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.

 

Rick Najera

 

A few years ago, I had an idea for a book and a blog come to me while I was trying to fall asleep. Any writer will tell you that ideas are fleeting — and that sleep is optional– so I quietly slipped out of bed, tip-toed out of the room as to not wake the sleeping husband, and promptly grabbed my purse and my credit card before sitting down at the computer.

I had URLs to buy, dammit.

That’s the night I launched Aspiring Mama and started working on the memoir I hope to publish one day. I didn’t know any successful writers personally. I didn’t even know any Pretty Shitty But Determined to Make it Happen writers. Hell, this was five years ago, people. That’s a lifetime in the digital age. Twitter was a verb describing that noise birds make and Facebook was MySpace’s slightly more respectable older cousin I didn’t feel like wasting my time with.

It’s okay. Obviously, I smartened up.

Back then, though, me and my Blackberry only knew how to make phone calls and I was still trying to figure out how to wash the used car salesman smell away from my soul after my previously brief (but highly convenient and yet utterly soul-sucking) foray into the world of blogging. The blog written from my dog’s point of view was brilliant but I don’t think the world was quite ready for that kind of genius. And the baby product review blogging phase means we scored free things like expensive car seats, but I walked away from it because I knew I needed the break to clear my head. My writing “voice”, the one I had honed in the newsroom, had been lost in the free baby-carrier and teething jewelry carnage, you see.

Six months later, I was awake at 3 a.m. buying Aspiringmama.com and began working on the memoir I had titled “Baby Fat: Adventures in Motherhood, Weight Loss, & Trying to Stay Sane.” (Think Erma Bombeck but with more “F” bombs.) It was this manuscript, coincidentally, that led me to Rick Najera and why I’m talking about his new book  — Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood.

Buy it on principal, y'all. Because the title alone is fucking hilarious and that needs to be recognized.

This one wins for Best Title.

 

Also important? I’ll be speaking at Rick’s April 3 reception celebrating his book launch in New York. Because that’s not the kind of thing you almost forget to mention when writing about the event at which you happen to be speaking. But I digress…

I attended the National Latino Writer’s Conference in New Mexico the following year and had been smart enough to sign up for a chance at a critique of the first 15 pages by two of the conference workshop teachers. I was already signed up for Rick Naerja’s comedy writing workshop — not because I knew who he was, mind you, but because comedy has always been a part of what I do — so I figured, “What the hell? This guy might know something about being funny.” And a few months later, there I was, sitting before Rick in our on-on-one session discussing my manuscript…and something amazing happened.

This Hollywood writer who, it turns out, is actually quite the big deal, told me I had a voice. And that it was a good one. Rick told me I was funny and more importantly, that I could write. I remember texting my husband frantically after my critique session to tell him that I had the potential to go mainstream … because RICK NAJERA SAID SO.

I could feel The Husband smiling back as I read his response. He said he liked this Rick guy. He said Rick was smart.

I read between the lines. My husband was thanking Rick for giving me something he couldn’t because This is GREAT, honey! is always suspect when sex is the end goal. While The Husband has told me from the beginning he believes in me and my words, the creative spirit in me needed the validation of an objective party. I needed to know the sleepless nights pounding away at the keyboard, the rejections, and the days where I kicked myself in the ass for thinking I could make something of this little dream, were all worth it.

It is worth it, by the way. I’m proud to be able to say to Rick that I listened, mainly because I don’t do that very often. But this time, I did and I can say I’m Latina Magazine’s Dimelo advice columnist because I kept at it. And y’all? Did you know you can actually get paid for telling people what to do while sitting on your couch without a bra on?  You can thank Rick for that visual, because he told me I had potential.

But I’m not the only one. Rick has played a crucial role in not only encouraging fellow Latino writers, actors, and comedians to not only fight for their dream, but also in creating opportunities focused on showcasing their talents. While picking up honors like earning a spot on Hispanic Business’s 100 Most Influential Latinos in America, an Alma Award for Best Writer for the 2008 film Nothing Like the Holidays, and most recently, a nod from Latin Teen Heat Entertainment for being a Hot Hollywood Dad, Rick also has helped launch the careers of countless performers in his role as director of the CBS Diversity Comedy Showcase. The 2014 Showcase alone delivered three writers to Saturday Night Live and 16 series regulars to TV. I’m sure, of course, that Rick also serving as coach, mentor, and teacher during the four months of preparation has something to do with that.

It’s because he makes us laugh. You know that, right? Comedic writers wield a power like no other, because it is through laughter that so many of us are able to process and discuss controversial or difficult subject matter. If you’ve watched one episode of In Living Color, you know what I mean. Rick Najera is a master of comedic timing and knows exactly which buttons to push so that when we get to the punchline, we aren’t just laughing…we’re thinking, too.

Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood”. I’ll give you the short version because I know you’re already planning on buying the book — which — by the way, was just nominated for Most Inspirational Non Fiction Book by Int’l Latino Book Awards. Basically, Rick says dream big or go home. The focus, of course, is on the Dreaming Big part, because Rick is inspiring and not an asshole. When you want something, you make it happen.

Since we’re talking about change and forging our own paths, let’s talk about diversity and Latino representation in Hollywood. I’ve always subscribed to the Write What You Know philosophy. For a long time I think I had convinced myself that every writer thinks like this, but the truth is that white males dominate in the writer’s rooms. Without real world experience from which to draw upon when creating the Latino characters and culturally-themed story-lines the public is calling for, their attempts fall flat and are oftentimes stereotypical and offensive.

Jesenia, Co-Creator of The Comedy Girls (and apparently too fancy for a last name) is another Latino fighting for more diversity. She’s made it her personal mission to get a Latin American FEMALE cast member on SNL. She says, and I quote, “Because Latin Americans are only represented accurately when we are representing ourselves, we need to not only continue creating high quality, non-stereotype content – we also need to step out of constantly boxing ourselves into the Latino category, and instead create work that speaks to all audiences of every race.”
I’ll high five you Jesenia for that one later. Because what she says here is that the responsibility in how we are portrayed in the media is not one we can just pass off on Hollywood. And that, my friends, leads us right back to Rick, being Almost White in Hollywood, and encouraging Latin American writers to keep knocking on those closed doors. If it never opens, we knock a new hole in another wall, pull up a table and some chairs, and write the stories that we know need to be told.
***If you’re in New York, I’d love to see you there! Click here for ticket information. I’m driving four hours to the closest train station so I can not have to think for the remaining 6 hours of the trip, so I don’t want to hear bitching about how traffic in the city is a nightmare. Suck it up, show up, and a good time shall be had by all.

 

 

Follow the words, y'all

 

Sometimes I like to look up the search terms that lead people to Aspiring Mama. Usually this happens after a random conversation I have with a real person like The Husband or my kid or the one neighbor who’s house I can see from the end of my drive (as opposed to the pretend people that live inside of my iPhone).

Today’s foray into RandomSearchTermLandia was spurred on by Monday’s blog post showcasing my girl and her daddy in their kilts and The Husband muttering something about his legs being all over the internet again. When I called him Kilt Daddy and told him to show me his Irish, he totally thought he was getting lucky later and, sadly, I had to tell him that was gonna have to wait for me to finish writing for the day. It took him a minute before he was all Who is this Kilt Daddy?

Reason # 9,487 I usually write nonfiction

So I showed him. Since publishing the original post two years ago, that very term has been one of the most popular internet searches leading readers directly to Aspiring Mama. Other winners include

*Advice Columns of Satire

* Funny Stories About Maine

* Pictures of Finger Monkeys

* Do Cats Blink

* Multiple Women Naked Bodies

* How Much is a Baby Finger Monkey?

*Autosucking

and

* Broken Legs or Sprain Ankles of Famous Persons

 

Just remember, y’all, while Google may be telling you the truth when it shows you The Husband’s sexy legs when you ask it for the Kilt Daddy, Google is a damned liar about the finger monkey expert thing. That, my friends, was one blog post from way back when that was the first thing ever pinned by a reader and how I learned Pinterest had been invented.

Oh, and that one about the broken ankle? In my defense, there was a lot of meat on that sandwich.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 
You know those stories that are never funny when it’s happening but always hilarious later? Yeah, that happens to me all the time. Here’s a little gem from an incident from way long ago. The Husband and I were a shiny-new married couple and I was still in the early stages of learning how to cook because I love my mother but I came into this marriage with zero culinary skills. Trust me on this one, y’all.
***
“It tastes like pureed fire ants,” I said, dropping the pizza slice I had been trying to force myself to eat. “Just throw it away. You don’t have to eat it to make me feel better.”
He blinked, not unlike a deer looking into a fast approaching set of headlights. If he stayed still long enough would the car not see him?
“Are you sure?” He was understandably hesitant. Who could blame him? Before him sat his new 20-something wife who had just spent hours in the kitchen working on a homemade pizza with a made from scratch sauce recipe that had gone horribly wrong. The look of doubt on his face when I told him he was off the hook told me he was pretty sure he had signed something legally obligating himself to pretending to like anything I set down in front of him…at least until I gained 10 pounds and the pressure was off.
“Yes, I’m sure,” I said. I refused to let myself cry. Just because I had baked a pie so God-awful that I couldn’t even swallow a bite without wanting to vomit didn’t mean I couldn’t hold on to a bit of dignity, right? “It sucks. Just throw it away.”
He didn’t have to be asked a third time. The garbage disposal was erasing any remnants of the nightmare I had prepared and the plates washed before I could wipe away the tear that was dangling from my bottom lashes. Instead of breaking into hysterics, I threw back a glass of wine and poured another.
Seeing me visibly relaxed, my husband decided it was safe to speak. Specifically, he wanted to know what the hell had happened in the kitchen. I wasn’t in the running for my own cooking show based on my culinary talents, but I knew how to follow a recipe.
I leaned back against the kitchen counter to think where I had gone wrong while sipping my wine. I compared my shopping list against the ingredients listed in the recipe. I went over my steps and the recipe directions. It all checked out.
Except…
“This is probably what did it,” I squeaked out, realizing my mistake.
“This” was my mother-in-law’s homemade dehydrated habanero peppers, more affectionately known as Death Dust. A little goes a long way in a stockpot full of chili and a lot makes a single batch of pizza sauce taste like, well, pureed fire ants.
“How much did you use?” He asked. “You know you’re only supposed to throw a pinch of that stuff into anything if you want to add some heat, right? A pinch.
He demonstrated for effect.
“Well, I started with a pinch. Then I thought a inch was for pansies so I added more,” my voice breaking. “And now I’m a horrible failure and can’t cook and please don’t tell anyone about this ever because Oh My God did that pizza taste like…like…”
“Pureed fire ants?”  What a good husband. Thanks for reminding me. 
“Yeah, that.”
He laughed. I cried.
And then we called for take out.

 

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