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ballet, dancer, cheerleader

This year, my youngest daughter decided that she wanted to try something new and she doesn’t want to dance anymore… for now. She wanted to try cheerleading. She’s been dancing since she was 2-years-old. I started to feel her pulling away from dance last year. I tried to resist. If you could see her do ballet, she is a natural; graceful and refined but she longs for something different.

She’s trying to escape the shadow of her sister and is tired of being referred to by most as simply, “Little Bella”. At school, everyone constantly compares her to her big sister. They mistake the 2 of them all the time. They call her by her sister’s name. People have asked if they are twins, despite the fact that they are 2 years apart and look very different and have even more different personalities.  I don’t see it. I never have. I see Bella and I see Gabi.

ballet, dancer, cheerleader

But Gabi has been feeling dwarfed by her big sister’s shadow. I was the big sister so I don’t know exactly how this feels. But I am sympathetic to her challenge.

Bella in the past 2 years has been diving head first into the deep end of ballet. She loves it and she wants to move forward. She’s in the youth company and she’s dedicated to the point where she has dropped every other extra-curricular activity that she was involved in. Bella knows that ballet is a sacrifice but she doesn’t mind.

READ ALSO: How to Raise Resilient Children When Everyone Gets a Trophy

Last year, Gabs wanted to do the same. Well, she wanted to be with her big sister. She joined the company and she was there a lot of hours for a ten-year-old. I was afraid it would overwhelm her. Yet, in the deepest recesses of my heart, I had daydreams of the two of them dancing Russian in Nutcracker together. I know it sounds stupid.

By the middle of last year, Gabi was overwhelmed and she quit the company before the 3rd production. I had to let her because she’s the one doing all the work but it hurt. It wasn’t what I had seen for her future.  I know ballet is not forever for them but I really wanted to see them perform together on stage.

ballet, dancer, cheerleader

Then this summer, she told me that she was not doing Youth company and she wasn’t sure that she even wanted to dance. She wanted to cheer with her friends. Bella used to cheer but she’s always been more of a ballerina than a cheerleader. There is a big difference. Both take a lot of work but it’s different.

Anyways, Gabs told me that she was only going to do 1 of her recommended 3 classes and she was going to do pointe and tap. I knew, in my heart, this was letting go. She had one foot in each world. I’ve been watching her cheer and she loves it. Whether it is being with her friends or just the freedom to be loud and unrestrained, she seems happier. She looks like she can finally exhale.

ballet, dancer, cheerleader

But she is such an amazing dancer. She is one of those people with so much natural rhythm and grace that it is almost a shame to not dance. She is one of the most beautiful dancers I’ve ever seen. Her lines are exquisite. Plus, when you are dancing, you are the star. Even when you are part of the corps, you are still dancing in a spotlight. Cheerleading is being the support for a team. It’s being the woman behind the man and that makes me cringe, just a little bit. But she lights up.

She was doing both. In fact, she insisted that she audition for the Nutcracker this year when I was sure that she would want to sit this one out. She cheers at games a couple times a week and then there is practice plus her dance classes. But she was adamant about auditioning.

Recently,  the cast list went up and when she saw that she was assigned a part that she has done twice previously, one that she did not do last year because she had leveled up, she was heartbroken and there was nothing I could do.

READ ALSO: What’s so Special About the Nutcracker

I tried to explain to her tiny heart broken into a million tiny pieces that when you straddle too many worlds you do them all disservice. You can’t give half the effort and expect twice the results. You have to give the dedication and hard work to move forward; to move up. It’s so hard to explain this concept to someone so young.

After a long, long cry she came to me and told me, very maturely, that she doesn’t want to dance anymore for now. She feels overwhelmed doing cheer and ballet because both schedules are demanding.

On the inside, my heart was breaking because I feel like she is making a mistake. I feel like she has a gift for ballet and she is throwing an opportunity away but then I remind myself, it is her gift to do with what she may.  I can’t force her to do the work and I don’t want to make her hate it.

ballet, dancer, cheerleader

So, I told her that she can take the year off. She will still be doing barre work and bands at home and at the end of the school year, we will reassess. Maybe she’ll realize that she misses performing and dancing. Maybe she will be glad to have it off of her plate but either way, I will always be here to support her and love her.

But, in my mamma heart, I still have big dreams of my girls dancing Russian together on the stage together. For now, you can find me on the football field cheering on the cheerleaders, at the ballet cheering on my ballerina and at home telling them both that they can be anything they are willing to work hard for and nothing worth having is free. I’ll keep leading by example and hope that’s enough.

Either way, it’s not about me. It’s about them. My hope is to raise good, hardworking, honest, self-confident girls who feel like they can come to me and talk about everything when they need to. I will listen and try not to judge. Make good choices girls but also, I will be here to guide you because that’s what moms do…even when we’re letting you choose. We let go, even when we want to hold on tighter.

The bottom line is we can’t force our children to do anything that doesn’t bring them joy and expect them to excel at it. They have to do the work and we have to respect that. But we can hope.

What have you had to let go of and let your child make the decision for themselves?

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The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

I can’t believe that Nutcracker season is already here. If you’re a ballet mom or a ballerina, you know that we mark time by Nutcracker and Swan Lake seasons. It is common knowledge that the weekend after Labor Day, Nutcracker season begins. You can’t even imagine the excitement in my neck of the woods ( the ballet studio) about the upcoming movie Disney’s the Nutcracker and the Four Realms.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

While the rest of the world is celebrating Pumpkin Spice season, we’re celebrating the Nutcracker Season. This is our life for the next 4 months and we love every single second of it (mostly). Little kids tend to complain in the middle of it but the moment they take the stage and bask in the glow of the house lights, the magic is worth every single rehearsal, sore foot, and achy hamstrings. Believe me when I tell you that ballet dancers are more than graceful, nymph-like fairy creatures… they are fierce, elite athletes. Don’t be fooled by the tutus and pointe shoes. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to look that graceful.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

READ ALSO: What’s so Special about the Nutcracker?

My girls have been dancing since they were 2-years-old. It started with creative dance classes, once a week for ½ an hour. Now, at ages 11 and 13-years-old, they dance 5–12 hours a week, respectively and this is with scaling their schedules back. They love to dance but the intensity and dedication can be a little overwhelming and challenging, though embraced, for children this young. The commitment and passion are real.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

My husband laughs at me because every time I watch them perform, my heart swells with pride and my eyes leak because I’m so proud of them. I’ve been driving them and watching practices and rehearsals since they’ve been toddlers and what the audience sees as a few minutes, I know the hours, years and dedication it has taken to get to that one minute. I have never been so devoted to anything, except for being their mother. So for these young ladies and gentleman to give so much of themselves makes me proud of them in ways that are hard to put into words.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

Nutcracker is one of our biggest productions. Our ballet produces one of Forbes Magazine’s top 10 Nutcracker productions in the country. That’s a big reputation to live up to every year and still, every year, our creative director rises to the challenge and levels up in new and unexpected ways. Each year the Nutcracker is more magical than the last.

We had auditions last weekend and soon, we’ll find out what parts the girls have been assigned. This is my Bella’s 9th Nutcracker and will be Gabi’s 6th Nutcracker season. It’s something we look forward to every year and celebrate as a family. Nutcracker and family night, celebrated with some sugary indulgence befitting of the Land of Sweets.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

My girls and all of their friends are excited to see Disney’s new big screen version of our favorite classic ballet, the Nutcracker and the Four Realms. I’m interested in seeing the adaptation and how Disney tells the story of Clara’s adventures. The synopsis is as follows.

READ ALSO: The Lump in my Heart Runneth Over

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

All Clara (Mackenzie Foy) wants is a key – a one-of-a-kind key that will unlock a box that holds a priceless gift. A golden thread, presented to her at godfather Drosselmeyer’s (Morgan Freeman) annual holiday party, leads her to the coveted key—which promptly disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world. It’s there that Clara encounters a soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a gang of mice and the regents who preside over three Realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets.

Misty Copeland, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

Clara and Phillip must brave the ominous Fourth Realm, home to tyrant Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), to retrieve Clara’s key. Hopefully, returning harmony to the unstable world. Starring Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Disney’s new holiday feature film “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston. Disney’s the Nutcracker and the Four Realms is inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale.

Misty Copeland, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, The Nutcracker, Tchaikovsky, Ballet, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightly, Disney, Walt Disney, Disney Movie Studios, Christmas, Holidays, ballet, ballerinas

This part, the Fourth Realm and the idea of Mother Ginger as a villain have me very intrigued. I can’t wait to take my daughters to see how the story unfolds in mysterious and intriguing new ways. You know with a little Disney pixie dust, Clara’s adventure can only get more magical.

Have you seen the Nutcracker classic ballet on stage? If you have, it’s probably close to your heart and surrounded by a lifetime of fond memories.

Nutcracker, ballet, ballerina, Christmas traditionAre you looking forward to seeing Disney’s the Nutcracker and the Four Realms?

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about, the truth about motherhood, motherhood, parenting, Deborah Cruz, the truth, How to have a high quality fashion wardrobe, fashion on a budget, quality fashion, high fashion for less money, Nordstroms, Macys, Nordstrom Sale, Prime Day, Von Maur, back-to-school, The Truth about Motherhood, Latina mom, Chicago,baby, pregnancy, conception, family travel, teen, parenting, Deborah Cruz, the truth, Disney

Do you dream of a high fashion wardrobe but you don’t have a trendy label fashion budget? I love clothes and so do my girls and (shhh) even the Big Guy. Fashion is our passion after travel and equal to food. We love nice clothes that feel good, wear well and look good on us. My favorite clothes are the ones that are made so well that you feel naked when you wear them. Not too bulky. Not too tight. No gross cheapy fabrics that hang weird. I want clothes that fit and move with my body and look and feel good on me. When I learned to shop smart, it elevated my fashion game to a whole new level.

My current wardrobe is pretty amazing. I’ve been a “clothes whore” since it was “clothes horse”. That’s how long I’ve been addicted to fashion. I got my first job just for that specific reason, to buy myself a trendy fashion wardrobe. But, full disclosure, I’m also pretty budget-conscious. What can I say, I grew up poor and as much as I love the good life and nice things, spending money on myself isn’t something that I think I will ever be comfortable with.

Now, before you go thinking I’m cheap. I’m not. But I am very aware and I love a good sale. I don’t love a sale for the sake of a sale. I know people like that. No, I don’t have a stock room full of Rag and Bone Jeans or Free People dresses because they were on sale for half off. I don’t hoard clothes the way Mama June hoards toilet paper. I only like to spend money on things I want and to some degree need. And unfortunately, I couldn’t wear a stock room full of jeans in a lifetime.

READ ALSO: Fashion Police, please

How to have a high quality fashion wardrobe, fashion on a budget, quality fashion, high fashion for less money, Nordtroms, Macys, Nordstrom Sale, Prime Day, Von Maur, back-to-school

I realized a long time ago that it makes more sense to spend $150 on a good pair of jeans that I’ll wear every day than a $25 on a pair of jeans that I will never wear. In one case, I’ve wasted $25. In the other case, I’ve gotten every bit of $150 of use out of those jeans. This is how I approach shopping. I am in it for the long game most days. I look at a good piece of fashion as an investment.

How to have a high quality fashion wardrobe, fashion on a budget, quality fashion, high fashion for less money, Nordtroms, Macys, Nordstrom Sale, Prime Day, Von Maur, back-to-school

There definitely is a difference in higher quality products versus lesser quality ones. You definitely get what you pay for unless you shop wisely. I’ll be honest, I want $500 quality for $100 so I shop like it’s my job.

How to have a high quality fashion wardrobe, fashion on a budget, quality fashion, high fashion for less money, Nordtroms, Macys, Nordstrom Sale, Prime Day, Von Maur, back-to-school

If you want to take your wardrobe from Target and Kohls to Nordstrom and Macy’s or even to Louis Vuitton and Burberry, these tricks work to get you the fashion wardrobe that you want and deserve. Believe me when I tell you, once you go quality fashion over trendy chic ( though, I still do love Primark, Zara and Target for cute trendy pieces for myself and the girls) you will never go back. It’s like trying to go back to a PC after using Mac. It’s just too impossible to do. You can’t unknow the good life.

Here are my tips for owning an amazing, high-quality fashion wardrobe on a budget that will last forever and fit like they were made for your body.

  1. How to have a high quality fashion wardrobe, fashion on a budget, quality fashion, high fashion for less money, Nordtroms, Macys, Nordstrom Sale, Prime Day, Von Maur, back-to-schoolShop your favorite brands when they are on sale.

Fashion seasons don’t match up with actual seasons. So don’t worry about being out of style. By the time the average person is buying their swimsuits, the fashion industry is marking it down because it’s already out of season. Fashion has to be ahead of the curve, you do not. For example, the day after the 4th of July, you can find crazy sales on bathing suits and summer clothing. If you live in the Midwest, like me, you know summer doesn’t really start until July anyway.

How to have a high quality fashion wardrobe, fashion on a budget, quality fashion, high fashion for less money, Nordtroms, Macys, Nordstrom Sale, Prime Day, Von Maur, back-to-school

2. Christmas in July.

All the Big brands have Christmas in July sales and the sales are amazing. With a little planning, you can save a ton on everything from half price appliances, to hot tubs and especially fashion.

How to have a high quality fashion wardrobe, fashion on a budget, quality fashion, high fashion for less money, Nordtroms, Macys, Nordstrom Sale, Prime Day, Von Maur, back-to-school

3.Nordstroms Annual Sale

It’s everything you want, on sale. All the name brands that your heart desires. You just have to be patient. Building an amazing wardrobe is a long game.

How to have a high quality fashion wardrobe, fashion on a budget, quality fashion, high fashion for less money, Nordtroms, Macys, Nordstrom Sale, Prime Day, Von Maur, back-to-school

4.Macy’s Stackable Sales

Ok, Macy’s lets you stack sales up to 5, I believe. So does Kohls for that matter ( if you are thinking back-to-school for the kids). Also, in case you weren’t aware, there are constantly sales going on at Macy’s. Like constantly. I am a Free People junkie. I will freely admit that I am obsessed with their products. I have gotten great deals where I have paid less than half.

  1. Prime Day

Not sure that you are going to find crazy couture on Prime Day but whatever you find will be a steal and even if it’s just a few really good quality pieces, a deal is a deal and that’s money to be spent on something else. For instance, I’ve been eyeballing a pair of Stella McCartney shoes. While the shoes are most likely not on a Prime Day sale, maybe something else is and that extra saved money can go towards my Stellas.

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6.Back-to-School

When it’s back-to-school time, everybody is shopping for their children but guess what? Sales are not just restricted to your children. College-aged people go “back-to-school” too and they are full human sized. Get your sale on. Everything is on sale. Go take advantage.

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7. Outlet Malls

Not all outlet malls are created equal. You need to find yourself a good fashion outlet mall. I have a couple favorites. I’ve scored some crazy deals on Burberry and Kate Spade at these malls. You just have to go there with an open mind.

How to have a high quality fashion wardrobe, fashion on a budget, quality fashion, high fashion for less money, Nordtroms, Macys, Nordstrom Sale, Prime Day, Von Maur, back-to-school

8. Shop the Sales Rooms and Racks at your favorite high-end stores.

One of my absolute favorite stores to shop at is Von Maur and they have amazing sales. Eventually, everything ends up on the sale rack and they do 3 markdowns and being that I’ve been a loyal customer for over a decade, I know the days they do first markdowns and subsequent markdowns. Plus, they have absolutely the best customer service, no interest, free shipping and gift wrapping. They are heaven to my budget friendly high fashion wardrobe heart. Did I mention they have an entire room for markdown shoes? Also, FYI, places like Intermix and Anthropologie also have great sales racks. You just have to be willing to take the time to search for them. You may be thinking, that sounds like so much work and I don’t have the time. I get that. I really do but what if you could find a Burberry bag for $100 that is normally $800. Is it worth it then?

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9. Try it before You make a Huge Investment

Last but not least, if you want something trendy and you are not sure it’s “your style” but you want to try it, by all means, hit up your local Target, H&M, Zara or Primark. The prices are definitely affordable, the clothes are cute and you get a big bang for your buck. The thing is don’t expect Burberry quality at Target prices. Though, I highly recommend checking out the Target special collaborations whenever they are available. It’s a great way to dip your toe into high fashion without high fashion prices.

How to have a high quality fashion wardrobe, fashion on a budget, quality fashion, high fashion for less money, Nordtroms, Macys, Nordstrom Sale, Prime Day, Von Maur, back-to-school

10. Consignment

It is not a dirty word. I am not telling you to go to Good Will and find yourself some couture. Though, depending on where you live, that may be an option. Where I live, in the burbs, it is not. But if you are are in Chicago, NYC or L.A. gently used high fashion at a bargain basement price may not be a bad thing. In fact, in my mind, that would make you the winner, winner chicken dinner. Hell, you may even have money left to buy yourself some groceries.

There are sites like ThreadUp that can help you get that high fashion wardrobe that you covet on a reality-based mom’s budget. My favorite non-traditional ways to shop is via my favorite fashion bloggers. Look, I’m aware that some influencers might promote items because they are being paid to but honestly, I don’t care. I care about how it looks, how it fits and what it cost.

One of my absolute favorite fashion bloggers, Paola Alberdi of Blank Itinerary, always features a swipe up feature on her outfits on Instagram and not only does she share the brands she is wearing, she shares ” for less”  copy this look styles. Occasionally, if she is going to get rid of something she no longer uses, she will offer it up at a huge discount to her fans.

To be honest, you can have the fashion wardrobe that you’ve always wanted on a budget, you just have to be willing to plan and check often. It won’t be a Target budget but it’ll be worth it. You just have to decide how much you want a piece and figure out the best way to get it at an affordable price.

READ ALSO: Honey, where did all the Toilet Paper Go?

I know there are women who know how to coupon like it’s their job. They have mastered the art of saving money on food and household goods. I wish I could. I hate paying for toilet paper. But, as it stands, I can’t even remember to present the coupons…that I picked off the product…in the store to the cashier.

But, I can sniff out a Kate Spade bag on final markdown like a drug-seeking German shepherd at the airport. This is my gift and I am teaching my girls the same. Why pay full price when you can get whatever you want on sale? That’s the key…what.you.want! Life is too short to put up with uncomfortable fashion to save a few bucks and, repeat after me, every woman deserves a Louis Vuitton. And believe me, it all goes on sale. You just have to want it, look for it and be patient.

What are your secrets for how to get a high fashion wardrobe on a budget?

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tarte cosmetics, How to teach teenage girls to put on make up, make up, how to put on make-up, raising teen girls, beauty tips for teens, beauty tips for tweens

When I was a tween and a teenage girl, I was forbidden from wearing make-up. Not even lip gloss. If I was really slick, I could, maybe, get away with some shiny chapstick. Thank you Lip Smackers. But my teenage self had no idea how to put on make-up.

My dad was very old-fashioned and opposed to the thought of any sort of male looking in our direction and harbored even more disdain at the thought of us growing up. So, needless to say, middle school was the pits and even asking how to put on make-up was about as offensive to our dad as asking how to get pregnant.

Disclosure: I was gifted some of the products I use by Tarte cosmetics but all opinions on how to put on make-up and love for the product are my own.

Aside from the obvious and prevailing normalness of hormones, gangliness, body parts changing at lightning speed and an overall collective ugliness that hits everyone in those awkward years, I wasn’t allowed to paint my fingernails, shave my legs or wear lip gloss. It was just me and my caterpillar eyebrows fending for ourselves in a world of shaven legs and make-up.

READ ALSO: I shaved my 7-year-old

Honestly, I didn’t wear anything above that shiny Lip Smacker until prom. PROM! I was 17 and had never put make-up on my own face. Now, on this point I do agree with my dad, teenage girls are naturally beautiful. They really don’t need much but, I mean PROM, it’s like the closest thing you get to your wedding at 16 and 17. You want to be extra. More than Lip Smackers anyways.

Prom day came and I had my hair professionally done. Of course, it was a disaster because the hairdresser took my natural curls and made them into spiral curls and I looked more like Shirley Temple than I had any of intention of looking. Then there was the situation with my prom dress that needed last minute alterations. My prom date was awesome enough to pick up the dress, only to find out 5 minutes before we had to leave that she took the chest area in too much. So the girl who never wore make-up and had just secretly shaved her legs, had 17-year-old cleavage coming out to attack her date. You think that was bad?

My brother was dating my best friend so we were double dating to prom. My brother picked up the flowers from the florist and promptly put them in the freezer. They turned brown. They looked dead. I would have been hysterical had it not have been happening to me.

Then my friend offered to do my make-up. I figured why not since I had no idea what to do and compared to the terrible hair, come atcha cleavage and brown flowers…I needed a win.  In retrospect,  I should have just asked for a how to put on make-up tutorial but alas, there was no YouTube when I went to prom… just friends with good intentions and less skill. How bad could it be?

Bad! It could be awful. I looked like a goth princess. You see how that could be distracting? I had to wash my face off, and apply Lip Smackers as my mom tried to brush the Shirley Temple curls out of my hair. It was the worst. I was crying and mascara was streaking my cheeks. My poor prom date sat in the living room wondering wtf he had gotten himself into. You know, if my parents had planned this, they would win at the game of blockers for sure.

This is why I decided (that night at prom) before I ever had sex or children that I would never let that happen to my girls. When I went to college, the first thing I did was learn to put on make-up. Don’t get me wrong, during the day (most days of my life) I still love a bare face. I’m good without it. But when I go out, I want my face to look like it came to impress. I love make-up.

For me, applying a beautiful face of make-up is respecting the occasion and the people that I am spending time with, in the same way one would dress up to go out. I feel like putting no effort in reflects badly on me, like I don’t care about what I’m doing. But it’s not all about make-up. Beauty comes from within and sometimes beauty is pain. I mean, those fancy braids that look all carefree, they hurt going in. I’ve taught my girls this from the get.

READ ALSO: My Daughter Taught Me an Invaluable Lesson

The girls are ballerinas and perform on stage a lot, so at the ripe old ages of 11 and 13-years-old they already have more make-up experience than I did in high school. But, as anyone who has seen stage make-up, you know it’s not appropriate for daytime wear on young girls. It’s very heavy and dramatic because it’s purpose is to be seen under harsh, bright house lights. I’m trying to teach the girls that you can be creative, expressive and have fun with make-up without being overly dramatic and look-at-me-ish. I’m also trying to teach them that beauty isn’t just about what you look like, it’s who you are and how you behave; it emanates from within like a light.

How to teach teenage girls to put on make up, make up, how to put on make-up, raising teen girls, beauty tips for teens, beauty tips for tweens, tarte cosmeticsHere is what I’ve been teaching my tween and teenage girls about how to put on make-up:

1.Beauty is pain.

How to teach teenage girls to put on make up, make up, how to put on make-up, raising teen girls, beauty tips for teens, beauty tips for tweens

2. Drink lots of water to stay hydrated, maintain your suppleness and skin elasticity.

How to teach teenage girls to put on make up, make up, how to put on make-up, raising teen girls, beauty tips for teens, beauty tips for tweens, tarte cosmetics

3. Wear huge sunglasses to keep yourself from squinting in the sun and to protect your face from the damaging rays of the sun.

4. Clean your face daily. Never go to bed with a dirty face. I use St. Ives Apricot scrub.

5. Use witch hazel after you clean your face to make sure it’s clean.

6. Moisturize your face. Moisturize your neck. Moisturize your hands and make sure that your daytime moisturizer has SPF in it. Also, moisturizing lippys never hurt anybody. My favorite for the girls is Tarte lip quenchers.

7. Always wear sunscreen

8. Don’t pull at your skin. When applying moisturizer rub up and dab around the eyes.

9. Buy good cosmetics and less is more. This is what I have found to be true for me anyways. The more pigment, the less you have to use.

10.  Apply primer and your make-up will last longer.

11. Apply setting spray and you will look flawless all day.

13. Curl your eyelashes before you apply mascara, even if you aren’t applying mascara. You can also take a lash extension course online if you want to.

14. Do not pluck your eyebrows. All of us moms who lived through the 90’s can tell you from below our anorexic eyebrows that all of the castor oil in the world can’t bring them back to life. I miss my Brooke Shields caterpillars.

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15. Love who you are because let me tell you what…confidence is the most beautiful thing a girl can possess.

What’s your best beauty secret for tween and teenage girls? At what age were you allowed to wear make-up? How do you teach your daughters about how to put on make-up?

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disrupt aging, AARP, invisible woman, speak up for yourself

Disclosure: This post is made possible with support from AARP’s Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own.

People say that as women grow older, they become invisible. Well, I think women have been fed this line of bull ish since they were little girls. I don’t believe that to be true. I believe the myth of the invisible woman is not only untrue, it is unacceptable. If anything, as I’ve gotten older, my voice has grown stronger and louder. I’ve shed the expectations of others like a heavy coat in August.

I used to worry about what other people thought. When I was a little girl, I was even shy. I measured my worth and success by other people’s standards and it was impossible. It was scary. You always fall short when you’re measuring yourself against someone else’s view of who you are supposed to be.

READ ALSO: How to Empower Your Little Girl to Speak Up for Yourself

When I was a little girl, my dad told me “If you have something worth saying, stand up and tell your truth. Never be afraid to speak up and stand up for what’s important to you!” I think he was hoping that mantra applied to everyone else, except him. But for me, it applied to everyone. And believe me, if I could stand up to my strict Mexican father, I can stand up to anyone. I’m not afraid of confrontation.

I noticed as I went off to college as a young woman, I threw myself into causes. I was a member of PETA, Green Peace and planned on joining the Peace Corps after graduation. I was involved in politics and feminist organizations. I was always about power to the people but back then, I kept my standing up to organized functions and college essays.

I wanted to make the world a better place, I just wasn’t sure that I wanted to sacrifice my place in it to do it. I was young and ambitious but I was naïve and wasn’t quite sure how my voice being heard in the world could reconcile with me finding a place and the life I wanted in that same world. I was like most people.

Then, I became a mother. I gave birth and in that moment, I went from caring what other people thought about how I stood up or raised my voice and singularly concerned myself with making the world a better place for my children. Nothing else was/is more important to me. There is no room for ego in motherhood.

Some may see that as a weakness but I drew strength from those little girls. When I thought I couldn’t stand back up and speak up for what was right, when it got hard and it was easier to just maintain the status quo, all I needed to do was look to these little girls with their big eyes fixed on my every move and the answer was simple. It was right there all the time, out of the mouth of my father…stand up. Tell your truth. Never be afraid to put it on the line for what’s important to you!

READ ALSO:  How to Raise Brave Women and Compassionate Humans

I became emboldened with a fierceness that I had never known before. I was compelled to speak up when others could not. That’s when I developed my Wonder woman stance. I was ready to make the entire world hear me if it meant a better world for my girls to grow up in. Maintaining the status quo is no longer an option.

My girls are now tweens and teens and as they grow more into young ladies and are less children, I see society slowly putting its foot on their necks and I will not allow it. I’ve found that the older they get, the more they understand and they want to stand with me against the injustices of the world. Their eyes are still fixed on me, watching my every move.

I’ve hit the place in my life where I demand to be heard. I am the furthest thing from invisible. I owe it to my daughters to not give a spit what anyone else thinks of me. I want my daughters to see me speaking up, standing up and fighting for what is right. I refuse to let them see me give up when things get tough. I will never let them see me go invisible to make other people comfortable and I hope I inspire them to use their voices and never become invisible.

I will no longer let society set the expectations of who I am supposed to be. And I will never let the world tell my girls who they can, what they can do or that they should be seen and not heard.

The older I get, the louder I plan to become. The world will see me because I will refuse to become unseen and unheard.

What is the one wisdom that you want to impart to your children?

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Ivory, focus on the important things, mother and daughter

Some days, I miss the quiet chaos that we existed in when the girls were little.  I know it sounds crazy because I’ve waited so long for my girls to be “old enough” to be self-sufficient. The day they could get their own water or fix their own bed. I felt like I waited for those milestones forever.

It was like that first year of motherhood, waiting for your precious little one to be able to learn to roll over, crawl, pull themselves up and eventually walk and talk. That year felt like a lifetime. Why do we rush that first year? We actively encourage and cheer them on. Don’t we realize we are only rushing our own letting go? Independence will come soon enough on its own.

Disclosure: This post was written in partnership with P&G but all opinions are my own.

I’m as guilty as anyone. I was thrilled when Bella turned 13 because suddenly, I realized that I could leave her home alone while I went to the grocery store. Then, I got to the grocery store all pumped up on the fact that I could get in and out without anyone slowing me down or asking me for everything they fancied.

However, I realized almost immediately that I was alone and, as grueling as our trips to the store may sometimes feel, those moments together are when the good talks happen. Memories happen in the aisles of the grocery store, at the mall and even on those car rides to ballet class every day. They keep us connected so laughter and those deep, long conversations can happen organically. So what if the price is buying some overpriced flavored water or froyo once in a while?

The decision was a made a few years ago to try to remember to slow down; to take the moment and drink in the present. I simply remind myself that they won’t be little forever and before I want to let go, they will be off to college. If I remember that, I won’t rush the experience away.

They are girls are bigger now, closer to young ladies than babies but some things don’t change, like bath time and bedtime. There’s still lots of bedtime cuddles and stories (more often now the daily school gossip rather than books) and my absolute favorite part of the night, the hair brushing and braiding.

The girls know how to brush and fix their own hair but every night after bath time, they come to my me and ask, “Mommy, will you braid my hair?” I used to get a little tired of it night after night because I didn’t understand why they wouldn’t just do it themselves. I’ve since realized it’s an excuse to chat and it’s a comforting ritual that we’ve done since they were toddlers. How could I ever say no?

Ivory, focus on the important things, mother and daughter

They come to me smelling fresh and clean, and we all exhale. Letting out the tensions and taking in all the relaxation. That clean and fresh smell of them brings me right back to bath time when they were babies and it reminds me to slow down; to live the moments and enjoy the journey. That smell reminds me to focus on the important things right there in my arms; my babies and remember that nothing else is more important.

We recently started using Ivory body wash and we love it. I’m not new to Ivory products. They’ve been around for over a century. Ivory products are made pure and give me peace of mind. Starting with the purest bar of soap 138 years ago, Ivory continues to uphold the standard of using only pure & purposeful ingredients in its products.

Ivory, focus on the important things, mother and daughter

I remember my Grandma Daisy kept Ivory in her house when I was a little girl and would visit her. If my grandma and my mom trusted Ivory for their families, I feel like I can too. Also, I love that it’s safe, pure and gentle enough for my entire family, no matter what age.

 

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Disrupt Aging, AARP, agism, Cindy Gallop

Disclosure: This post is made possible with support from AARP’s Disrupt Aging. All opinions are my own.

As I get older, I have noticed myself starting to unconsciously recoil when anyone asks me what my age is. This wasn’t something I ever thought I would do because I just never thought age was a big deal. Age was just a number and I’ve never shied away from bucking the system. Of course, when you’re young, it’s not a big deal. It’s not until you are on the other side of young that you start to consider that you might be old. The funny thing is this isn’t even by my own doing.

Everywhere I look, society is trying to tell me what I should and shouldn’t be doing at “my age”. How I should or shouldn’t be dressing or wearing my hair from the ads on television and in magazines to the articles all over the internet of women judging other women. Why is any of that important and why are any of us leaving our happiness in the hands of the collective “we”? Who knows better what will make me happy than me?

Still, here I am finding myself hesitating when asked how old I am. Becoming indignant when the gynecologist’s nurse dared to ask if I was “perimenopausal” (which I found out any woman can be beginning at age 30). I was downright offended when a grandmother at the playground, asked if I remembered when “we” were young? I’m pretty sure she and I were young a few decades apart but why does any of that matter? And why was I so upset? Conditioning.

The thing is society has taught us that as women get older they get invisible but when men get older they become distinguished. We are seen as objects of beauty and when that beauty fades, we are no longer seen at all. I’m not ready to be invisible. In fact, I kind of like the fact that I can finally be seen for my brain and my personality and not just my breasts. I’m tired of being described by my body parts. Those are not accomplishments.

Still, if you ask me my age these days, I don’t particularly want to scream it from the rooftops like I did when I was 21. It feels about as intrusive as asking me my weight and we all know that’s the worst. So I wonder, how can I know this is stupid to be embarrassed about and yet, still feel completely self-conscious about the question? It’s the conditioning I’ve had from birth; the conditioning every little girl in the world has had. How do we change this? This is not what I want for my girls.

From my own experiences, I’ve made it a mission to raise strong, independent and fierce daughters. I’ve taught them to be proud of their intelligence and their personalities. I’ve taught them to love their body. I’ve raised them believing that they could conquer the world. What I’ve neglected to consider was that I’ve shown them that there is value in beauty which I never meant to do. I’ve written their narrative using adjectives like pretty, sweet and cute.

I learned through a recent conversation with Cindy Gallop that teenage girls are the most disregarded of all the females. At first, I found that hard to believe and then I realized that it is true. No one listens to a teen girl, we are all dismissive and what message does that send? In fact, I am guilty of this myself but I am trying harder.

I’ve been actively stopping what I am doing to listen to my daughters. It’s hard when you have tweens and teens. They tend to talk a lot and it’s not all relevant but it is to them. So while I may not be interested in what every one of their friends is doing at school, I am interested in the fact that my daughters want to talk to me and that makes it worth my time to listen. It’s about giving value to her words, thoughts and feelings and not just her beauty. It’s validation for the right things; who she is, what she thinks and what she says.

We’ve unconsciously allowed the male lens to form or views for so long. We even determine our own worth with how sexually attractive we are through that lens. We need to change the lens.

Young girls are dismissed for being young. As women, we need to make sure those young girls feel heard and gain confidence to become strong and never need a man’s approval on how to live her life. We need to teach our girls to live life on their own terms and enjoy the now. We need to drill into our young girls’ heads that they are invaluable at every age because their worth is based on what is between their ears and not their legs.

Older women are dismissed, as our beauty fades, society has taught us and expects us to disappear…becoming more invisible with each passing year. But we are not invisible and we shouldn’t be treated as such. We shouldn’t be expected to go quietly into that good night. Not me, I’m going to fight to the very end. I’m going to fight for every little girl in the world.

If I could give my girls any advice to live their best life, it would be this:

  • Write your own rules.
  • Promote yourself because no one else is going to do it.
  • Promote what you bring to the table at any age, no matter what that is…wisdom, experience, youth, energy, whatever it is that makes you an asset. We all have something special to offer.
  • Understand your value at every age.
  • Actively challenge stereotypes.
  • Appreciate the life you’ve lived and the stories you’ve made or will make.
  • Last but certainly not least, the most valuable piece of advice my dad ever gave me, if you have something to say, stand up and say it. Be heard and don’t let anyone tell you to be quiet.

What advice would you give your little girl or tween to live her best life?

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first period, tween mom, the first period, how to explain menstruation

Today it happened. My little caterpillar began her official metamorphosis into a butterfly. We knew it was coming. We’ve talked about menstruation. She knew what to expect. We’ve been given different expectancies from different pediatricians but if we were going on genetics, she was right on the money.

We’ve been talking about the joys of womanhood a lot lately because I have been experiencing more than my fair share thanks to my cervical biopsy back in October. I’ve been the queen of TMI mostly because I can’t even believe this first disappearing and now, never stopping menstruation of mine. You’d think it was the last one that I’m ever having for all my life. It’s a freaking mass exodus. 3 months worth of uterine lining is.the.worst!

While I’m slipping headlong into the end of my days as a butterfly, my girl is slowly evolving into the most majestic butterfly that ever did live. Recently, I’ve begun to notice the roundness of her baby Buddha has given way to a more svelte outline. Her hair which was once stick straight has begun to wave. Mine did the same thing in middle school. And her once childlike figure is slowly fading out and in its place, a young woman is emerging.

All of these things, I expected. I prepared myself and the girls for. I didn’t want this time in their life to be traumatic like it was for me. Puberty was sort of thrust upon me one summer’s day in the middle of a McDonald’s bathroom. I immediately felt like I looked different and everyone must be able to tell. The same thing happened the first time I had sex. I didn’t want that to be the experience for my girls. I didn’t want them to feel like a freak and want to run away and hide. I wanted them to see it as something beautiful. Nothing to be ashamed of but to celebrate. No, I’m not talking a party for your period, that’s a bit much for me but the cake would be divine but who the heck wants to put on something cute when you’re bloated? Not me.

I want them to embrace their femininity with both hands and be as fierce and simultaneously as soft as they want to be. I want them to love being a woman. I want being a woman to not be so hard. I want them to be strong but able to be weak when need be. I want them to be who they are unapologetically.

So today, I picked up my little girl from school and she got in the car and said, excitedly, “Guess what?” She had a little smirk on her face. “What?” I asked. I thought maybe she had some juicy 7th grade gossip or won some kind of an award. She was in a good mood.

“Mom, I got my period.”

Just like that. As blunt as anything that has ever come out of my mouth. She said it with just the faintest blush and a big smile and a tinge of pride as if she had just joined me in my secret women’s club. I’ll admit, I wasn’t really expecting it but I wasn’t not either. I just wasn’t expecting it today.

I asked how she was feeling. She said fine. In true tween fashion she “didn’t see the big deal.” Then I asked if she felt sick in her stomach or crampy and she said no, just tired. Then, I told her this was exciting and we should celebrate because it’s not every day you begin your journey into young womanhood. She smiled, then looked at me like I was slightly deranged and we all went for ice cream in December. For the record, no one looked at me like I was deranged while they were eating their blizzards.

I long ago stocked the girls’ bathroom with sanitary napkins and liners. They know about heating pads and ibuprofen for cramps, no caffeine because they exacerbate cramps, extra water to help reduce bloating and I’m installing an app on her phone tonight so she can chart her period. I used to hate surprise periods in those first few years.

She’s sleeping now. It’s 7 p.m. I told her she can ask me anything. I’m an open book. I know she knows that but I like to say it every once in awhile just to remind her. I couldn’t help kissing her on her forehead as my sweet young lady lay there in bed clutching her Fifi that she’s slept with every night since she was born. I want to freeze this moment and make it last forever but I know I can’t.

I’m happy for her, this is a milestone in a young woman’s life, and I am scared for her because I know what lies ahead. It’s hard being a woman. I want to hug her tight and hold her in my arms like a baby once more and at the same time I want to give her freedom to become who she will be.

For now, we take it day by day. We read together at night snuggled in my bed. We talk about everything and occasionally, she rolls her eyes at me but now, we share this special new bond. I am her mother and she is my daughter and now, we are both women and its one of the most beautiful moments of motherhood so far. I never expected it. We are growing closer as the baby and mother divide closes.

When we give birth, we are everything to our children and they are everything to us. We complete one another. We need one another, like air. But this new phase on our journey as mother and daughter, we grow closer as soon she will no longer need me but instead want me in her life and the choice of her choosing me, as I chose her, is truly the most beautiful thing I’ve yet experienced.

I’m going to stop writing now because as I said, I am on day 14 of my neverending period so I may be a tad bit overly emotional plus, my baby just became a woman so there’s that.

P.S. I asked my daughters permission before posting this, she said, “Hey, you’re the one who should be embarrassed talking about your bleed out. Not me. I don’t care.” So, there’s that. Like mother like daughter.

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rape culture, girl mom, school uniforms, body image, self esteem

In light of the Matt Lauer (Russel Simmons, Louis C.K., Al Franken, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and the seemingly endless list) allegations, I’m truly astounded by people’s reactions, especially of shock. I was not shocked. Not because any of these men seem outwardly particularly creepy but because, as a woman, I live the reality.

 

It has nothing to do with what a woman wears or how she looks. It has nothing do with her character or lack thereof. It has nothing do with any of that. It doesn’t even have to do with the man being a scummy sort, a delinquent or particularly chauvinistic or even just the little bit rapey. It has everything to do with the way we condition our children to move through the world from the time they are babies.

 

We teach little girls to be good, behave and learn to protect themselves. Little girls are taught to dole out kisses to any relative, however strange or scary, from the beginning. We use adjectives like pretty, cute and beautiful to praise our daughters. We teach them to sit right, act right and be pleasant and congenial.

 

Nobody seems to like a strong willed little girl. They label her bossy, stubborn and difficult and it is all said with a negative connotation that seethes with everything that you don’t want to be.

 

But our little boys on the other hand, we call them strong, stubborn and smart and all of those labels are said as praise. For some reason, we teach our boys that it is good to be these things when you are a boy but inconvenient when you are a girl.

 

This isn’t just parents and it’s not even willful; it’s a bad habit and we all have it. I am the feminist mom of two girls and I have to remember to change up my adjectives because I want them to know they are more than just what lies between their legs. I value everything between their ears, as well.

 

When little girls misbehave, we scold them. We tell them that is not very lady like. We ask them to tone down the natural fierceness that is them. It is not all at once. It starts on the day they are born and by the time they go to college, they have been broken. But, when boys misbehave we dismiss their bad behavior with a simple, “boys will be boys.” We hold our girls to a higher standard and give our boys more credit for doing much less. This is the society we live in. This is our reality and it has been forever.

 

I thought things had changed. We almost had a female president. But, I see now that it’s just wishful thinking. The reality is that we live in a misogynistic world and those who are not, are the minority…not the moral majority that we would like to believe.

 

For example, earlier this year at school, the seventh grade girls were sent home a special note about their uniforms. The boys did not receive this note.

 

The note was to remind us that the girls’ shirts needed to be baggy, not be worn fitted. Pants should also be baggy, not fitted. There is to be no nail polish or make up. No hair color other than their natural color. No jewelry. No adornments.

 

I can go on record and say that I hated the dress code before this note because I feel it gives the girls no room to show their personality and I tried to fight it but found that female board members are to be seen and not heard. But when I got the note, “the reminder”, I was livid because, you see, the point was not to remind all the children to adhere to the dress code it was a subtle way to remind the girls to hide their bodies.

 

Maybe you think I am reading too much into it; making fire where this no smoke. Nope. A girl wore a dress on picture day. A tween, going through puberty, developing normally and one of the older female teachers forced her to lean forward in an effort to conduct some ridiculous “taste test” to see the the dress’ neckline was too revealing when she bent over. The teacher then pulled it back and pinned it because it was “too distracting to the boys.” Take that shit in for a moment.

 

On warm dress down days, the children are allowed to wear shorts. The length of the boys’ shorts is not measured or considered. The length of the girls’ short is another story. My daughter has really long legs. I buy her modest shorts but, as anyone with long legs can attest, when your legs are long everything looks shorter. My daughter has not made it passed the office one time since starting middle school because even when the shorts are to her fingertips, that is still the center of her thigh and “too distracting”. The message is that she is being punished for being distracting. She is being punished for becoming a woman.

The worst part is that a lot of the times, its other women who are propagating this bullshit. Don’t wear that. That’s too short. That’s too plunging. That’s too revealing. It’s all done so boys don’t look and men don’t notice. Why don’t we just teach the boys and men of the world to control themselves? Why is it the responsibility of the girls?

 

You see, my response was what every mother and father of a daughter should be…outrage. Don’t tell my daughter to hide herself away, to slump her shoulders, hide her natural curves and to be ashamed that she is becoming a woman. There is nothing shameful about being a woman. We are the bringers of life. We are a force to be reckoned with.

 

Tell your sons to control their urges. Behave respectfully. It is not my daughter’s, nor any other daughters, responsibility to control the environment so that your son doesn’t get an erection. Tell him to learn to deal with his own body. Tell little boys that little girls are just like them, human.

 

I buy my daughters’ clothes to fit their female bodies. Clothes that fit appropriately. I refuse to buy them clothes that are too big and ill fitting. I refuse to be part of this problem that plagues our girls and our women. We objectify women and you can choose to embrace your body and be labeled a whore or hide it away and be labeled a prude.

 

If you are thinking to yourself, “Thank God I am a grown woman and don’t have to worry about that any longer!” Are you being honest with yourself. As women, we are always objectified. Maybe there’s no sister sending you home for your shorts being too distracting or a crazy teacher pinning your dress closed at the neckline but make no mistake, you are being seen and not heard.

 

These men in the news sexually harassing co-workers, friends, and women at large they are a symptom of the problem. Their bad behavior has been tolerated for so long that they think we are the crazy ones, the witch hunters, the wolf criers who are making mountains out of molehills. Even now, in light of all the allegations, society is crying out on behalf of the men. Where is their due process? How can we ruin their lives and careers over such a small indiscretion? Victims have to prove how victimized they were, as if one degree is valid than the other. Women are even coming to the defense of men over the victims because they think they “know a guy” better than the victim who experienced the assault.

 

I’m not saying every guy that appears to be normal is running around assaulting and harassing women but I can say with confidence that every man who has ever harassed or sexually assaulted a woman is not running around acting particularly like a rapist; so obviously most of them are walking around looking like normal, “good guys” until they aren’t.

 

I guess my point to this piece is that I don’t feel sorry for the allegations. I believe every single one of them until they are proven otherwise because I’ve lived quite a few years and I know these things happen on a regular basis first hand.

 

It’s not a witch hunt and I don’t feel sorry for men who are all “Woe’s me, I guess I can’t speak to women anymore because I’ll get accused of harassment.” In fact, to tell you the truth, I think most of us women would prefer it if most of you would keep your comments, hisses and mouthed dirty motions to yourself. We don’t welcome them and they make us feel threatened.

 

Women are finally feeling empowered enough to tell their truths; to shine a light on the horrendous treatment that women have been subject to for all their lives. How it effects your male ego is not our concern. We’re not trying to accuse innocent men of wrong doings; we are simply trying to out our assailants. If you’re not one of them, you have nothing to worry about.

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an apology to men, sexual harassment, me too, #Metoo, sexual assault

Dear Men,

In light of the recent Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey situations, and so many others I am realizing that these men are not the exception. That’s not to say all men are bad. In fact, some men are amazing partners, brothers, fathers and role models but something is really wrong and I never realized it until all the #METOO stories began to flood my feeds. Fundamentally, as a society, we are collectively dropping the ball.

Honestly, that part wasn’t even completely surprising to me. I’m a woman and have been living with my vagina for my entire life. I’ve always suspected that all women have been victimized to one degree or another but I never realized that part of the problem is that men don’t have a clue of how their behavior affects women.

The misconception is that if we have not been dragged into some dark alley and been violently raped by a stranger, we are lucky. We have not been victimized. But that’s not true. Many of us have been victimized and brutalized over and over again for decades.

We’ve just learned that there is an acceptable amount of assault. We’ve learned to live with it. Don’t get me wrong, we are terrified. It has left us scarred. It has left us trembling and cowering. It has robbed us of trust and safety.

We walk fast to our cars at night. We will never be afforded the luxury of a slow stroll under the stars alone to think; not without a cost of safety. We run past large groups of men. We cringe when a man pushes into us on public transportation. Cat calls give us anxiety. We avert our eyes when strange men expose themselves to us. At the end of every date, we pray that we escape without being forced against our will to perform some sexual act that men seem to feel is owed to them as payment for eating dinner with us. We don’t leave our drinks unattended. We travel in packs for protection. But you know none of this because you don’t feel any of this. I never realized it until now. I’m sorry that men have no clue how hard it is to function in the world as a woman.

The Big Guy, my husband, the man I have been with for almost half of my life is a good man. By all accounts, he is a great man, husband, father, and partner. Just ask my mom. You see, he lives his life based on the simple act of being a good person; treating others as he would like to be treated and it works. He is a kind, giving, loving man but he doesn’t understand the female condition. He’s tried but our experiences walking around in the world are so vastly different that it’s like a caterpillar and an elephant trying to understand what the other one’s life is like. It is impossible. How did I find this out? We had a conversation.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations about what’s going on in the world at dinner a lot lately. I respect my husband’s opinion and he’s very intelligent so we can have reasonable debates about most things. But painfully, I’ve realized having an honest conversation with a middle-class white man about the female condition is like talking politics with a monkey. It’s not their fault, it’s just so out of their frame of reference. What a luxury it must be.

I’ve always known that men and women are different but fundamentally, we are all human beings. We are the same species and for whatever prejudices men have about the abilities of women or their place in society, they had to concede that we are all human beings, right? I was wrong.

They know we are human beings but they can’t relate to our experience because it is so fundamentally different from their own. I was talking to a group of men who normally agree with my beliefs and politics. These are educated, feminist men and still, I was surprised at how the conversation went.

We were talking about Weinstein, who we all agree is a monster. Then, we moved on to Spacey who I feel is a definite predator; a pedophile. The group I was speaking with did more listening and less speaking. I could feel myself losing them. Then, the Charlie Sheen third-party accusations came about. We weren’t there. We have no idea what happened because the alleged victim is dead, his mother says the accusations are false and the accused denies any of it happened. Then, a new accusation about Roman Polanski that is 50 years old came up.

This is when the men took it upon themselves to circle back to Weinstein. Then it came, “Why did these women all wait so long to come forward?” I could see doubt poking its ugly head in. I could see them taking offense to the audacity of these women. I could feel myself, the lone vagina owner having to go on the defensive and have a real talk about the female condition with them.

I assured them that I believed wholeheartedly that every single woman who says she has been assaulted and shared her #MeToo story is telling the truth. I do. Maybe it feels like women are all coming forward now and maybe they are but not because it’s popular. It’s because there is safety in numbers. There is the Internet and you can tell the world without having to be given the hairy eyeball by some man who doubts you and questions your part in all of it. What were you wearing? Were you drinking? Did you lead him on in any way?

But how do you know it’s not just for attention? Why all jump on the bandwagon now!

I could feel my head about to explode.  You see all of these seemingly educated, intelligent feminist men don’t know shit about living as a woman. But then again, how could they? I don’t know much about walking around in the world with a penis.

I explained to them that we women learn at a very early age that men have the power. It starts with our father; the head of the family. The provider and protector. And if you were raised in a macho Latino family like mine, you know early on that boys are prized above girls. Little girls are taught to be subservient to boys and boys are taught to take care of women, but they are also taught that they know what is best for girls. They don’t.

Then I explained that what they don’t understand is to women, the penis is a weapon, that can be used to hurt us. To defile us. To take from us. To humble us. To punish us. That’s why unsolicited dick pics from random men not only don’t excite us, they frighten us. It’s a threat.

I’m not saying women hate penises. In the right situation, when wanted, between two consenting adults, it can be magical and beautiful. It is the coming together of two as one, perfectly. It gives pleasure and life, literally.

The guys still look unconvinced. These women were grown adult women. They were strong enough to walk away. Especially in the case of Louis C.K. Why didn’t the women run screaming from the room? Why did they ever agree when asked?

I don’t know all the details but I think all women have been in some situation with a man where he has asked of her something so unbelievable that she is like, “Sure, whatever.” (because if she were to flee from the room at the thought of something so ridiculous she’d be labeled a hysterical woman who took everything entirely too seriously.) So, you say, “whatever” never expecting what follows next. I know if I was a fan or colleague of Louis C.K. and he asked if he could get naked and masturbate, I wouldn’t have taken him seriously. I would have thought it was a bit.

The men I was talking to still did not seem convinced. But I could see them rethinking some things so, I told them. I told them some of my truth. This was uncomfortable for me because these men included my husband and two of my brothers but if we don’t talk about it, it never changes. Even though we women have no part in our assaults, we feel shame that we were victimized. We feel like we should have known better because we are raised to not get raped, not get harassed and not get assaulted. Can’t we just teach our boys not to rape, harass and assault?

I told them of the time in college when I woke up in the middle of the night frozen in place to the horror of a guy I’d met earlier that night, a friend of a friend, on top of me kissing me and touching me while I slept. No, we had not gone to bed together. We happened to be staying with people in the same apartment. I pushed him off but I felt violated and I feel that I narrowly escaped being raped but in all honesty, I have no idea what he did before I woke up.

I saw my brothers cringe. They asked why didn’t I tell them. Well, one of them was 11 at the time and the other was 1-years-old. By 19, I had had men push themselves on me more times than I could count. The protocol was to escape the situation as unscathed as possible and be thankful things didn’t go worse.

Then, I told them about the time I was a teenager working at a department store and the loss prevention guys locked me in their soundproof office at the end of the night with the two of them. Then they proceeded to tell me how they enjoyed watching me on the cameras and laughed as they matter of factly told me that they could do whatever they wanted to me in that office and no one would ever hear me.

My husband asked why didn’t I report them. I was 18. They were who I was supposed to report these things to. One was an off-duty cop. Who was going to help me? I just had to stay clear and avoid them.

There are so many instances from little-nuanced things to full-on date rape antics that I have experienced, that most women experience, that our mothers had to survive, that our daughters will have to survive all because men don’t understand. This is not an excuse. This is a fact.

Yes, men know rape is rape but all the rest is murky for them. Between the forgiveness they are afforded because of the boys will be boys clause and the lack of respect they are taught for women and the lack of reverence for the female condition, we women have to appear as irrational, hysterical females jumping on bandwagons just to get the world to pay attention and reevaluate the whole damn system.

I’m sorry that you weren’t raised to truly understand how vulnerable it is to be a woman. I’m sorry we never realized that you didn’t know until now. But the jig is up. I’m putting it out here. MOMS and DADS the onus is on you. Starting with your newborn sons, teach them to do better and to be better to our girls.

How about this: no means no! No touching unless invited to do so and keep your creepy comments and dick pics to yourself. No shoulder massaging. No ass grabbing. No pushing your penises up against us when you’re standing behind us or rubbing it on us when the opportunity arises.No brushing your hands against our breasts. No disgusting comments about our mouths or what you’d like to do with our bodies. No drugging us. No having sex with us when we’re drinking or sleeping or incapacitated in any way that doesn’t allow us to give consent. How about treating us the way you’d like to be treated, with some dignity and respect?

Men, I am sorry that you feel like all the hysterical women of the Internet are on a witch hunt for sexual predators and you are uncomfortable and afraid that some woman from your past might accuse you of some wrongdoing but ask yourself, why are you worried? Why are you dismissive? Have you behaved questionably? Ask yourselves next time, would this be okay if it were happening to my mom, my sister, my girlfriend, my wife, or heaven forbid, your little girl? If the answer is no, then don’t do it.

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