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Okay, Internet. I’ve got a deal for you, so pay attention.

The short story is you need to ask me for more solicited advice so I can be witty and sassy in my answers while fixing your life and entertaining the rest of the world.

Fine, maybe not your entire life. But at least the part you’re getting ready to ask me about.

So here’s the deal. For those of you who don’t know, the big glossy mags have huge lead times between putting an issue together and the actual date of publication. I turn my own work into Latina months in advance, which is actually pretty standard in the industry. So, maybe I’m ahead on paper, but next month’s deadline is still giving me the stink-eye.

This summer is going to be insane for me with conferences (like that BlogHer ’14 Me Speaking on a Freelancing Panel because I suck at self-promotion and totally forgot to blog about that when I found out forever ago!) and a few new projects I’ve got brewing. That’s not counting the novel I’m still trying to write, the ChingonaFest workshops and retreats I’m in the planning stages for, and remembering to feed my child, or the times I write “Sex with The Husband” on my To-Do list so I have a visual reminder to step away from the laptop every now and again.

To make my life Slightly Less Insane, I need  you to talk to me. I need my inbox full of questions and to keep it full of questions. Topics include (but aren’t limited to..)

  • * love
  • *sex
  • * relationships
  • * cultural issues
  • * body image
  • * dating
  • * parenting
  • * Crazy Ex stories and related drama
  • * or variations on how to respond the next time someone says you don’t look/sound/act Latina enough. I have found that replacing the U in Fuck with an * totally works for spicing up a glossy mag page.

Email me at dimelo@latina.com.  All questions are confidential and if used, your name is replaced with a sassy secret identity. So basically, ask me for solicited advice and I’ll turn you into a super hero for free.

I know.

I kind of love me right now, too.

 

 

 

** Have you sigedn up for The Tortilla Press Newsletter yet? (Look at the sidebar, y’all)! It’s the best way to stay up to date with my Crazy and the latest #Chingona and #ChingonaFest news! Can’t wait to connect with you on social media!  Follow me on Twitter, instagram, and here’s the FB fan page!

 

 

 

I’m starting to think I need to make digging through the blog archives a regular exercise. Each post is a verbal snapshot showing exactly where I was on the day it was published. I find myself getting lost as I find myself, but not in a bad way. It’s more like opening a family photo album and looking up hours later only to realize the day has already flown by. Old family pictures tend to do that.

I’m a writer. I paint pictures with words. I’m sharing an old one here from April of 2011. It’s amazing how much has changed just as it has stayed the same…

 

Image by Pauline Campos

Image by Pauline Campos

 

Because I remember hiding in the pantry as a child to eat my feelings, I tell my daughter every day how much I love her.

Because my father died when I was 29, I finally understood my mother’s loss of both of her parents at the age of 19.

Because my family broke when we buried my father, I came to appreciate those connections that remain for the precious gifts they truly are.

Because I hated the girl/teenager/woman looking back at me from the other side of the mirror until recently, I tell my daughter she is healthy and strong before I tell her she is beautiful.

Because I grew up knowing I was the reason my parent’s got married, I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 15.

Because every time I thought He’s The One I was wrong, I said “I do” to the right man.

Because I was ashamed of my kinky curls, I silence my first thoughts and simply respond with a “thank you, baby,” every time my daughter tells me my hair is pretty.

Because I was left standing on my front porch waiting for my friends to pick me up for senior homecoming, I learned the importance of holding my head high.

Because I once wanted to die, I am grateful to live.

Because I still have dreams to make a reality, I wake up with a reason to try harder.

Because of yesterday, I have today.

 

 
Bikinis are a season?

What do you mean it’s bikini season? Bikinis are a season?

The commercials say it’s bikini season, and so do the clothing racks at Walmart.

You know how the gyms get packed with fresh guilt and resolve at the New Year and by Valentine’s Day it’s back to not fighting for a parking space before Zumba? I’m starting to wonder if therapists gleefully rub their hands together in anticipation of the throngs of broken confidence vying for a spot on their client lists.

Join NOW! Don’t eat that. Sign up here! Be Happier Than You Are RIGHT NOW…after you pay the membership fee, of course.That’s what the commercials tell us.

And don’t forget to read the fine print telling you that you are not legally allowed to feel anything that even resembles happiness until you’ve successfully managed to wrestle yourself into that pair of skinny jeans without bothering to work out how the hell you were going to get them off.

Because until you zip up the jeans that magically give every woman on the fucking planet a muffin top and a complex, you just don’t get it. You haven’t earned your stripes. Those skinny jeans (and the bikini you have hanging on your bathroom mirror — placed just so as to allow for an unobstructed view as you wait for the scale to tell you what kind of day you’re going to have — those are our reminders that we will never be good enough because the standards keep changing.

Ever try reasoning with a crabby toddler in the middle of the grocery store? Because in this scenario, we are the parent and Other People’s Perceptions are bringing it home in the role of the kid throwing the tantrum in the deli section. We all know who wins in this scenario.

Bikini season is what we live for. It’s what we train for all winter so that when the snow melts and the sun makes us all sunshiny happy, the world knows who talked the talk and who actually walked the walk (or skated on by with a nip and a tuck, ‘cuz that works, too). In a bikini? You are granted this moment of self-validation. Not in a bikini? Don’t bother trying to come up with excuses. You have failed at life. And now everybody else knows. Maybe next year, you’ll actually take this shit seriously. For now, here’s your pool cover-up. I’m not bothering to explain to you why it’s scarlet.

It’s bikini season! This is serious, you guys. It’s time to count every fucking calorie in that celery and carrot sticks lunch and perform death-defying feats of mathematical gymnastics in your head while standing in line for the the elliptical trying to figure out exactly how long you have to torture yourself to make up for the two brownies you ate on the way to the gym because HUNGER IS A THING! You may as well stop trying to feed the rest of us that line about hating yourself skinny if you hate yourself now because everybody knows skinny people are always happy, Goddammit.  Let us know when you’ve decided to let go of that one about your fat ass not defining you as a person (because it totally does and you know it).

Oh sure, there are a few Devil’s Advocates out there spreading happiness and cheer wrapped up nicely in a confident little package for all. They call bikini season things like “Beach Body Bullshit” and try to tell you that it’s only this difficult because we’ve let it become so. They pass out smiles and pats on the head and tell us to find out own version of healthy and to get regular activity and eat a healthy and balanced diet because it makes us feel good. They make a bit of headway before all progress is reversed the minute another Hollywood mom gives birth and six week’s later is on the cover of People in a sexy suit. The picture alone is a head game, but I’m pretty sure the kicker is the carefully worded headline implying that we could have that body, too, if we really wanted it badly enough. I’d ask Gwyneth Paltrow for her opinion, but I’m pretty sure she’d tell me I just need to consciously uncouple myself from the Ben & Jerry’s.

My daughter, who is six, recently heard a friend of mine say something about bikini season and being on a diet because she’d gained five pounds this winter. Basically, my friend said she couldn’t wear a bikini, let alone a bathing suit, until she got rid of the pudge. I’m not going to lie to you. My friend is not a magazine model and was graced with Regular People DNA and a normal, average, let’s go shopping with Marylin Monroe sized 14 body. She’s pretty. She’s active. And she eats all the fruits and veggies.

Outside of “bikini” season, my friend is confident and sassy and has more good days than bad. The minute Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers start the mind-games with sexy-two-piece-wearing success stories, though, all that shit’s out the proverbial window.

Eliana asked me what my friend meant by not being able to wear a bikini when we were on our way home. Did she really mean she can’t physically put on on, she wanted to know. Or did her own mama think they weren’t appropriate? If that was the case, she wanted to know if I get to make the final call on her wardrobe even after she has her own kids.

You bet your sweet ass I said yes.

Then I told her that there are still four seasons, that people think too much sometimes, and that as long as we are healthy and do what we can to stay active and eat what we believe is right for our bodies, that we are all doing just fine. I told her that healthy and happy doesn’t come with size options in the stores, no matter how many times society tries to tell us otherwise. And I told her that she’s just fine and I’m just fine and let’s go home and have some homemade coconut milk ice-cream because life’s successes are not defined at the end by how many bikini selfies we took in our younger days.

But how come she can’t put a bikini on, Mama?, my girl asked me again. I’ll tell you what I told her first, which is that sometimes people say they can’t when they start to believe what others say about happiness and it being a privilege to be earned instead of just being happy because we want to be. That seemed to suffice. The questions stopped. And we went home for ice-cream.

When it was time for a bath, Eliana asked to wear her one-piece in the tub. I’m not an idiot. I said yes.

For the rest of you? Let’s review the steps involved in “getting ready” for bikini season. It’s a simple two-step process that has been needlessly complicated, so I’ll go slow here for you to keep up. Ready? Good.

Step 1: Choose a suit you like in colors you like and show as much or as little skin as you damn well please (providing, of course, you are of age and not my daughter).

Step 2 - Put the fucking thing on.

See how easy that was? As for the snow, I think Mother Nature knocked the coffee over on her memo. Or maybe she just hasn’t felt like shaving her legs yet. Either way, my work is done here.

You’re welcome.

 

 

I’m doing something a bit different today. The always wonderful Kate Sluiter of Sluiter Nation invited me to participate in the My Writing Process Blog Tour. Obviously, I said yes.

Kate even said some very pretty words about me so I need to buy her some fancy chocolate, I think.

Now I get to answer a few questions about how I put words on the screen and you get to stop by Kate’s post (and leave a comment because they are sparkly and shiny and we writer blogger people love sparkly shiny comments) and then you get to read mine (and leave some sparkly shiny stuff over here, too.)

Ready? Good…

1 – What am I working on?

A stroke? A brain aneurysm? Setting a world record for the least amount of recorded sleep in a lifetime? Possibly all of the above. But I’m also trying to keep my blog slightly relevant by occasionally remembering it actually exists. That’s important. I’ve also got the weekly Dimelo column online and my monthly column for the Latina Magazine. That, and digging through my column inbox, takes up a fair amount of my time. Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m also working on deciding if I should selfpublish a memoir that got me agented once upon a time (we’ve since broken up — on good terms, y’all –  and agreed to see other people) or if I should just let it go. Many a writer has many a manuscript written and revised and polished to perfection that will never see the light of day. For some, it’s the book that got them the agent. For others, it’s the book that was written to prove to themselves they could, in fact, write a book. I’ll let you know when I figure out which way I’m going with this one.

The main reason I don’t sleep right now is because the paying gigs (hello #Dimelo) come first and the Wanna Do’s come after. My current Wanna Do is my new novel. It’s tentatively titled Diary of a Mexican-American Teenager and follows Mina, a 15-year-old Mexican-America eating-disordered girl, as she struggles to find herself in a culture that prefers to save face rather than bring disgrace upon the family. It’s very much based on my own experiences, but like any fiction piece based on real events, I have a lot of room to address topics I wouldn’t otherwise be able to touch in a non-fiction piece, seeing as how my family knows what the internet is. I’m still in the early writing stages, but I’m finishing this thing it kills me, dammit.

2- How Does My Work Differ from Others of this Genre?

Lots of Spanglish typos.

Okay, seriously, I think it’s my lack of filter and my ability to turn the filter completely off and tackle the hard stuff. I’m sarcastic and self-deprecating and inappropriate and like to use the word “fuck” like most use salt and pepper in the kitchen — add just the right amount and what tasted good before now takes fucking fantastic with just a few shakes of the right seasoning. But add too much and Perfect turns into an episode of Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsey minus the bleeps.

I also am proud of my ability to capture fatalistic humor — a trait Latinos are known for — in my writing. I once wrote about the moment my father died and those who’ve read it have cried and then laughed and then laugh-cried. And in all the right places, too. I think my dad would be proud.

All of these traits are going into Diary. And yes, even the F-bombs. I was 15 once, after all. And so were you.

3- Why Do I Write What I Do?

Because I’d be in a padded room otherwise. Writing is my release. They say to write what you know and I was doing that before I knew “they” were a thing and that what I was doing was a saying.

I talk about motherhood and body image and eating disorders and self-confidence and self-perception and growing up balancing the tightrope of a hyphen between two cultures because this is what I have lived (and and am living). Too many of us are raised to internalize. To not rock the boat.

I hate that.

From my blog to my journals to my books (written and yet to be) I am the happy accident rocking the boat and ignoring the grumbles and glares from the crowd. I’m the one with the sailor-worthy language cheering on the chingonas while people who know me in real life secretly hope I just shut up for once. I won’t. Because I say what I need to hear and write what I need to read in the hopes of connecting with others searching for the same.

4 – How Does Your Writing Process Work?

BUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAA!

Oh that’s rich. *wipes tears*

Let’s see if I can capture this accurately.

* Wake up at 10 a.m.

* Curse the sun

* Drag myself out of bed

* Feed self & child with food items that do not require actual thought

* Check email, twitter, Facebook, and grumble about the lack of book deal offers in any of my social media channels

* Work on homeschool lessons

* Open laptop for quick writing session while the child reads independently

* Close laptop to take care of the dishes, the laundry, bill-paying

* Open laptop to write and get lost in Pinterest-hell instead

* Open Word to write when Latina editor texts for a We Need it NOW revision

* Finish revision about the time the child finishes reading time

* Tell myself I’ll write after dinner

* Tell myself I’ll write after book, bath, bed routine

* Tell myself I’ll write after the dishes are done. Again.

* Tell myself I’ll write after The Husband gets his happy time

* Cross “sex” off the To-Do list

* Tell myself I’ll write after I pack his lunch for work the next day

* Tell myself I’ll write now because it’s 11:30 p.m. and my writing process is going exactly as planned

* Open laptop

* Stare at blinking cursor

* Say the words “You are totally my bitch” to the cursor.

* Wonder if anyone else is convinced the cursor is actually telling them to “go fuck themselves” with every blink back

* Grit teeth

* Glare at the cursor for being so…judgmental

* Grit teeth again

* Dive in to the words already written for reference

* Because I totally pantsed the first three chapters

* Just like I did the first book I wrote that was never published

* Because I’m ADHD and planning and outlining are super cute

* Plus? I’m a realist

* Find myself staring at the bitchy cursor again

* My brain is formulating

* Because I can’t type a word until the entire scene (or blog post, column, news piece) has written itself in my head

* EUREKA!

* Tell myself I am FUCKING BRILLIANT as I furiously type and type

* Plan my first extravagant purchase to celebrate hitting the NYT bestseller list

*Re-read what I just wrote, grumble, delete, start over

* Type furiously some more

* Gasp, spent, when the jumble of words being channeled from brain to fingers has come to an end

* Swear profusely when I realize it is now 3:30 a.m.

* Close laptop

* Doubt everything

* Talk myself out of not sharing because

* If it needed to be written, it’s meant to be shared

* Brush teeth

* Utilize ninja-like skills as to not wake The Warden as I sneak into bed

* Fall asleep almost instantly because the words I needed to get out have been written

* Rinse, lather, repeat.

And there you have it. The not-so-structured writing life I lead. If madness is a process, I’ve got this.

 

Now for the next stop on the Writing Process Blog Tour.

Megan Jordan of Veleveteen Mind is the brilliance behind Story Bleed Magazine, a knife-juggler (or so she says), host of the BlogHer People’s Party, and writes for Babble. Basically, she’s all that and a bag of really good chips. Plus? Megan has a way with words I can only describe as magical.

Robin O’Bryant of Robin’s Chicks is a syndicated humor columnist and the author of Ketchup is a Vegetable (and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves) . This woman busted her ass, took her self-published book to the NYT bestseller list on her own, and scored a two-book deal because THAT’S HOW YOU DO IT,  BITCHES.

 

The. End.

 

 

 

I’m a little on the crazed side with deadlines and trying to keep up with life in general. In an effort to pretend I’m not going insane, I am posting one of my most popular entries here on Aspiring Mama. The following was originally published in MArch of 2013. Sadly, the topic is just as pertinant today as it was the day I wrote it.

 

A friend recently sent me a link to an article on Ed Bites regarding the author’s thoughts on the media and eating disorders. The article, to be published in Emirates Woman magazine, is well-written, thought-provoking, and importantly (to me, anyway) written from personal experience.

The author, Carrie Arnold, recounts her own experience as an anorexic in treatment. When handed a sheet of stickers and a stack of magazines as a project for a body image group. The stickers were to be used by the patients to label the images of models and celebrities either with a smiley face promoting a healthy body image or a frowny face pointing the finger of blame at the image (and by default, the media as a whole), for promoting eating disorders.

Says Arnold on her blog, Ed Bites: {the latest tasty tidbits in eating disorder science}:

“I was no stranger to advertising. No one really is. But I knew that most ads were digitally altered and that bodies – real bodies – didn’t look a thing like what was portrayed on the pages of glossy magazines. Weighing roughly half of what I currently do, what I did know was that I was terrified of food and eating. Consuming more than the bare minimum of calories left me feeling dirty, and I felt oddly compelled to purge the extra calories via exercise or other methods. 

“Although I couldn’t see it in the mirror, I knew, on some level, that I had long since passed even the most whacked-out culture’s definition of ‘thin’. I didn’t want to look like a model – I’m a geek, not a fashionista. I wasn’t attractive, all sallow-skinned and bony, and I didn’t care. Starving myself was the only way that I could turn down the cacophony in my head. The less I ate and the less I weighed, the quieter my anxious thoughts got. Fashion never crossed my mind.”

And I get that. I’m a self-described life-long recovering bulimic. I was hiding in my parents’ pantry at the age of seven binge eating long before I knew the term and condition was one recognized by medical professionals and at the age of 15, took a news special on a woman treating teens with eating disorders as a “how to”. I was home alone and had been eating mindlessly all evening. At 5’6”, I was curvy but athletically built, wore a size 10, played varsity tennis, and thought I was fat. Random attempts to “become” anorexic had failed horribly and only proved to my warped sense of thinking that I had no self control. Binging, I learned that night, was what I had been doing most of my life, which only served to stuff down and quiet the chaos in my mind.

The answer I had been looking for

Purging was the release I had been looking for. As a first generation Mexican-American, I grew up observing the fine art of Not Acknowledging the Obvious like brides pregnant months before their wedding dates were to take place and family happily ignoring the fact that the premature baby born healthy and adorably chubby. Alcoholics weren’t alcoholics if they didn’t go to meetings and as long as I remembered to not throw up oranges in the shower, I didn’t have to avoid eye contact with my parents after they found the evidence i had forgotten about on the drain.

As Arnold points out in her article, it is very easy to see how the media and the models and celebrities portrayed take the brunt of the blame for “causing” eating disorders. Everything is photo-shopped. Headlines boast the Secrets to a Perfect Body and tell us How to Lose 20 Pounds by Labor Day in issues released just weeks before the actual holiday. And every Hollywood mom seems to either be under contract to drop the baby weight in six weeks, pose in a bikini, and show us how we can do it, too, or become the newest spokesperson for whichever major weight loss program hands them the biggest contract to sign. The message seems loud and clear: Perfection is at the finish line and you better work your ass off to get there before you have the right to feel good about yourself.

 

But is the media at fault?

Yes.

And No.

As Arnold says, compliments from strangers on how skinny she was may have given her a temporary boost, but they didn’t fuel the need to continue with her disordered behavior. I can relate to that, too. I never once looked at a magazine or a celebrity and thought myself less. My mindset was obviously disordered to begin with. If the media did cause eating disorders, every single person watching the same news special I did would suddenly have jumped off the deep end and embraced anorexia and/or bulimia just like I did.

“So what’s the big deal? Why does it matter what causes eating disorders? For one, it affects who we think are at risk and how quickly they are diagnosed… If we think eating disorders are the preserve of vain women, we are less likely to view them as requiring treatment and more likely to blame the victim. No, we can’t just snap out of it and, although normalising nutrition is crucial, eating a cheeseburger won’t cure us.”— Ann Arnold, Ed Bites. 

Changing our focus

No, we can’t snap out of it. Eating a cheeseburger won’t cure an anorexic and learning the definition of self control won’t suddenly help a bulimic figure out how to diet. Similarly, a society hell-bent on proving a market exists for glossy magazine covers of photo-shopped and over-sexed female celebrities and models is doing nothing more than giving the media reason to continue on the current path. If this shit sells, you can bet your ass it’s going to be printed. And while I firmly believe that the media is at least responsible for fueling body image issues in both susceptible children, teens, women and men, I can’t say the media has the power to turn a non-disordered person into an eating disordered mess.

Yes, the media plays a role in how we as a society have come to define beauty in ourselves and others. And as Arnold notes, printing celebrities and their own eating disordered struggles in the “style” section of their publications only trivialize the issue and reinforce the myth that eating disorders are a choice. That, my friends, is complete and utter bullshit.

So who do we blame?

No one, Everyone. Ourselves. Our mothers. The doctor who sent in a nutritionist with a pamphlet on the food pyramid when I was 16 and settled on telling her I couldn’t stick to a diet because I choked on the word “bulimia.”

“The girl thinks she has an eating disorder because she can’t stick to a diet,” I heard her say to the nutritionist in the hallway. “Send her home with this. I’ve got to get back to work.”

Okay, fine. That doctor I actually do blame for choosing to dismiss a cry for help. But is blaming her, or The Biggest Loser, going to help those already suffering? No. It’s not.

Does that mean the media is off the hook?

Not by any means. The media might not be the reason those of us unfortunate enough to have our brains wired in such a way that disordered eating behaviors actually make sense, but there have been plenty of times I have been written about my own good days being ruined by checkout lane headlines telling me I have no right to feel good about myself until I’ve managed to get my ass into the same bikini I wore before I got pregnant almost six years ago.

I’ll give The Powers that Be a pass on my disorder. But I’m holding the media responsible for perpetuating a false ideal of perfection, creating an environment in which our daughters (and sons) are learning to hate their bodies while they should still be playing with their imaginary friends, and reinforcing the belief that self-worth is based on a number on a scale. Eating disordered or not, that line of bullshit is the reason so many of us think happiness isn’t a right we deserve, but one we earn when the scale, the salesgirl, and Other People say we have.

I’m not good with that. I truly believe that until we learn to accept and love ourselves as just the way we are right now, none of us is going to find anything other than a skinner version of ourselves who happens to still hate who we are and what we see in the mirror.

Your job begins now

This is where you take responsibility, my friends.

If you felt good until you picked up that copy of whatever glossy magazine it was that gave you a complex and suddenly had you reaching for a bag of chips out of despair, stop buying, reading, or watching what is obviously a trigger for you. The stories might still sell. The stars might still be selling weight loss programs post-baby because we have turned yesterday’s A-listers into today’s headline just so we can talk about what they’ve gained and how quickly they’ve lost it. Turn your focus inward and focus on changing what you can (how you feel about and perceive your self and body image) and just ignore the rest because it’s not going away anytime soon. We live in a body-conscious time where numbers are given more value than self-perception and worth.

If you need help for an eating disorder or body image issues, seek it out. NOW. If you feel comfortable, share your story and let others know it’s okay to do the same. I applaud Arnold for doing so.

So where does that leave us?

Shut out the noise. Fix the mess inside your head. Then let the rest fall into place.

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