It Looks Great On Me

After weeks of bipolar New York City weather, the clouds parted just enough to allow a sliver of sunshine to grace the Hudson river. I felt the breeze tickle my back as the light warmed my face, and even though I didn’t have anything particularly exciting or enlightening to smile about, a grin appeared anyway.

With only a few more blocks to go, I slowed my pace just enough to enjoy the walk but not enough to be late to meet my friends at the Boat Basin on the Upper West Side. It was a night dedicated to a children’s charity and to buying (many) glasses of wine in support. When I finally met up with J and entered the establishment, a few brilliant rays of light beat into the patio, putting a stunning haze over everyone. And in my red off-the-shoulder dress, feeling the heat of the sunset seep into my eyes, I felt something that I haven’t felt in a while:

Beauty.

Maybe it’s been the unpredictable weather or my Accutane hangover, but it’s been some time since I’ve truly felt beautiful. Sure, after a long shower and the right spritz of perfume, I’ve felt attractive enough to flirt up the bars. Or at least confident enough to pretend I felt prettier than I really do. It’s taken longer than I ever expected — nearly two years — to shed the lingering effects of the end of my relationship with Mr. Possibility. It took me nearly a year to realize how his snide comments or constant effort to compare me to other women took it’s toll on me. And it’s taken me another year to release those negative words from my memory. For all the good he gave me and the things he taught me, pointing out my flaws was something that I didn’t fully digest the harshness of until I was completely emotionally removed.

But you know, it’s not all his fault. It’s actually more my fault — I have, after all, been repeating the you-must-be-perfect mantra since high school. The song didn’t stop sounding sweet until I finally faced what I didn’t like and well, took control of it. I officially ran my first 10K this past weekend, I’ve lost nearly 15 pounds in the past 9 months and by some stroke of modern medicine miracles — I don’t have to wear makeup anymore.

And sure, those things matter but what matters more is that I feel attractive from the inside out. Cliche, for sure – but truth all the same. Before you can create that simple confidence and bask in the natural, not-even-close-to-perfect beauty that is yours — you have to believe it.

You have to believe it until you actually feel it.

Maybe it’s by humming a new tune to remind yourself that you’ve got it going on. It could be as easy as putting your focus on being happy instead of being the best. Or it could be taking time to dream and fostering those positive thoughts into everything you do. It can be remembering to smile in a city that’s full of grimaces and frowns. Or teaching yourself to look past the faults of others to discover beauty in places you didn’t see before.

However you do it, however long you have to try to find it – once you do, something remarkable happens:

People notice it.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been called a goddess by a barista at Starbucks. A man with a vintage camera asked to take my photo on my way into Chelsea Market because he wanted to capture my glow. At the charity dinner, I caught more glances than I have this entire year. A handsome stranger stopped me on the side of the street just to remind me that I was beautiful. My friends have noticed my clear skin, the freckles they’ve never seen because I’ve always worn so much coverage and a kick in my step that hasn’t been kickin’ in months. I’ve finally started showing my teeth in pictures — going against the advice of Mr. P who always told me I didn’t have a good enough smile for that. I’ve gone out on two quite successful dates with a guy who I’m excited to go on a third date with — and I didn’t do myself up either time to see him.

Instead, I came as myself.

And you know what? Being natural, smiling, laughing, confident and dare I say it, beautiful… it looks great on me.

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This Baby Loves Her Back

My boobs were bigger when I was 10 years old than they are now.

Something happened the summer before I started middle school — my mom let me shave my legs for the first time (at our lake house in a bikini, terrified of cutting myself), acne snickered at my skin and well, every top I owned suddenly was a bit too small. And though I had always waited quite impatiently to look like a real woman, when those curves arrived sooner than expected, I wished they would go away.

Having an inappropriate body for a young girl brought all sorts of things — unwanted attention from older guys, untrue rumors at school because surely if my body looked sexual, I must also be sexual in nature. The truth was I found myself wearing a 32 D-cup and sincerely had no idea what to do with such a massive and speedy physical transition. I hadn’t “french kissed” a boy and yet I had a chest to insinuate I was ready for quite more than that.

Sixth grade was really the first year I started cursing my own body. I was too heavy on top. My stomach pooched more than the other girls in gym class. I couldn’t run as fast because my breasts were too heavy. My skin was speckled. My teeth weren’t perfect and I didn’t want braces. The other girls were prettier. They were skinnier. They didn’t have awfully huge knockers that I hated so badly I kept them only in sports bras for years until one of my friends demanded I wear a proper underwire freshman year of college.

Throughout my many growing body pains, my pants and dress size fluctuated too. Following a stressful period my sophomore year of high school, I gained close to 20 pounds and kept it on until I graduated. To compensate for my insecurity, I covered up the extra weight in loose-fitting clothing and cardigans to cover what I saw as embarrassing rolls in every place. When I went off to college, I not only had to walk — uphill, literally in snow — everywhere I went, but I discovered a newfound love for running, too. The thing that triggered my actual shedding of the baggage around my midsection and thighs wasn’t anything healthy though — it was the depression I fell into following that terribly awful thing that happened on my 18th birthday.

And then I was thrown into a dark world of strange feelings about my body.

Not only was it slowly shrinking due to quite a loss of appetite and desire for much of anything, I also felt foreign to my own limbs. And maybe more devastating to me, that power I had always felt sexually since I lost my virginity to my high school sweetheartfaded. I didn’t want to be naked and I really didn’t want to be touched — unless it was a touch of love. And love was pretty much void for most of college. I didn’t know how to get back all of that fire that got me through everything, so I took the advice of someone special and I faked it until I made it. I led one of the sections at the student newspaper, I volunteered, I became an orientation leader and I went on dates with men I knew I’d never actually care about. And inside, I felt like the ugliest person alive. Like this body I had, was damaged or broken, that it wasn’t worthy of what I once thought it was.

But after lots of counseling and even more determination to pull myself back up, I found myself interning in New York and starting to finally feel beautiful. Or maybe glamorous is the right word. My bra was not only significantly emptier but my waist and heavy heart was too, making me feel unstoppable and vibrant in a city that mostly defines itself by beauty. Or at least being surrounded by it, that is. But when you spend your time trying to be social and liberated and basking in the light of a bright new chapter, you also start drinking more. When I returned to finish my last year-and-a-half of college, I found myself staring at yet another number on the scale I didn’t like and pulling out those hefty bras I thought I could throw away.

And so this pattern continued pretty frequently over the next five years… until last summer.

Mr. Possibility was still in my life — in and out — and though he did help me get over my intense hatred of my acne (“Those are only your freckles!“), he didn’t do much for my body image. His love (and constant praise) of those 5’10-and-up skinny, long-legged gals made my shorter, curvier, womanly frame feel unworthy. Unappreciated. Not good enough for any successful man in New York. While almost every guy I’ve dated (Dr. Heart included) has adored the little extra I’ve always packed, I’ve never felt quite comfortable having them like it so much. If it jiggled or wiggled or moved at all, surely it’s not an attractive sight for a man to see.

But in the sweltering heat of the July sun, after a knock-down, drag-out fight that ultimately kicked Mr. P out of my life for mostly good with the shocking slam of a taxi cab door — I made a decision to be beautiful.

Scratch that — to feel beautiful. To embrace my beauty. To accept it. To know it’s there.

And as much as falling in love with myself is more than my mirror’s reflection, a positive, accurate body image is part of the courting, too. I got back into running after a long-delayed absence, I starting drowning myself in water, I went on Accutane to get rid of 15-year-old acne and I stopped comparing myself to every girl that I saw.

That last one was the doozy.

I had been measuring myself up against every pretty lady I passed, wondering if she had all the things I wanted because her thighs were the size I wished mine were. Or her skin had never seen a bad day. Or her teeth were aligned so symmetrically it blinded me. Instead of seeing perfection in everyone around me — and ignoring my own shine — I started reminding myself about how superbly awesome my body is.

And maybe more importantly — how incredible it will be one day.

Now, it can run 6 miles and not be out of breath. It can make it through an intense Pilates session and hit the pavement minutes later. It can endure the brutality of the city and stay in step with the fastest New Yorkers who push by. It’s hand can comfort a puppy who has a nightmare in the middle of the night. It can hold the head of a friend in need or embrace a celebratory moment. It can rock out a black mini and a red dress, and then look equally good — and damn it, curvy as hell — in tight workout pants and t-shirt an hour later. It can curl and go straight, it can go natural or pageant-faced and be just as pretty. Even if the beauty is in the fruitful flaws.

But one day — it’ll even be better. It’ll produce life. It’ll carry a baby. It’ll give birth to that baby. It’ll grow and stretch and sag and wrinkle and change and with all of that, it’ll just get more astounding. It’ll get lines and have scars that hold meaning — ones that were caused by things I survived. Or memories that were worth every bit of pain. It’ll be touched by a man worthy enough to be loved by me for the rest of his life. It’ll be held delicately because it’s precious and one of a kind.

And it’s mine.

So why not love it? Why not be madly in love with it? Big boobs, freckled cheeks, a baby-got’s-back rear end, frizzy hair in all-weather and everything in between belongs to me. And to me, all of it is beautiful.

Getting Naked in Soho

Yesterday, after taking the pup for a quick jaunt around our block, I hopped the downtown train to make an appointment that had me a little jumpy. But no really — it was a trampoline exercise class that brought back childhood nostalgia along with a quick fix for my champagne hangover from the night before. I quickly discovered that while I’ve always had quite the bounce in my step, when I try to actually put some steps to that bounce… it’s not exactly graceful. No matter — I found myself sweating more than I thought possible when it’s under 20 degrees outside, and once the class ended, I graced the streets of Soho without muffs or gloves to get an iced coffee.

When the wind hit my flushed cheeks, I inhaled and smiled at the dirty, yet fascinating concrete landscape before me.

Since I’ve been living in the fog of cold, dreary days and the cloud of a warm, promising someone, I haven’t had much time — or really energy — to just walk around the streets I moved hundreds of mile to walk on. And so, carrying around gym clothes and a book I’ve been trying to read for a month without much progress, I decided to forget about the frozen sidewalks and have a day date with my very first love.

I tried on a dozen puffy down coats because I know I need one, but can’t seem to fall enough in love with one to actually fork over the cash to bring it home. Then I browsed clearance black boots in search of a replacement pair for the ones that my lovely dog not-so-innocently chewed the zipper (thanks, Lucy). I spent a good thirty minutes redesigning my bedroom in Bed, Bath and Beyond, filled up a cart and determined I could find a way to budget it into my savings before concluding that I liked the way my space looked and put it all away. I lost myself in the Container Store because for some odd reason, organizing gets me excited, and I landed a pair of expensive running pants on sale for $2. And then, I walked across some avenues and got naked.

No, but really.

It wasn’t technically in Soho, but at the Soho House — a swanky, members-only establishment in Meatpacking — but saying I stripped down to nothing in Meatpacking just seems very terrifying and kinda dirty. And while I’d love to say that my baring-it-all adventure was caused by a lovely combination of friends who encouraged me to let it all go and some sparkly something to make me feel at ease, it wasn’t that type of situation. Instead, it involved a fancy gift certificate and a massage therapist who knew just how to knead out the soreness in my very tired legs and shoulders.

It doesn’t seem like much of a story, I know — but when I walked out of my relaxing oasis into the women’s changing room, sporting a fuzzy robe and slippers, I caught a look at myself in the mirror and couldn’t believe what I saw.

For the first time, probably ever, I saw natural beauty.

Beauty that wasn’t made by Maybelline or lined with liner or pinched with pouty lipstick. Instead, it was me. With some flaws and lines, some scars and teeth that definitely aren’t aligned symmetrically and flushed cheeks from nearly falling asleep from an hour of rubbing. I’ve worn makeup nearly every single day since I was 13, and though my skin isn’t entirely clear yet, with the help of Accutane lately, it’s been rather radiant. I’ve been so amazed with the results and the changes, that I decided I would try the makeup-free thing at the spa. So, I must have looked a tad obsessive, standing there looking at myself, but I realized that in my pure state of just me, I was actually, just fine. Better than that actually — I was, and am, just lovely.

With that confidence, I headed to the steam room, where I decided I wanted to go… robe-less. And though no one came in for me to compare myself to, I know I would have felt comfortable if they did. The past six months, I’ve worked really hard to get myself to the very best me that I can be — both emotionally by letting go of the past and imagining a future that’s better, and physically, by making a commitment to running and putting things in my body that are good for me. Or, in the case of my acne-prone flesh, doing what it takes to feel pretty, literally, in my own skin.

And you know what? Sitting there, naked at the Soho House, feeling the sweat everywhere, I felt so incredibly refreshed… and beautiful.

That feeling, though wasn’t just because of a toned body or a complexion that’s clearing up, it was also from dedicating myself — and the pages of this blog — to learning how to love myself for who I am, regardless of what I have and what I don’t. Who I’m dating or not dating. If everything is perfect or everything is unsure. I still deal with bouts of insecurity and moments where I doubt anything I see — but finally, I’m really starting to see the changes I’ve worked for since I started this journey. The transformations aren’t huge breakthroughs or major events that I’ll remember the date of, but it’s moments like that one, that make me see how far I’ve come.

While I will always have a long way to go, I really couldn’t imagine a better ending to my much-needed time with New York than catching the train home, relishing in my daring bare of a day.

You Haven’t Really Been Loved Yet

Feeling the warm water trickle over my feet, I closed my eyes and exhaled, trying to permanently capture this moment in my memory. I lost count of the blue stars above me, and for a second – I lost track of where I was, who I was with and what I was doing. The night burst into a million little white flames, circling and consuming everything I could see, all of what I could feel.

It’s so beautiful! I heard behind me in a few different languages and I whispered it to myself into the air – knowing no one could hear me, but hoping that someone, somewhere did. I can’t believe this is happening to me, I thought as I folded my arms against my chest, pushing sand further into my skin. A meteor shower just happens to happen the night I’m here. After a few failed attempts to take a photo, I gave in and decided it’d just have to be something I see for myself, without looking back at, without trying to show anyone else. This evening, this experience, it would be for me.

Are you okay? a sweet Spanish voice asked, as he reached for my hand. I smiled, tasting the salt on my lips, and told him in as many words as he and I both could understand, that yes, I was more than okay, I was amazing. He kindly wrapped his arms around me and we watched the magic unfold before us, and I thanked him for sharing it with me. After a few minutes, we noticed we were sinking into the ocean – standing still when you should be moving does that to you – and we walked with heavy feet and drunken grins back to the shore, as I wondered if I’d ruined my little black dress with all these tropical stains. I then realized I really don’t care.

So why did you come here alone? A beautiful girl, like you! Alone? I don’t believe it! he, the green-eyed, tall, Puerto Rican cardiologist that my new-found friends called after learning I was traveling solo. I explained for probably the hundredth time in the four days I was there, that I just needed to escape, that I wanted to try being by myself and that really, all I needed was more quiet and sun, less trains and delays. I then casually reminded him that right now, I wasn’t exactly alone. He leaned over and kissed me.

I let him.

Did you come here because you were sad? He asked while tracing imaginary lines up and down my slightly sunburned leg. I closed my eyes and wondered if honesty was the best policy, or if I could just continue kissing the heart doctor who lived to help others, but tonight, wanted to help me. I explained I was healing the organ he knew best, and that while I wasn’t exactly upset or depressed, I was releasing the girl I was to become the woman I wanted to be. Because only I would meet someone who cared about the feelings of a stranger he just met, he asked for the story, and I tried to sum up everything I could in a sentence or two.

You just haven’t really been loved yet.

He said matter-of-factually as he pulled me into him, and looked out into the vastness before us. Confused both by the statement and the tequila that was slightly starting to wear off, I considered what he said. How could this person, who I knew nothing about – not his age, not his last name, not his relationship status (though I hoped single for karma’s sake), not where he’s been or where he hopes to go, not anything – say something he, really, has no basis to claim? The only thing he knew of me was my name, that I write about love in New York, and I was getting over an impossible situation. Wrinkling my forehead, wanting him to stop running his sandy fingers through my hair, I felt anger brewing inside of me  – how could he say that I’ve never been loved?I’ve had how many relationships? I’ve said those delicately powerful three words to how many men? And all of those men have said it back. 

But all of those relationships have ended too, Linds, I considered. Sometimes because of me, other times because of them, and most of the time, because the combination was a little too much or a little too wrong. I’ve thought I’ve found it a few times, only to be proven that whatever it was, wasn’t really what I was looking for – or deserved. These men, the ones I write down in my personal history, the ones I gave myself to and shared portions of my life with, I’ve love endlessly. I’ve felt their love in return, or at least whatever fraction they could offer me at that time. Was this man right? This man who I was teetering between despising and wanting to invite to my two-room suite a few blocks away?

What do you mean? Why do you think that? I asked as I sat up. Look at those eyes, he said and touched my lips again. I pulled away and stared at him, really wanting to know the answer and refusing to let him use lust to distract me. In his best English, trying to make me comprehend, he said, When you’ve really been loved by someone, when that someone is good, they don’t let you get away. They make sure you know they love you, they do what’s best for you, even if it’s bad for them. They fight. When you’re really loved, it doesn’t end. 

Have you really been loved? I inquired, pensively. Not yet, but I hope to be one day, he replied with a crooked grin, begging me to stop talking to him with words, and find another way to communicate. I wasn’t sure if I agreed with him or if I thought he was full of crafty lines and reasons, but I spent the next few hours purposefully not trying to figure it out, and not saying much of anything.

When he left, we shared a kiss in the dark, and he said, Not everyone finds loveBut you will.

And you know, I think he’s right. Though I’ll never see him again – and I like that I won’t – I think he will too. I think we’ll both really be loved one day.

From Me to You on Christmas Day

For each and every time you’ve clicked on this blog. For when you stayed up past your bedtime to read my words. For when you took time out of your day to write me a kind e-mail, a long Facebook note or send a supportive tweet. For following my journey while going about your own. For being there through each triumph and every heartbreak. For the words of encouragement and sharing your own wisdom, stories and experiences. For reminding me of what’s important by simply commenting or passing along my link to your friends. For being part of this blog  for the past 15 months.

For making sure that no matter what, regardless of any disappointment or shortcoming, I never gave up on love – both in myself, in those I know and those I’ve yet to meet.

On Christmas and always, thank you for being part of this life-changing experience. It may only be a blog, but for me, it’s meant everything. And so have each and every one of you.

I hope today is magical for you and yours, and that your New Year brings the best of happiness, of success, of wonder, of friendships, of travels and…

of love.

May you never stop believing in the magic of your own strength and beauty,

Lindsay 

The Love Addict Who Just Won’t Stop Writing :)

Champagne & Pretty Things

Tonight is a New York wonderment – Fashion’s Night Out. It’s the brainchild of the iconic Ms. Wintour and the headache of every editor who had anything to do with fashion or beauty. The idea is that everyone should have access to fashion, and while we can’t all be front row at Chanel’s show, we can go to the Chanel store in Soho and drink the bubbly and admire things we can’t afford. Last year, I met Vera Wang and my desire to meet a fashion designer was fulfilled.

This year, I’m taking it easy – only hitting a few places with M, including a Barbie Bus that I’m super-duper excited about. This season FNO holds a special place in my heart, reminding me of the fun I’ve always had in New York and giving me a break from the melodrama that’s been my life the last few weeks.

Tonight is only about two things: champagne and pretty things. And for the next few hours, that’s all I really need.

PS: I’m looking for other Love & Sex bloggers to participate in an exciting thing for my REAL job. Email me your deets.

I Wish for Wrinkles

It is often the first thing I notice in the mornings, when I wake to splash water on my cheeks and prepare for the day ahead. I see it when I powder my nose in the shadowy mirrors of downstairs basements of downtown clubs I don’t pay to get into because I have breasts. I see it when I click through tagged pictures on Facebook and reflected back to me in the sunglasses of my friends on hot summer afternoons, sipping on mimosas and pretending Eggs Benedict isn’t bad for me.

It’s become part of the structure of my face, a defining feature that adds to my visual character, something that most would refer to as a flaw, but I see as beautiful: a wrinkle, quite deep for someone my age, smack dab in the middle of my forehead.

If I hold my face perfectly still and refuse to react during conversation or to concentrate while writing, it is hardly noticeable. But if you’re around me for five seconds, you’ll quickly see that I almost always have something to say, and I say it extremely animatedly. So even if I wanted to disguise my wrinkle, I’d have to try extremely hard with careful thought, and then I wouldn’t be acting like myself.

I haven’t always been fond of this crease – I used to try to clog it up with makeup, somehow convinced foundation would work like cement, filling in this hole I despised. I considered it ugly and distracting, an imprint I couldn’t erase that caught attention instead of my baby blues. I envied my friends with their flawlessly-tanned skin, without any acne scars, without even the slightest indication of aging or sagging to be found on their faces. Some of my friends are blessed by the kiss of a complexion so clear, you’d think they still had the layer of skin they were born with.

It’s easy to feel insignificant and even invisible in the presence of those who have something you want. It’s easy to compare yourself and to measure all the ways you fall short on the levels of attractiveness when put up against someone who you find alluring. I’m still guilty of entertaining self-defeating thoughts when it comes to my looks, but instead of analyzing the bar scene to see if my friend is getting more attention than I am, I’ve started reminding myself that she’s probably doing the same.

We all have insecurities and parts of our bodies and faces that we wish we could change. Even though we’re all familiar with the prevalence of PhotoShop and the fact that models in person don’t look how they appear on the ads – we all secretly wonder if we could look that way. We see the chiseled, defined bodies of celebrities who we know have the luxury of a personal trainer and dietitian to tell them what to eat and what to work out – and yet, we think we can exercise the same self-control they do, sans scary-drill-sergeant, sans certified-brownie-thief. And we all see features on our friends that we wish we had – crispy, white smiles, legs to die for, hair that always shines. But rest-assured, they see something in us that they want, too.

I’m sure my friends or strangers don’t long for my little wrinkle, but I’m also sure they don’t really notice it. Come to think of it, the only person who has ever mentioned it was Mr. P, but it was in the context of compliment during an intimate moment. Contrary to my personal belief, it isn’t the first thing others notice about me, nor something that would be a deal-breaker for a could-be mate. That wrinkle, which is only the first of many to come, is a tiny reminder of the things about me that are beautiful.

It came to be only because I chose to laugh so hard that I couldn’t control the corners of my grin. It came to be because I’ve spent endless hours thinking and writing, trying to put into words the story that’s always lived inside of me. It came to be because I decided to cry when I was sad, to express enthusiasm when I  was happy or inspired, and to verbalize anger when it couldn’t be softened.

I don’t really wish for more wrinkles and I’m not against plastic surgery within reason, but if having no fine lines means never living one hell of a fine life, then I’d rather have those memories outlined on my face for the world to see. For the world to witness all the beauty I’ve been able to find – in its people, in its challenges and joys, and especially within myself.