adulthood · aging · authenticity · confidence · femininity · joy · life · self-acceptance · self-love · vulnerability

"Only Her Hairdresser Knows For Sure!"

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I am likely not the only woman to tear up at the sighting of
a gray hair on her head. But I may be one of the few who wells up with tears of
gratitude.
Yesterday, during my morning primping, I noticed a gray
hair. I usually don’t pull them out; this isn’t the first I’ve noticed. But
this one, I decided to.
About 5 inches of silver, shiny, light-catching hair. 5 inches
that have grown back since it all fell out from chemo in late 2012.
Call me crazy, but I’ve never been scared of going gray. I
had none at all before cancer, and several now. But, even before then, I always
thought of it as a rite of passage. As a crowning achievement, really. You’ve
made it
. You are alive to go gray at all. You are passing into the stage of life that
is for richness, boldness, satisfaction, self-esteem and a greater degree of self-assurance.
If there’s anything I’ve learned from reading about aging
generations, it’s that so much of our self-questioning begins to fall away once
we reach “a certain age.” We begin to think less about how others see us, and
more to question what we want to leave as a legacy. And this brings with it so
much reflection and truth-finding.
Who wouldn’t want to
age into that category?
Surely, you don’t have to turn 50 to begin to assess your
values and your desires for the remainder of your years. Like me, and surely
others, you can do that at most any age. But it helps to have some experience
behind you to make those choices from a place of peace, not fear.
The first memoir I ever looked at, I didn’t read.
I saw it on a shelf in Borders (when it still existed) about
7 or 8 years ago. I noted the title, looked at the flap, and went on with my day.
But I never forgot about it, and last year finally picked it up to read.
The title? Going Gray:
What I Learned about Beauty, Sex, Work, Motherhood, Authenticity, and
Everything Else That Really Matters
. A
woman’s exploration of what that means to “go gray” in our culture and society.
A lifelong hair dyer, she made the decision to give up the illusion, and embrace
whatever lay under the chemicals, for better or worse.
Author Anne Kreamer looks at the history of dying our hair;
goes “undercover” as a woman trying to reinvent herself to re-enter the
workforce to see if image consultants will tell her to dye her now growing-out
grays (none do); and comes to discover that with her new look comes a new clothing
color scheme, and a new confidence.
She also doesn’t purport the superiority of letting her hair
grow out. She talks with successful women who do and don’t dye, and let’s them
have their experience. All she can speak to is her own.
Surely, it helps that she goes gray in a “nice” way, with
silvery and dark chrome strands. Which is much the way I anticipate I will.
With my dark coloring, I imagine that I will go silver,
instead of stale gray, or as my mom describes her (dyed) fading blond: dirty
dishwater.
So, that “beauty in the beast” helps my acceptance, I’m sure.
But what brought me to tears yesterday as I stood there,
admiring this newly-found strand, now plucked and held like a precious object
in my hand, was the reality and giddy reminder I feel every time I find one: I made it. I am alive to have gray hair.
I’m alive to see what will happen with it: if they’ll turn out
all spidery texture and I’ll lament I ever praised finding them. If I’ll
consider dying it after all. Or if I’ll love every single thread of life these gray hairs represent.
I tear up when thinking about this, because it’s true.
Because, like someone admiring a sunset, or their sleeping child, or the taste
of a food never eaten, it means I’m alive.
Which itself means I have a chance and a choice to make my life whatever I want
it to be.
My gray hair represents possibility, transformation, and
authenticity.
Who wouldn’t rejoice? 

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adulthood · family · femininity · love · motherhood

Dear Mom, I Hallmark You.

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It was always very clear what our family would do on
Mother’s Day: We would have bought hanging fuschia plants at Metropolitan Plants up on Route 17 in Paramus, one for our mom (Ben’s and mine) and one for
my Dad’s mom. We’d make the U-turn by Grand Union, near which, whenever driving
past it together, my best friend M. and I would parrot a mean jingle about our
babysitter: “Get everything you don’t want aaaat Grand Pam!” (name changed for
anonymity!)
Once home, we’d exchange the broken and feeble fuschia that hung by the
side of our house all winter for the new one, hook the other in the Camry, and
drive over to Queens.
After the lovely awkwardness of pizza with them, our family
would reward ourselves by stopping by The Pastrami King. Which has since
closed, and there’s now a Pastrami Queen somewhere, which, sorry feminism, is
not as good.
Pastrami King had the real barrels of pickles along the wall, all different
kinds, fat, warty, dark, light green, and my mom would dive into the barrel with the plastic tongs to fetch these prizes out of the water. My brother and I would gag at
her.
We’d get round potato knishes and pounds and pounds of,
really, the best pastrami I’ve ever had, and also some of their own spicy
mustard – because people, no mayo, no ketchup, nothing but MUSTARD, is supposed to go on a pastrami sandwich. Sorry.
It’s the Jew way. Well, at least,
our Jew way.
Mother’s Day did mean
something in our household, and despite all the “It’s a Hallmark holiday” scorn
it receives, and despite the mixed emotions it may bring up for people who’ve
lost moms, lost babies, can’t or didn’t have babies, for me, it’s nice. Yes,
even on this arbitrary date some CEO thought up some years ago, it’s nice to
acknowledge my Mom. And so, I do.
This year, by coincidence and fortune, I came across a
website with cuff bracelets with large metropolitan city subway maps engraved
into them. Paris, Berlin, Chicago, New York. My mother, the consummate New
Yorker. In fact, this very morning, she sent me a batch of photos from the
window display of her local dry-cleaner. The purveyors apparently rotate a series
of Barbie tableaus. Last time was the Oscars, complete with a miniature “Gone
with the Wind” poster, red carpet, and a Marylin Monroe Barbie. This month, a Barbie Seder,
with mini Afikomen and all!
She loves the city, and so, my brother and I split the cost
of one of these cuff bracelets for her. She may never wear it, it may be “not
quite right,” and sure, a nicely written
card could have done the same thing, and for many years it has. But, this year,
it was nice to say, “Hey, I know this is something very important to you, a
part of you, this city, and I want to give you something that represents that,
that says, Ben and I know you. You are not invisible, you are seen, you are
recognized, and you are appreciated in your interests and oddities.” (Not many
women her age would brave black and white saddle shoes with skinny jeans. But,
her photo to us to mark the start of Spring was of just that!)
I am not a mother. I don’t know if I will be, the fates
haven’t sent me that postcard yet. But it’s baby season around me. At work, I’ve gotten
to snuggle almost weekly with what started as newborn for the last 4
months, and now teeths and laughs and dances and flirts all shy and coy
sometimes, while his mom gets to compose emails with two hands. Like yesterday, I’ve gotten to snuggle another newborn at my friend’s house, letting
him sleep on me for swaths of time where my little heartbeat rests right
against his, and his flutters like a bird, and he’s so warm and soft and new.
It’s glorious.
I’m flying out at the end of the month to visit one of my
best girl friends on Long Island. She got married last year during 4th of July,
went on honeymoon in August, and got pregnant on a boat in the Mediterranean. 9
months later, baby. I asked a few of the new moms I know if it would be “worth” my
flying out to see her. How “important” it was. If money were no object, it
would be no question. It’s the only time at work that I can really go in the
foreseeable future. 
How important is it? The baby won’t remember. My aunt tells
me all the time how she was there when I
was born. I don’t remember. Doesn’t really mean anything at all to me. Or, at
least, it hasn’t. But, now I’m beginning to see that it is meaningful — to the adults. To have
the people you love around you at a time when everything is changing, exciting, exhausting, new – I’d want my best friend there, too.
I don’t have those “uteran tugs” that some women experience
around their 20s and 30s, that ache for a baby in my body. But being so close
to the motherhood around me makes it so much more real, significant,
miraculous.
I’ve written before about my own “Maybe Baby” question, so this
one is just to say, laying a baby – my baby or not – on my chest, having him
nuzzle into me and rest because I’m a safe place, is Life’s great privilege. 

balance · beauty · community · femininity · progress · truth

Hi. My name is Molly, and…

My thighs don’t touch.
(The following will be the notes and musings of a
hopefully complete article I’d like to submit to some magazine or website or
another.)
There was some article flying around social media recently
about “real women” and their thighs touching. Somewhere along the way, the idea
of women’s thighs not touching became the measuring stick for skinny, and has
since become a meme for ire, derision, and rejection.
I want to fully and emphatically state that I believe in the
“real women” movement that seeks to show all body types as valuable, beautiful, and audaciously sexy. I love that
there
is a movement whose purpose
is to extol the virtues of all people and to help dismantle the idea that there
is only one ideal for beauty, fitness, and femininity.
However, there is a seething undercurrent to some of this new
“inclusiveness” that feels like burning those of us whose thighs don’t touch at the stake. That somehow in simply being and
looking how we are, those of us with
this kind of body shape are pulling down the wave of feminism. That if your
thighs don’t touch, you are a tool for the patriarchy, and what’s wrong with this country.
Like many women, I poke at my body, prod the sagginess that
is and is below my tush. Lament the flatness of what god gave me to sit upon. I
pinch my belly flesh when sitting, and feel a little chagrined that my boobs
are small, but not pert, and like so many others’, simply collapse flatly
when I lie down.
But, I read a quote from a cancer survivor when I was
fighting Leukemia that helped put some of this in perspective, and I have it
taped to the full-length mirror in my closet:
When I wake up and my jeans don’t
fit right: There are times when I still have those annoying body-image moments
we all have. You can’t skip through a field of flowers every day. You just
can’t. But I’ve come to realize that if you can stop the spinning in your brain
of My jeans are tight, I can’t believe I ate that—if you can change your clothes, put some mascara on, get out of the
house, and move on, life will be much more fun.

The truth is we women are just way
too hard on ourselves. We need to remember there’s total beauty in who we are,
and it’s not about what we look like. Cancer made me realize: You can cut off
all your hair, and people will still think you’re great; you can look your
worst after chemo, and people will still love you. So what the f–k have I been
worrying about all my life? We spend all this time looking in on our lives from
the outside, but we gotta get in it, and live it. Because it’s a day-by-day
gig.
And if this is true, if what this “real women” movement is
supposed to be saying is that we are more than what we look like on the
outside, and that the outside no matter
what is beautiful, too… then why are we burning women whose thighs don’t touch at the
stake?
There is a contradiction and hypocrisy in some of what that
movement is purporting: All women are beautiful, except those whose thighs don’t touch. They are part of the problem, and
all must be dismissed and eliminated.
I get that there is a
pendulum swing that must happen in order for us to come to the center of this
issue, to the place where there is equality and equanimity, and I am still proud
that this trend toward inclusiveness is happening in my lifetime. But as a
member of the generation of women who are supposed to be supported and elevated
and freed by this wave of feminism, I would like to be able to feel like I can
march along as a “real woman” too, atop thighs that simply don’t touch, without being accused
of treason. 

change · discovery · femininity · grief · growth · love · recovery · sexuality · spirituality · vulnerability

And So, She Wakes.

As I was flipping open my Morning Pages notebook this
morning, it fell open to the back page. Written at the top was “Meditation:
Lodge Day 4.” I usually write my journeys and meditations in another
“spiritual” notebook, to keep them all together, but I couldn’t find it last
Thursday when I apparently wrote this. I’d forgotten, and it makes intensely
marvelous sense to me now, and I’m happy I stumbled upon it.
Again, bear with the “do we have to listen to another one of
these woo-woo Mollyisms”!
As you may recall, I went to my first sweat lodge last
Sunday, and we were told by the facilitator that the lodge “works” for four
days after the lodge, hence, Day 4 above. The meditation on that day, then,
went something like this:
The four characters of Beauty, Love, Sexuality, and
Femininity [I guess I didn’t write a blog about her, but a former meditation introduced my Inner Femininity to me as one anorexic and frightened looking young woman, who has been getting healthier for a few months] gathered at the lodge fire. Sexuality discarded her heavy cloak of
shame into the fire. All of the rest of “us” stood behind her – all my aspects
that sit at my internal dinner table, all my animal guides, and all my teachers
human and otherwise. Then the 4 entered the lodge, not with “me.” In the lodge,
they merged, joined, combined, and exited as one. She then purged all these
prayer bundles [little sacks of tobacco filled with prayers, tied together with
string, usually tiny, about the size of a nickel] and the last one was about
the size of a bowling ball, filled with shame. It burned brightly and a phoenix
rose up from the ashes and swam about the clearing. All the others whooped and
cheered – there was great merriment [so it says in my notebook]. She grabbed
onto the phoenix and made the whole trip back from the Santa Cruz mountains and
to my apartment where I sat meditating. And she asked me, Are you ready? And I
answered Yes. And she joined me, into me, empowers/powers me now [I write]. Am I
ready? Yes.
So, what? I realized this morning as I read over this page
that, in fact, something like this has happened. My dalliance with the married
man began the very next day. Brief and physically Rated G as the now-ended tete-a-tete was, I have not felt that kind of power, or charge, or electric in a long time.
That awake in a long time. 
I relate it to the awakening of a limb that’s long been
asleep. Suddenly it starts to tingle, which feels sorta nice, and then, more suddenly, it begins to
feel like it’s burning as it awakens. As the blood starts to rush almost anew
into this place so long cut off. You almost wish it would simply go back to sleep again – better that than this. As you know, I’ve cut off much of these parts
of me for quite some time, imagining, and having fed the story that my
sexuality, femininity, beauty, and love bring me pain, destruction,
self-hatred, and, again, shame.
So, beginning to feel the tingle of these parts of me again,
these massive alive energized parts of me, means that I’m beginning to walk with
my full self again. See, I don’t think it’s just about sex, or being a woman, I
think it’s about me being a full and entirely embodied human. About allowing
the blood, power, energy to flow into ALL of myself. And when that is allowed
to happen, well, I believe I’ll be able to take actions I haven’t been able to
take before.
I wrote a few informational interview query letters out to
networks of mine last night, and in it, I wrote a line that surprised me at its
truth. I wrote that I would, ideally, like to paint, act, sing in a band, and
facilitate workshops. So, there you have it. I now have an answer to “What do
you want to do.” Isn’t that lovely?
In fact, it is. I know that I’m still finding my way to
getting there. But having full working ability of all my limbs has been the
only way to get there. When, over the last several months I was told that I had
to work on this sex stuff before I could get “more information,” well, I think
I’m coming out of it/into it. I think I’m clearing it.
Apparently, sure, I have some work to do on how to do it
skillfully. My old habits with righteously attractive unavailable men are much
more familiar in my muscle memory – and as my muscles awaken, they seek the
familiar. (And seek to post the NIN “I wanna fuck you like an animal” on facebook!) So, it’s about owning, and holding these parts now – how to hold them
properly, and respectfully – without
fucking shame.
Finally, I realized yesterday, as I was clicking “attend” to a workshop for Shamanic Journey work, that if my professional development could
be anything, it would be this – sweat lodges, and collage parties, and shamanic
journey workshops. That my professional development ought to align with my
personal development. It makes a lot of sense to me.
Therefore, again, it’s about heading there. About allowing
myself to head there. Sure, I may need to find a job for the mean time, the in
between time, but with the full use of my faculties, with a widened and
compassionate understanding of the voraciously ambitious and pulsatingly
powerful support of my full feminine, human, creative self, with an eye for new
behavior, and with a welcome acceptance of all that I am, and want, and yearn for –
I believe that, Yes, I Am Ready.