Thursday, October 31, 2013

Be Your Own Hero: How I Became an Athlete in My Twenties

By Hardkore Lena

How many times have you wanted to try a new hobby or activity, but were too paralyzed by fear of failure or embarrassing yourself to even give it a second thought? How many times have you then quashed that fear, thrown caution to the wind, and tried it anyway?

Photo Courtesy of Hardkore Lena's Facebook Page

For much of my life, my answers to those questions were "all the time" and "almost never". I watched my friends decide to take up swing dancing, debate, ice skating and go at it wholeheartedly--even if they were terrible at their chosen activity. I was both fascinated and horrified by it. How could they so nonchalantly embrace something new, and the very real chance that they might not succeed? To me, the possibility of finding a new passion never outweighed the terror I felt at the thought of failing.

Like many girls, I grew up with a seemingly firm "knowledge" of what I was good at--and what I wasn't. It wasn't that anyone told me I couldn't do the things I wanted to; it was that I knew from a young age that I am a perfectionist, and I have an inherent fear of failure, of disappointing others, of never being good enough. Figuring out what I was good at and sticking to those things seemed like the best way to never seem incompetent or risk humiliating myself. By the time I was a young adult, I knew that I was good at creativity-based things--writing, art, singing, crafts--as well as "being smart", giving advice, helping others. On the other hand, I also knew that I wasn't good at math, science, video games, or anything requiring athleticism, coordination, or any amount of grace. I felt secure in that knowledge, and didn't feel much shame in telling people the things I was bad at, because then I knew that they would have much lower expectations of me if they asked me to, say, mentally calculate sales tax or play a pickup game of sand volleyball.

Everything I thought I knew about being good at things and bad at things changed in March 2012. A close friend, who would soon come to be known as Pimp MaLady, had told me she wanted to get into skateboarding, which I thought was neat; then she changed her mind.

"I want to play roller derby," she said one afternoon. "I saw a poster in the bathroom at Tony's [Tavern] and I want to try it." I asked if she thought it was a good idea, considering the only knowledge either of us had about roller derby was from watching the movie Whip It. "Look," she said, "everyone else I've told has said that, or made bets on how long it'll be before I get seriously hurt. Can you just come check out a practice with me, and be supportive?"
Photo courtesy of the Appalachian Hell Betties Facebook Page

A few weeks later, Pimp & I headed to the skating rink on a Sunday evening to watch the Appalachian Hell Betties, the local roller derby team. I didn't mind going along for moral support, as I was curious what it would be like in real life. Pimp wasn't planning to actually skate that day, but when we arrived, several girls told her she was welcome to participate. That was all it took. She laced up a pair of rental skates, strapped on borrowed pads & a helmet, and did everything she physically could for the whole two hour practice. I was in awe of her moxie. She wasn't great, but she was determined, and more importantly, she was having fun. It got me thinking: Could I try this, too, even though I would probably be awful at it? I decided I could at least try skating again and see how it went.

Later that week, I went to an open skate session and met with Dame Reffin' Pain, the Hell Betties' head referee, who had offered to help me learn some of the rudimentary skills I'd need. I hadn't been on skates in the better part of ten years; she had to tow me to the wall, and there I stayed for most of the evening. The following Sunday, I drove to practice by myself, as Pimp had to work. This was something so far outside my comfort zone, and I could think of a million excuses I could make to not even try--I wasn't athletic enough, I didn't know anyone there, I was horribly uncoordinated, I couldn't even stay upright on skates for very long, et cetera. I did it anyway. I rented skates. Borrowed gear from the team supply. Felt like I was going to die from sheer terror every time one of the veteran skaters zoomed past me with barely any room to spare. Fell directly on my tailbone more times than I could count.

But I survived that first practice. And then I went to another one, and survived that. And then another. Two weeks after my first practice, I committed myself fully and ordered a pair of skates even though I was terrible at even the most basic skills. I then spent as much time wearing them as I could, at two or three practices a week, open skate sessions at the rink, at the outdoor hockey rink behind the community center, and on the bike path. I sweat more than I thought was possible and had sore muscles that I'd never known existed. My progress as a skater was slow; in fact, I'd never struggled so hard to understand and execute anything in my life. For the first time, I was actually sticking with something I wasn't immediately good at, and instead of feeling bad about my inabilities, I simply let them drive me to work even harder.

I began to realize that I had spent much of my life in fear--fear of failure, judgment, feeling stupid, looking stupid. I didn't fully understand yet why I was suddenly able to shrug off those fears that had owned me and dictated all of my actions for so long. It wasn't until I happened upon a Huffington Post article entitled "The Trouble with Bright Girls" that things started to make sense.

You can read the full article here, but the point that motivational psychologist Heidi Grant Halvorson makes is that "More often than not, Bright Girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice." There it was, then: I had finally challenged that fact I thought I knew about myself, that I was not athletic and never would be. It was the single most liberating thought I'd ever experienced.

Realizing that my abilities were not static radically changed the way I saw myself. Rather than regarding myself as an awkward, gangly chick who lacked grace but was giving roller derby a valiant effort, I started to view myself as an athlete--something I had never done during years of soccer, basketball, volleyball, and cross country. Once that mindset took over, I found myself treating myself like one, too: eating better, staying hydrated, sleeping more. (Most of the time, at least...sometimes I still need to eat an inappropriate amount of chocolate or stay up too late. Hey, I'm only human!) My confidence in my abilities skyrocketed; I found new determination and drive. Along the way, I chose my derby name: HardKore Lena. It was both a play on my real name and a statement about who I was trying to become.

I had initially thought that I didn't much care whether I was ever rostered for a bout (game), because I was so focused on simply improving my skills, and more importantly, enjoying the hell out of what I was doing. But as I gained that confidence and improved more and more over the course of my first season with the team, I realized that I did care. I wanted more than anything to wear a Hell Betties jersey for more than just photos and public appearances, to take the track with my teammates and play competitively. By the start of the 2013 season, I felt ready, and more importantly, confident that I had earned a place on the roster.

Less than a week before we began our minimum skills testing in February--which I had to pass in order to become roster-eligible--I suffered my first major derby-related injury, badly spraining my right ankle during a drill at practice. I was devastated, terrified that I was about to lose everything for which I had worked so hard and be forced to watch my dream slip through my fingers. I experienced a lot of doubt during those first days spent on the couch with my foot elevated, encircled by multiple ice packs. Had I just been fooling myself into thinking I was really talented enough, strong enough, good enough to play roller derby? What if this injury rendered me physically incapable of continuing, or worse still, what if I was still physically able to play, but couldn't overcome the fear of injury?

After a short but seemingly interminable five and a half weeks, I found my doubts to be unwarranted. While I had indeed lost some strength and stamina, and found that I did have some limitations in what my ankle could handle, I completed my skills testing the same week. I asked to not play in our first bout in mid-April, just to give myself a little longer to heal, but I was rostered for the remainder of the season. In just under a year, I went from barely able to stand on skates to finally feeling like a "real" derby girl, like I'd really embraced my name and become HardKore.

As I prepare for the start of my third season with the Hell Betties, I am still amazed at the ways in which my life has changed because of roller derby. I am stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally. I take bruises and the occasional busted lip in stride. While I accept that I will most likely never play at a highly competitive level, I am confident in most of my skills, and know that hard work & dedication will improve the skills that are lacking. It's not all fishnets & glitter, sunshine & rainbows, though. Being involved in derby is much like being in a relationship. It takes up most of the time I used to spend on other hobbies. Non-derby friends have accepted that they don't get to see me as much; a few have quietly drifted out of my life. I demand more of myself than ever before!

Playing roller derby is great. Having a sense of community is wonderful. Finally feeling like an athlete is amazing. But coming to that realization that I truly can do anything I put my mind to? That's the best part of it all.

HardKore Lena plays roller derby for the Appalachian Hell Betties of Athens Ohio Roller Derby, and is a crafty nerd girl in what little spare time she has. You can follow her adventures on Facebook , Twitter, and the team's website. And of course you can find her here on I Feel Delicious!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Successful Women: Criminal Profiler and Writer Chelsea Hoffman

By Caitlin Seida

Chelsea Hoffman is an enigma wrapped in a riddle wrapped in a taco shell. Okay, really she's an ace criminal profiler and author, but the above description sums up her personality - a mix of sincerity and humor - perfectly. When asked how she got into criminal profiling, her first answer was "I was visited by three ghosts." The real story is much more interesting.

"I've been interested in serial killers since I was a child." Chelsea tells us. Her grandmother started her on the path of analyzing criminals by reading true crime books a lot. But her interest is also personal - "I've been the victim of at least one sex crime in my life and the victim of domestic violence." Her own experiences with surviving abuse and violence, as well as her life-long interest in how the criminal mind work, shaped her into the well known author, blogger, and advocate the world knows today.

Being fairly well known in her field, Chelsea has been subject to her fair share of online harassment and criticism, including a notable call out by Shirley Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church. "Hiya Shirley!" she quips. It hasn't always been easy, though.

"In the beginning, when I first started blogging about my analysis on different crime cases and disappearances, I didn't quite get the aggression in many people's comments." Chelsea tells us. But eventually it started to click: "Over the past few years, though, I've realized that people who seek out these stories and get offended are likely to *look* for *any* reason to be offended -- therefore, they're looking for reasons to harass someone else."

"Being a crime writer and profiler not only attracts intelligent and interesting people, but it attracts nutbags and weirdos that "get off" on harassing others, especially when sensitive topics like death and murder are at hand."

Chelsea's experience with online harassment isn't unique - writers of all sorts get targeted for their works, and Ms. Hoffman recognizes that. "It's part of the job, I guess."

Criminal profiling has been a pretty traditionally male dominated field - at least in the past. This, too, has been an obstacle for the talented and vivacious Ms. Chelsea Hoffman. ". I think it helps that the most famous and talented of criminal profilers have been women (i.e. Jones, Candice DeLong, Pat Brown, et al)." She told us she's never really felt like she's needed to "keep up" with her male peers, but she has experienced misogyny and sexism from her "colleagues" and those who are unfamiliar with the details of any given case - using her gender to discredit her work because she's just a girl. Roll your eyes with me, folks. As for how she handles it? "I wouldn't say that these experiences have affected me other than opening my eyes to the insecurities of those who don't appreciate successful women."

Speaking of successful women, Chelsea offers this advice for women looking to break into the writing world: "Breaking into writing is easy, contrary to what a lot of people will tell you. Yes, it's also very competitive and it's hard to maintain relationships when you're serious about your craft and devoted to it. But there are always ways to get your work out there to make money and get exposure. Just find your niche, hone your skills and dive in. Just do it."

And for those young women looking to become criminal profilers like Ms. Hoffman? "It takes a special type of person with the gut to stomach crime scenes and other gruesome imagery and details. You've got to be damn sane to handle it without many emotional issues. You've got to have a very literal sense of reality versus what you've seen in movies, television or literature." But it isn't as simple as being able to handle gruesome crime scene details. Chelsea tells us: "At the same time you've got to walk that fine line between total empathy and total apathy to connect with the fact that you are dealing with victims without getting so attached that you end up killing a piece of you each time you cover a murder. To be a good criminal profiler you've pretty much got to know how to turn off your ability to feel sometimes and work on pure analytics, pure brain power." Beyond that, it's education, education and education. The fields she recommends are psychology, criminal justice and related courses.

Chelsea Hoffman's newest book, "The River of No Return: On the Trail of Hannah Anderson and Jim DiMaggio" focuses on the recent case of the alleged kidnapping of San Diego teen Hannah Anderson. "Throughout the book I share the factually known timeline of events as well as transcripts of Hannah's own words with interviews from her family, family members of Jim DiMaggio and experts in forensic pathology." The story focuses on the many inconsistencies in Hannah Anderson's story that point toward the possibility that she may have been a partner in the murder of her mother and brother, or at the very least involved in a sexual relationship with her kidnapper/uncle, Jim DiMaggio.

"River of No Return" is being released by Taylor Street Publishing and will be available November 2nd, 2013 If true crime isn't your bag, Ms. Hoffman has also written a veritable catalog of works, from horror to romance to fantasy. You can check out her works at

Caitlin Seida has been writing since 2006, with her work appearing on various websites including,,, and The Daily Puppy. A Jill-of-All-Trades, she splits her workday as a writer, humane society advocate and on-call vet tech. What little free time she has goes into pinup modeling, advocating for self-acceptance, knitting and trying to maintain her haunted house (really!). You can find her on Facebook, on Twitter, and of course here on I Feel Delicious!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Why Patrick Star Makes a Poor Halloween Costume (and other holiday ramblings)

I live in Athens County, Ohio. Here, we’re known for many things:  The  pawpaw Festival, being haunted, Ohio University’s Maya Lin & Matt Lauer, the murderous (and still missing) Professor Stees – and, of course, our annual Halloween Block Party, where locals and students enjoy a night of music, drinking and dress-up with 30,000 weekend visitors, all packed into a 4-block section of uptown Athens. It’s crazy, and it’s kind of a big deal. In 2009, Playboy Magazine listed OU as the Top Party School, saying our “Halloween party might be the best in the country.” And though I haven’t been to every party in the country, I am partial to the big one right here in my own back yard. I’ve been going since 1989.

What's with the "slut" reference?
Why can't we say "sex pot" or "Halloween Hottie" ??
It’s great to watch, as I often do, checking out the costumes and mentally deciding my favorites. This year I adored the retro-looking Circus Strong Man, the crying mummy, the beer-pongers,  plus all the brightly lit jellyfish. And I’ll admit, I also checked out  the myriad of  lovely ladies wearing skimpy, tight-fitting outfits. How could I not? There were scantily–clad Elmo’s, foxes, peacocks, pirates, prisoners, monsters, vampires, umpires, witches, and mermaids… and pretty much anything else you can think of. Other than wondering why in the hell they would wear something so skimpy in 40 degree weather, standing there shivering next to their male companions -  who usually wore flannel underneath his vampire, Smurf, werewolf or policeman uniform – I don’t judge. I support my female comrades and their choice to wear whatever makes them happy… AND whatever makes them feel like one hot mama!

Actually, I prefer that all my cosmic sisters wear clothing that boosts their self-esteem. And if that happens to be something that shows their ass cheeks, or the bottoms (or tops) of  their boobs .. then rock the hell on!! You know why? Because if I were ever to wear the same thing, I want the same support and understanding that I’m giving everyone else. Treat others the way YOU want to be treated is a philosophy we all need to live by. No need for slut-labeling and slut-shaming. Hating other women just for the sake of hating them is the real shame. And I don’t want any part of it.

Dressing warm for the Block Party... 20+ years ago.
I'm in the green sweater.
But, as I stood there watching all the women who braved the cold to wear something that honestly gave them no protection from the nearly-freezing weather, I had to wonder --- why?  Why did so many women feel it necessary to sacrifice warmth for these barely-there outfits? I remember one of my early  block parties. I wore a turtleneck and a green sweater, gloves, boots and a coat. It was about 40 degrees and I was still cold! No way would I have worn anything less… and I regretted not wearing more! And thinking back, I honestly don’t remember more than  a handful of partially naked women walking Court Street… and most of them were running from one party to the next, trying to get out of the cold!

Same character, different gender. Notice anything?
So what happened over the past 20 years? How did we go from sweaters to swimsuits? 

I know, we all have free will. I get that. We all decide what we’re going to put on our bodies every day and how we present ourselves to the public… but we are also guided (consciously and subconsciously) by the world around us. Advertisers, magazines, clothing stores, movies and social media bombards us with images of what is popular, acceptable, expected and attractive. Over the years, this has influenced our choices for Halloween costumes. For men, it’s often something funny, masculine, scary or simple. A mask of a famous person, a super hero, an iconic horror movie villain, a pirate, and both a life sized banana and a chicken were on the shelves of our local Walmart. On the other side were women’s choices: sexy Minnie Mouse, sexy fairy, sexy kitty cat, sexy vampire, sexy witch, sexy ghost, and so forth. The women’s costumes costs more, but had far less material and items in the packaging. It doesn’t take much to make a sexy kitty cat, after all. The costume came with fishnet stockings, kitty ears, a tail, and a little skirt. The chicken costume came with a full, one-size fits all oversized, zip-up chicken suit – with a face mask. It actually looked like a chicken. The kitty costume did not.

There is a definite double standard when it comes to our Halloween options. Available outfits have become sexualized to the point that it would be laughable if companies were JUST targeting grown woman, and not advertising their sexist ideals onto teens, tweens, and even younger girls who are trying to develop their sense of self and gender. Look at the below image from an online storefront. These costumes are marketed to teens and tweens. Notice anything? Perhaps that they ALL have an incredibly SHORT mini-skirt? Boots and/or heels?   Gloves and tight fitting tops? Some even show the belly or a bit of cleavage.

I'm a mom and a grandma... and I just gotta ask: Who's buying these things for their teens and tweens? And why the hell would you do that?? These outfits are maybe ONE step down from an adult lingerie/sexy bedroom outfit from an online retailer. Don't believe me? Here's an ad from Frederick's of Hollywood. 

Told you.

And to prove my argument (well..... concern) one last time, I'm going to allow this Patrick Star from Spongebob to illustrate my point for me... that the world is pushing young girls into sexualizing themselves, while boys are absent of this pressure:
Why do boys get to be fun, goofy Patrick but the girls are made to wear sexy skirts and Patrick on their shirts?
And why in the hell is this little girls outfit the exact same as the adult woman's outfit???

A fav of mine from the 2013
Athens Halloween Block Party.
 I want to make this very clear: I support a grown woman's right to wear whatever she wants, when she wants to wear it. I applaud all of you who refuse to conform to the opinions and ideals of others. I love that you wanted to be a sexy butterfly for Halloween, or that you DIDN'T want to be a sexy butterfly. You did what you wanted and I love that about you.

BUT, if you're doing it because the media directs you towards that path, or you think it's expected of you, then know that you are equally wonderful if you wore a blue garbage can, standing next to a group of guys (also in blue garbage cans) and having people throw beer pong balls at you... because it's okay to be funny, and warm, and creative with your costumes. You don't have to walk around town freezing your asses off just because Walmart and Amazon were only selling skimpy animal costumes.

And guess what? Next year you can be the sexy cat AND wear thermal underwear underneath that shirt and knit leggings rather than stockings - and you can still feel sexy while doing it!

Oh... and remember: you can always wear a green sweater, a turtleneck, boots, a jacket and gloves.  I'm sure you'll still look hot - while keeping yourself warm. Maybe throw on a chicken suit and have your male companion wear a sexy kitty cat costume. Keep an eye out for me and wave me down. I'm gonna wanna see it. You might just make it onto my list of Favs.

Thanks for listening!

~ Terri Jean

Monday, October 28, 2013

5 Halloween Costumes for All Shapes and Sizes

By Caitlin Seida

Every year I fight with myself about what to wear for Halloween. It happens to be my favorite holiday and I love nothing more than dressing up. My "claim to fame" is my Lara Croft costume that went viral - so you know I'm all about defying expectations and don't give a flying rat's ass about whether or not I'm the right "size" to pull off a costume. But not everyone is so confident. Here's a list of five Halloween costumes suited to all shapes and sizes. They're easy to pull together, don't show TOO much skin and are woman-positive - no "slutty cop" or "harem slave girl" options here.  (more on the accusations of "slutty" costumes tomorrow from Staff Blogger Terri Jean, so stay tuned!)

Betty Boop

Get yourself a red dress and heels, style your hair in pinup-esque curls, throw on some gold hoop earrings and some bangles and you're ready to go. Betty Boop has universal appeal - her exaggerated figure needn't dissuade you from dressing up as her because NOBODY looks like Betty Boop does (and if you do, please send us pictures!). Play up your lips with a vampy red lipstick and you're ready for a night on the town. Betty's got this charm and innocence that makes her a fun Halloween costume for ladies of all shapes and sizes.

Rosie the Riveter

Female empowerment? Check. Easy and cheap to throw together costume? Check. Iconic? Check. All the makings of a great Halloween costume whether you're svelte, plus size or in between. Get yourself a blue work shirt, some work pants and red bandanna and you're ready to go. Play up your hair with pinup curls, accentuate your eyes and get ready to show off those biceps! Rosie is as easy as it gets and she emphasizes the strength in every woman. We can do it!

Mother Nature OR Medusa

Do you want to be nurturing to the whole world or cut down everyone in your path? Either way, these costumes are as simple as starting with a basic white sheet for a toga. Mother Nature can opt to dress in earthy tones like green or brown, while Medusa can opt for silvers and blacks - but at their most basic forms, these costumes can both get away with the "toga party" look. Tease your hair and for Mother Nature, adorn with leaves, flowers, vines and even some birds if you feel like it. For Medusa, get a bunch of fake snakes from the dollar store and pin them to your locks. Makeup is entirely optional for either, and you can be as creative or as plain as you'd like to go. These costumes are forgiving of body shape because most of the emphasis is on the face and hair and the costumes themselves can be as loose and flowy or emphasize whatever part of your body you like best. They're also both iconic female figures.

Sexy Ghost

Did you buy a bikini at the beginning of the summer but didn't feel comfortable wearing it (if so, why not girl? YOU can rock that thing!) Put it to good use with the "sexy ghost" costume that doesn't show even a little bit of skin. Throw on a skin colored body suit (white shows through white - skin toned makes an almost invisible under layer) and toss a big white sheet on over it - then put the bikini on top of the sheet. Cut out eye holes for you to see and you're done. Easy as pie.

Velma from Scooby Doo

Who wants to be cold on Halloween? Velma provides the answer to that. Track down an orange sweater, orange knee socks, practical shoes (no blisters, SCORE!) and a skirt to match your shoes (Velma wears an odd shade of pink, but when I put together my costume I opted for black and considered brown). The "real" Velma has short hair and glasses, but with a costume as iconic as hers, it doesn't matter whether you do or don't add those accessories. Velma emphasizes the positive - she's the smart one of the group. And don't think she's without sex appeal, either - one only has to do a quick Google search for "sexy Velma" to see she's got quite a fan following who think nerdy girls are the HEIGHT of sexy.

What are you going as for Halloween this year? Tell us in the comments! Or better yet, show us a picture!

Caitlin Seida has been writing since 2006, with her work appearing on various websites including,,, and The Daily Puppy. A Jill-of-All-Trades, she splits her workday as a writer, humane society advocate and on-call vet tech. What little free time she has goes into pinup modeling, advocating for self-acceptance, knitting and trying to maintain her haunted house (really!). You can find her on Facebook, on Twitter, and of course here on I Feel Delicious!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Another reason to love and adore Amanda Palmer

This letter was written Oct 3rd, but I just now ran across it. I thought it was worth sharing.
Enjoy ~ Terri Jean

an open letter to sinéad o’connor, re: miley cyrus.

Dear Sinéad,

I love you. I grew up worshipping your music and your bold attitude and, especially, your refusal to sign up to the bullshit beauty standard. You were one of the few women rockstars that was clearly doing things her own way, and you inspired me to no end. I want to thank you for doing that. I listened to your stunning voice and your true, deep lyrics endlessly on my walkman, flipping the tape again, and again, then again, then again…and I know those ingredients still live and breathe inside me every time I write a song of my own. You shaped me.

I read your letter to Miley Cyrus this morning and I wanted to write back to you. I’m writing this on my cell phone in a plane on the way to Dallas, TX to play a benefit tonight for a group called Girls Rock Dallas…a local group that empowers young girls to become brave musicians. The timing is pretty wonderful and I want to talk to them all tonight about Miley and your letter.         Continued...

Mean Girls Suck (cause they're self esteem parasites!)

Way back in the day, I was teased by the “mean girls.”

It was 6th grade. I was the tallest girl in school – coming in at almost 5’9” at 12 years old.  Luckily in 7th grade and beyond, a few female classmates would surpass me, but in the 6th grade, it was just me. For that year I was known as Too Tall Terri.

I also blossomed into a full B-cup when only myself and another girl, this Amy chick, who made me show her my boobs in the girls bathroom in front of (what seemed like hundreds, but was only about 5) of my female classmates. I flashed them, proving that my bra was absent of stuffing -- but that, of course didn’t stop them from continuing to tell others that they weren’t real.  

The oddest insult, though, was with my teeth. They were, as my dentist once put it, “as straight as a ruler.” I was accused on filing them. And by accused I mean, tormented. Girls brought in nail files, wood files, and even metal files and put them on my desk, directing me to use them while they watched. It got weird. Really weird. Lucky for me I had an even weirder sense of humor and an oddly mature sense of self – because even though I did not like these girls and they tried their hardest to hurt my feelings, I shook my head at the thought of them actually believing that my greatest assets were faults. With my super long legs and (what seemed like huge) boobs, I walked away from those mean girls with a laugh that showed my great pearly white perfect smile. 

Now it’s my granddaughter’s turn. She’s 12 and bullies are attacking her for her perfectly wonderful shape. She has her mama’s curvy figure – one that women twice her age are paying good money to cosmetically copy. Accusations are flying out of the mouths of the Middle School mean girls, but this time they come with a twist. My darling girl is charged with stuffing her rear and chest with silicon rather than toilet paper, and of course they added something my classmates didn’t think of until High School – that because of the granddaughter’s shape, she must be some type of slut. 

Middle school is an awkward time for a lot of girls. Everyone wants to fit in, and the girls who often want it the most become an easy target for those who look for a face in the crowd that will respond to their eye rolls, nasty comments, and group-assisted bullying with tears and shame. Us adults… we wipe away those tears and tell the sobbing kids that the bullies are usually children who are being bullied at home, or they are just lashing out because they have no confidence. But really, that doesn’t help, because when you’re being put down, the very last thing you want to do is emphasize with the bitch who’s verbally assaulting you. I sure as hell didn’t!

I think kids today have seen enough documentaries and public service commercials to have a basic gist of why researches and doctors think some kids bully. They know that it could be a bad home environment, being picked on by older siblings, or they don’t like who they are. But honestly, does that really help make the kid who’s being shamed in front of a group of their peers feel better? Nope. Because kids live in the moment. And in that very moment, all they see is a person who has power over their emotions --- and it really, really sucks.

So what was so different about me? How could I walk away? It was simple: I told myself their opinion didn’t matter, until it really and honestly didn’t matter.

I know that seems like an impossible feat, but honestly, it can be done. And it all started when I was in elementary school.

I was raised right next to my grandpa’s store. People I liked, didn’t like, didn’t trust, and even hated came into the store all the time. Grandpa told me that every person was a costumer, and I had to pretend like I liked them (or face banishment from the establishment). I liked the store. It smelled like Grandma  and had free candy, so I opted to stay. It was difficult at first – to smile at someone who was not nice to me in school. But the “fake it until you make it” advice of one of grandpa’s employees helped me to get the hang of it. He said to pretend like I was in a movie, and just ACT like I’m being nice to them. So I did it. I smiled. I opened the door. I was polite. And eventually, they smiled back. 

By Middle School I was pretty good at pretending. I actually created a character who didn’t care what people thought, or what they said, or if they were making ridiculous accusations about my legs (that I stretched them out at night on some medieval torture device) or my boobs (that I stuffed them with water balloons). This character walked away laughing, shaking her head, mumbling how absurd these girls were. My character said things like “In order for your opinions of me to matter, YOU would have to matter TO me. And you don’t.” My character was far cooler than my real self, and I liked her. A lot.

Funny thing is, that character and I eventually meshed as one by the time I was going into High School. I faked it until it became real. I had developed an attitude that was bully-proof. I honestly did not give a rats ass what these country classmates thought of me. I was still being teased – this time because I was a published writer, President of the Students Against Driving Drunk chapter, and wrote for the school paper.  I was a nerd… a mouse… a weirdo. Fashion labels really mattered at my high school, so the fact that I didn’t care about name-brand clothing or the latest fashion (and I loved dressing as Annie Hall, wearing my grandfather’s pants and ties) earned me the “poor trash” title. And I didn’t go out every weekend and binge drink, so that of course made me the “Nerdy poor trash boring weird girl.” Needless to say, I don’t think I was all that popular. But, I also didn’t care. And I think that confused many of them… so much so, that my turn at being bullied was always cut short.

I didn’t respect them as peers, and I didn’t respond to their belittling and ignorant accusations, therefore there was no peer pressure or bullying. And it really was that simple. 

And in the end, I was right. I can look back now with an adult perspective and see that all those Mean Girls were never important to me then, nor are they now. I’m a published author, an activist, a photographer, a mother, a grandmother, and some would even say a community leader. I have an incredibly fulfilling life full of meaningful friendships, achievements, and true happiness. I look at those who tormented myself and others and see a lot of broken marriages, dead-end jobs, and bitching on Facebook. Not one of those Middle School Mean Girls have a life I would exchange for my own. 
Recent comment from former classmate via Facebook

 But I still use the “Fake it till you Make it” philosophy, and I encourage others to as well. One thing I have learned is that if they can’t get under your skin, they’ll eventually stop picking. They want victims, and if you aren’t one, well… then what fun are you?

Want another visual? Think of it this way:  Mean Girls are parasites who feed off the inner turmoil of others. The only defense against them is to slather on a shield of self-love – whether real or faked – and pretend like their sick and twisted lies don’t hurt. Once they realize they can’t cut through your thick skin, they’ll stop trying to bore inside your self-confidence. And that’s when you’ve crushed them. That’s when you’ve won.

Thanks for listening!

~ Terri Jean

Picture your Mean Girl as a Parasite. Don't let her BUG you!