re in NYC, I’ll be planning a run in Central Park — so if you want to join, you’re more than welcome to, just email me.

Thanks for helping out Sandy Hook — there’s not much we can do, but joining together can make a huge difference.

The Things a Man Can’t Give Me

After spending an unjustified amount of time on Tumblr one Sunday afternoon, I happened to stumble upon an adorable photo. Of course, I have a certain affinity to this creature (or really any miniature animal), so I quickly updated my Facebook proclaiming I’d like to be the owner of a baby tiger.

Expecting to receive a few comments from my friends who kindly entertain my ridiculousness, I hopped in the shower, determined to get my day started instead of wasting it away in front of a 15″ laptop screen. Twenty minutes and one Beyonce sing-along under the water later, I did what every Gen Y does: tapped my phone back to life because being without it for such a “long” time made me feel disconnected.

On the screen was a new text from the man I was seeing at the time and though we were not serious, I really dug him. He was one of those who always had something interesting to say and never failed to surprise me. This message would prove the latter: Check your email.

Unsure of why he would send something to my email instead of just calling or telling me, I opened up Gmail to find no message from him. Confused, I sent a question mark in response (so explanatory, I know), and he responded with: You wanted a baby tiger, didn’t you? Becoming more perplexed with these cryptic messages and the fact he was stalking my Facebook mid-day, I glanced back at my accountant and noticed an email not from him, but from the WWF. He couldn’t give me an actual baby tiger, but he could adopt one from Africa in my name. And so, he did – just like that. The certificate was sitting proudly a click away and the snuggly and stuffed version came a few weeks later.

So apparently men can give you the nearly extinct animal you mindlessly requested in a status update. And they can leave notes in jean pockets, taped behind a closed door you rarely open, and on your mirror so you never forget how beautiful you are. They can buy you that necklace or that ring you intently gleamed at in the back of Vogue. They can purposefully leave the apartment for the unimportant fact that they’re out of orange juice and you always drink a tall glass each morning.

And when they’re not supplying your tummy or your jewelry box – men can give us many splendored things. When you can feel a man really loves you, it’s powerful. After all, we’ve met the ones who never care at all. Hell – we’ve slept with them. Possibly dated them for six months, just in case something changes. It’s after that disaster we learn to notice when a guy comes along who is all hands-and-feet on deck. We start to think they give us feelings we always say we’ve never felt before, until we do, again. They indulge us in reassurance and constant confidence boosts. They don’t make us wait and they don’t make things harder or faster than what we prefer – unless we ask for it, of course. They support us as equally as we encourage them, and when like grows into love and love into content – they weather the changes because they’d rather stick around than find something simplified elsewhere.

It’s true – men can give us so many things.

But I’m starting to realize there are more things men can’t give me. Partly because they aren’t capable of it, but mostly because I wouldn’t want them to. There are certain parts of my life that I don’t invite a man into and there are pleasures I derive when I’m alone that don’t always match the fulfillment a man returns. There are outings and doings that keep me positive and feeling alive that I’d much rather do without the presence of anyone. There is a cache and a sense of independence that comes from paying everything on my own, shopping at my own accord and saving up for that pair of shoes that even if someone offered, I’d never let them purchase on my behalf. There is a power in knowing nearly every single item in my apartment came from money I made by having a resume I worked hard (and mostly for no pay) to build. There is a satisfaction I get from marching the streets, making eye contact with a stranger or two, and continuing to walk when they get the hint I’ll slow my pace for them – but I don’t.

And without a man, without the consistent reminder that someone in this world at the very least finds you tolerable – you learn how to keep yourself going. You learn the difference between being a constructive critic and being way harder on yourself than anyone else would be. You notice changes in your mood and you become aware of what makes you happy, what tickles your tastebuds, and what disgusts you. You have ways to shed joy and hope into your life that no other person – even the most attractive and engaging ones – could ever replace. You depend on yourself without considering there is a safety net or a body to break your fall. You decide the best answer to your questions aren’t “call mom” or “call Mr. of Right Now” but really are not even an answer at all, they are also a question: Well, what do you want to do?

Those things, no matter how insignificantly silly (like my need of wine in the bathtub while listening to Rhapsody in Blue and reading for the 100th time, Jane Eyre) or superbly worthy (like my need to not have anyone advise me on where my money is going unless I’m paying them – with my money - to instruct me) – are still possible to find when you’re dating a man. Even when you’re madly in love with him.

But you have to fight for them. Because while the dudes can be rather charming and sweet, and give us endearing reminders that we’re loveable, they become one hell of a distraction. Perhaps a beautiful one, but a distraction all the same. I mean, baby tigers may not be a match the baby diamond earrings we scrambled just enough money to buy for ourselves, but which one will mean more to us if the relationship ends? And which is a girl’s best friend (RIP, Liz)?

One of the many troubles of being single is longing for those things we know a man can give us. Those things we’ve found before and have now become afraid are forever lost. But when love takes a chance on you again, you may just find yourself missing those things purposefully just for you, and you only. You may have to keep yourself grounded as you are effortlessly swept away.

Because instead of turning our attention away from me and steering it toward a he the has the potential to become a we- we’ve gotta learn how to have the me, have the he, and have the we, without losing all three.