Forgiving the Monster in the Mirror

Yesterday, a good friend of mine posted on Facebook that a trip to the mall with her daughter had left her feeling old, outdated and fat. This friend is far from any of those adjectives. In fact, she’s beautiful, vivacious and perfectly shaped – not to mention she possesses an inner passion for life that touches all of those around her.

Her frustration with the shopping experience stemmed from several factors: 1.) She’d been shopping at a posh, overpriced mall in a pretentious part of town that caters to the wealthy and unrealistic. 2.) She’d been shopping with her 15-year-old daughter, who is tall, willowy and, as of yet, lacks the curves of a grown woman. And 3.) She’d been trying on clothes that should have fit her right, but, in her opinion, didn’t. “Victoria’s Secret makes nothing for a curvy body, at all.  I tried on a bunch of dresses, and if it fit me on the top, it was too big everywhere else. If the everywhere-else fit, it didn’t fit my top.”

A mother-daughter shopping adventure that should have been fun and fulfilling, ended with my friend crying in the parking lot. Even though she admitted later that she felt ridiculous about it, she also admitted that she’s in a place right now where she can’t quite embrace her curves and would like to get back to a body weight that she’s comfortable with. To most anyone, she would never be viewed as fat, not even for an instant; the curves she possesses are beautiful reminders that she has two lovely children and a blessed, abundant life for which she can feel proud of. But her self-doubt rightfully belongs to her. She is entitled to own that emotion, and I respect this and don’t wish to diminish or in any way invalidate her frustration.

warningWhat struck me the most after reading her Facebook post is that, personally, I don’t experience the shopping mall dilemma. A woman who has been thin most of her life and finds herself carrying a few extra pounds will undoubtedly feel disheartened by the fact that the clothing size which once fit her perfectly now doesn’t fit right, if at all. But a woman who has been overweight in varying degrees for the majority of her life doesn’t feel as disheartened, because she’s learned and accepted over time not to be delusional about the clothes shopping experience. She’s stopped searching for a particular fashion trend, style or size and is simply searching for whatever will “do the trick,” hoping it won’t result in the dreaded potato-sack. Sadly, when you have lowered expectations, disappointment doesn’t come around as often. But it does make finding that perfect dress, blouse or bra that much more rewarding.

With shops like Lane Bryant and online specialty stores offering a vast range of sizes, finding flattering jeans, cute dresses and bras with the right fit has become much more attainable. Yesterday, I stopped into a Lane Bryant location I had not been to before and was surprised to see an entirely new look and layout: fashion-worthy blouses and slacks on strategically-placed chrome racks; bras and panties in every cut and style displayed beneath decorative chandeliers. Gone was the department store look. In its stead was a specialty boutique that resembled Victoria’s Secret – only with more abundance, realism and accessibility. Although, in my opinion, Lane Bryant would be better off sticking to its own unique branding technique, offering us plump women a pleasant place to shop where we’re both welcomed and accepted is something to give accolades for.

Body Image ~ Lindsey de Ovies

Body Image ~ Lindsey de Ovies

So to my beautiful friend who faced the disappointing shopping experience yesterday: I have compassion for you. I have compassion for every woman who finds herself without a familiar size at her favorite clothing boutique. I understand the difficulty in accepting your reflection in the dressing room mirror, even though it’s never as monstrous and unforgiving as you give it credit for. But know that there’s hope for finding an equilibrium of peace with your body. Look beyond the norm… think outside the box… become creative in your shopping endeavors. Don’t put too much stock in the pretentious, high-couture malls, where reality is shamefully skewed.

Getting to that place of embracing your curves is a journey not likely to be accomplished overnight, and it may even be exhausting and seem implausible. But have faith – once you arrive at it, the liberation is tangible.

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“My Eyes Are Up Here”

Prolific artist Peter Illig recently completed this painting of me. The perspective he chose is compelling and leads one’s eyes down the canvas – as the title so aptly implies. With brilliant brush strokes and a colorful flare, I think he accurately captured the true essence of who I am: a smart, hip, voluptuous, sexy geek. N’est-ce pas?

48 x 30 oil on canvas

© 2014 Peter Illig

"My Eyes Are Up Here" ~ Peter Illig

“My Eyes Are Up Here” ~ Peter Illig

To view more of Peter’s artwork, visit www.peterillig.com.

Here is an excerpt from his artist statement:

“Centuries ago, the task of the artist was to portray and interpret the “real world.”  Now, it is to discern if there is a reality behind the appearance of things. Reality is created by observation. This search through the stuff of the world, matter and flesh, is inherently erotic. The act of drawing and painting may also be seen as erotic. By immersing ourselves in the physical and material world, we may see the path to a higher realm, and find the spiritual meaning behind physical objects.”

Check it out!

 

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Fanning Into Fire

A touch. A caress. The faint, musky scent of attraction.

Everything outward moving inward,

            fanning into fire,

                   culminating into desire.

the statues of Khajuraho

With uninhibited exploration of hills and valleys…

          and the stark sensation of softness

                  pressed against rigidity.

That is how their love unfolds, under the covers.

curly-divider

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The Roundness of Things

charlie-and-the-chocolate-factory-violet-blueberry-564Every time I see a photo of myself, I am consistently reminded of how very ROUND I am. Like a giant beach ball with legs. Or Violet Blueberry from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

As though if I didn’t have legs, I would roll around or need to be tethered to something to keep me from floating away.

I am not discouraged by this, mind you. When I look at pictures of myself, I don’t cringe and think, “Oh God, I look so fat. I look so ugly. I look so horrible. I need to lose 10 pounds/20 pounds/50 pounds. I need to do something with my hair. I need to wear better makeup. I need to wear better clothes. I need to never go out. I need to never let someone take my picture.

No, when I look at pictures of myself, I simply think, “Wow. I’m round.”

Hips. Thighs. Belly. Breasts. Head.

All round.

Round and wide.

And when I’m standing next to someone, they look so very un-round compared to me.

Does that make me wish to be un-round, too?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of round is:

: well filled out: plump, shapely : complete, full : direct in utterance: brought to completion or perfection : presented with life-like fullness or vividness :

Conversely, antonyms of round include: inadequate, small, low, weak, haggard, waspish.

It is true that I carry a lot of weight around. And it is true that my short legs don’t quite keep up with others. But neither of those aspects prevent me from being active or enjoying life. And I would much prefer to see photos of myself next to the un-rounds, than to be left with no visual documentation of my activities and achievements at all.

This is me:

AfA2.jpg

Vivid, full, direct, complete.

Round.

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Pillow Talk

“But there are things that happen between a man and a woman in the dark… that sort of make everything else seem… unimportant.”

– Stella Kowalski, A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams)

What happens between a man and a woman in the dark makes everything else in the world seem unimportant…  Such truth in a phrase!

Shutting the blinds, pulling the curtains, locking the door, falling into your lover’s embrace.

What a liberating moment!

The stresses and demands of the world, of everyday life, diminish and wash away like dirt beneath a cleansing spout. Even in the darkness of a bedroom, there is emanating light and rejuvenation as two breathless souls intertwine in a choreographed dance of emotion and salaciousness.

It is intrinsic. It is instinctual. It is perfect harmony, untouched by outside influence.

What happens between a man and a woman in the dark makes everything else in the world seem unimportant…

Flesh.

Kisses.

Satiation.

Pillow talk.

When combined, the effect is magical; medicinal.

 

Never underestimate the restorative power of carnality.

 

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In the Depths of Autumn’s Decay

I have discovered many friends lately, some very close to me, who are experiencing a profound and often difficult transition in their lives. This poem was written for you ~ and for everyone going through a life transformation.

In the innermost depths of Autumn,

In the interminable upswirl of leaves and earth,

Comes transition, change, an inevitable onset of life’s temporary slumber.

Different from Spring, this season brings with it the aroma of mortality and decay;

It is pungent and evident and swirls purposefully through the crisp, cool air that we breathe.

Yet with this decay, with this impending introduction to winter’s death,

Appears an opportunity for reawakening –

For rebuilding, refocusing and reexamining;

Like the accumulation of fallen leaves, we gather past thoughts, emotions and memories

And toss them together in a flickering pyre of flames

Proffering them to the earth like an organic offering on the altar of transformation.

By purging them from our bodies, minds and souls, we henceforth allow sufficient space

For a tiny seed of rebirth to germinate within us,

Slowly cultivating in the fertile soul of our acceptance and determination,

Preparing itself for bloom in the restorative sunlight of Spring.

 

© 2012 Enchanted Zaftig

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Adam’s Napkins

Do you know what I love? 

Surprises.

Do you know what I love even more?

When the surprise comes from a friend and involves creativity with a motif that is near-and-dear to my heart!

A few days ago, I received a very special package in the mail containing precious zaftig goods from sculptor and napkin-doodler extraordinaire, Adam Schultz. As many of you are aware, I have been a great admirer of Adam’s work for years. His astute ability to capture the essence and beauty of the abundant female form, in both sculpture and ink sketches, is enlightening and crucial to the body-acceptance movement.

I am pleased and proud to promote his work. As Adam himself states, he is changing the world, “one collector at a time.” I like to think that I am changing the world, one reader at a time. Together, we are making an impact towards ending body shame and changing social prejudice. 

Some time ago, Adam began to sketch abundant female forms on cocktail and dinner napkins while dining out in various restaurants across the country. Popularity over these paper creations grew, and he now offers these one-of-a-kind sketches to the general public. Visit adamsnapkins.com to view an array of his zaftig napkin illustrations, all of which are unique, hand-drawn, autographed and looking for collectors to love and appreciate them.  

I know I will love and appreciate mine!

Viva la zaftig!

SPECIAL OFFER: Now through October 1, 2013, be automatically entered to win a beautiful bronze  sculpture from Adam with every purchase of an Adam Napkin!

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Perfectly Flawed

With cushions from our 1960’s red tapestry couch lined up along the carpet of the living room floor, I attempted to perfect a simple cartwheel. Arms high, legs apart, feet pointed and concentration focused, I twirled. And twirled. And twirled. Over and over again. Trying to perfect a simple cartwheel. 

Hundreds and hundreds of times, I tried.

But I could never get my legs straight. I could never twirl in the air like a windmill. Each time I attempted to perfect a  cartwheel, I landed sideways, off of the cushions, onto the floor. Every single time.

Completing a simple somersault was even difficult for me at times.

I never yearned to be an Olympic gymnast as a child. I never held dreams of winning gold medals and standing on a podium, representing my country while singing along to the National Anthem. Being on the cover of a Wheaties box or a ‘Sports Illustrated’ magazine held no relevance to me. All I wanted was to be able to flip through the yard on my hands and feet, feeling the cool grass between my fingers and toes as I brilliantly and cleverly defied gravity… just like other girls my age were doing. Friends made it appear so effortless and easy, I couldn’t grasp why my own body didn’t cooperate. Was I physically challenged? Had I been dropped as a child? What was my handicap? It was frustrating and disheartening.

As time passed, I slowly came to the realization that I simply did not possess any gymnastic coordination or aptitude (never for lack of trying, mind you, but for lack of capability.) Maturing from child to woman at a very young age, my hips, chest and mid-section grew at an alarmingly rapid rate. Physical coordination was nearly impossible for me during that time. In particular, I recall hiking frequently with my family during numerous childhood camping trips, and my hips and ankles would ache on an almost constant basis. I would tire easily and become light headed during most activities and would pray for a quick finish.

Experiencing ‘growing pains’ was not merely a metaphor, but rather a vivid reality.

Learning to dance The Hustle was perhaps my biggest achievement in P.E. class. I was incapable of bending into a backflip, I couldn’t climb a rope (most girls can’t, but it frustrated me anyway) I couldn’t run track, and I couldn’t balance for more than two seconds on a balancing beam. Free-throwing a basketball into a hoop was doable, and I was proud of my achievements in that category, but dribbling that same ball down the court was quite another story.

Now, this is not to say that I was inept at ALL physical activities. In fact, I quite excelled at roller skating, had been swimming since toddler-hood and could ride a bike all over the neighborhood and back again. But my overall physical aptitude was well below-par, in my perception. So, the rounder my body became, the less I tried to tackle gymnastics and sports and simply concentrated on other, more attainable goals: writing, painting, drawing, immersing myself in academics. I stayed active with roller skating and bike riding and running around with friends, but I pushed the need to perfect a simple cartwheel out of my mind. Eventually, I accepted the shortcoming and moved on.

To everyone, there are limitations; we all face them at one time or another, much to our chagrin. However, an honest attempt should still be made to overcome those limitations – because challenging ourselves is a crucial component to discovering our abilities. How else are we to know what we are truly capable of? Experience everything, at least once, but ultimately, don’t beat yourself up over an inability… because chances are high that you’ll succeed in many other areas, and those successes will reduce those shortcomings to mere dots on the grand scale of life.

Perfection is overrated. Why not try being perfectly flawed instead?

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Embracing a Vision

The following is an article I authored for a women’s magazine. Unfortunately, the publication never quite got off the ground. I decided this piece needed to be shared, regardless. 

 

Have you ever viewed a painting or a sculpture, heard a poem or read a story that awakened your senses? Made you feel passionate about a subject and perhaps initiated a personal catharsis in you?

Art possesses the ability to capture awareness, stimulate thought and ignite emotion. Usually, one cannot view an artistic creation without feeling a reaction toward it, be it positive or negative, compelling or indifferent. Although some artists claim that interpretation is up to the individual, most probably desire a specific reaction; they want you to see what they see, feel what they feel, according to the passion and earnestness of their created work.

Prince Charming

With his sculptural series, “Goddess,” which showcases voluptuous, rotund women in enchanting poses, Adam Schultz hopes to inspire and influence a change in what qualifies as beautiful.

“Art is one of the most powerful ways to promote positive body image,” he states. “When people see these body types represented in a sensual way, rendered in the timeless medium of bronze, they are forced to reexamine their personal opinions of others – and of themselves.”

I first met Adam at a gallery in Evergreen, Colorado, where he was demonstrating part of his sculpting process using oil-based clay. Although we had been in correspondence prior to that evening, speaking with him in person and witnessing his work-in-process was pivotal for me. As an appreciator of the arts, I am constantly inspired by the creativity of others, and Adam’s works speak to me on a very personal level, because 1.) I have the body type he molds, and 2.) We share the same passion about changing the narrowing views on beauty.

Fibonacci’s Girl

Having sculpted a wide range of artifacts for over 25 years – including animals, portraits, memorials and monuments for both private and corporate collections – Adam decided within the last decade to begin creating the figures he loves personally but rarely sees sculpturally. “I find the sensual curves of full-figured women inherently beautiful,” he tells me, a point which is made evident by the delightfully abundant “Goddess Series.”

Adam did not begin his artistic journey as a sculptor, however. In college, he chose drawing as his major and had dreams of becoming an illustrator. It wasn’t until he learned to sculpt that he realized his true passion. For 20 years, he worked at a foundry in Northern Colorado, recreating the styles and textures of many different artists in order to cast their works in bronze. It was during this time that he became an expert in every phase of the “lost wax” process and discovered his own style. To this day, he continues to take sculpture workshops and apprentice with some of the finest figure sculptors of our time. As he says, “I never stop honing my skills.”

So why the focus on full-figured body types?

“I see people feeling ugly their whole lives,” Adam reveals. “I see them hurting and mutilating their bodies to try and emulate Barbie dolls, and I wonder why unique, lovely and curvaceous body types aren’t perceived as beautiful also.”

When his two daughters were around the ages of four or five, both complained to Adam that they needed to lose weight, which determined him even further to play a role in changing perceptions and reversing the low self-esteem crisis pervading our population, particularly in women.

Galatea on view

Although he realizes that not every person who views his sculptures will embrace his artistic intent, he remains committed to promoting positive body image. According to Adam, his biggest critics tend to be those individuals who have fallen into the “thin is in” rhetoric and who find the celebration of rotund bodies distasteful. Adam treats these negative moments as opportunities to educate and introduce a different opinion, as well as to perhaps change a misguided perception.

For the most part, the response to Adam’s “Goddess Series” has been overwhelmingly positive. And that is most pivotal.

“I’ve had women burst into tears after viewing my work,” he shares, “and thank me for helping them to see themselves – sometimes for the first time – as beautiful.”

Art can perform an integral role in drawing attention to a subject and affecting change. Although Adam Schultz realizes that not every person who views his sculptures will embrace his vision, he remains committed to promoting positive body image and making a difference through his abundant sculptural forms.

To view more of Adam’s work, visit www.adamsculpture.com

©2012 Enchanted Zaftig

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The Woman In The Dark

Sitting in the Dark With Red Hair ~ by Juan Alcantara

Sitting in the dark, in silence and solitude, tranquility and discernment,

A woman faces her fears,

Her bare flesh resplendent, encouraging her on,

Diminishing her shame and self-loathing.

She needs no mirror, no reflection, to assuage her hesitations

For the vivid truth speaks to her in a language she’s only just now begun to understand.

“I am wonderfully created.

Each and every fold and curve,

          hill and valley,

             rise and fall of my ample flesh

                gives proof to my unique existence.

My beauty shines from within and without and resonates to the world.

I am electric and noticeable, invaluable and admirable, worthy and unashamed.

I am me.

And I am content.”

The woman in the dark has a conversation with herself that alleviates even her most powerful doubts.

It cleanses and awakens her, offers a life-changing, uncharted path  of revelation and acceptance, love and respect, hope and fortitude.

“I am me,” she sings harmoniously to herself.

“And I am content…”

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