Author Archives: Ashley

With A Little Help From My Friends

Friendship is a wonderful gift. I have great friends … specifically I have great girlfriends. It seems that my college girlfriends are the closest type of friendships – we became the people we are today because of those friendships. We grew together and became sisters, if I can get away with that much Southern gooey sweetness. We are blunt with each other, brutally honest at times, but never hurtful. We are honest and direct with each other, but they are the first to call me on my crazy. And I do the same. We love each other unconditionally but not blindly.

We often compare other friendships to the ones we share together, the one we all keep on a pedestal. We often tease that we feel bad for women who don’t have real friendships (read here about frenemies) like ours. And we are only half kidding, we are seriously unapologetic about our own awesomeness. Make no mistake my friends and I are not without our flaws. I think the key to our enduring relationship is that we don’t expect perfection, we don’t run at the first sign of discourse. We hold each other up during the hard times and laugh through the good times.

The bizarre part of this wonderfully perfect friendship? It was developed through forced “togetherness” of several young women who I, at the time, felt that we were all different from one another.

As a kid my family moved several times to accommodate my father’s employer which meant I ended up attending elementary, middle and high school in different states. All that moving really got in the way of long-term friendships.

Making friends was particularly difficult for me as I was shy and awkward around new people. Seriously, I threw up on my shoes my first day of middle school. I had a tendency to talk too much or laugh too loud when I was nervous and then chastise myself later for not acting appropriately. Like most wallflowers, I spent most of my time just trying to blend in. I became so good at blending in that I eventually became invisible. Or at least that’s how I felt.

I was eager to move on to college where I had this notion that I would finally get to be myself, finally be free of cliques and the insatiable loneliness that I had come to know. I would finally become visible.

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And in 1999 it happened. I was invited to become a part of a legendary club called The BlackList. There is no rush or recruitment for honorary clubs, no bid day or membership tea, invitations are extended only to the 13 best juniors on campus. I was thrilled that my school’s coolest and baddest bee-otches wanted me.

I vaguely remember those first meetings with my new “sisters,” I was still as awkward as I was that first day of middle school except with less vomit, which I counted as a win. They, however, all seemed like rare, exotic and graceful animals. I was smitten with the idea that these girls would be my long-lost forever friends. But, as we know, friendships don’t just happen because you are placed in a group together and encouraged to bond. There were many times when we couldn’t hold our group together because we didn’t know how to hold each other up. There were times when we couldn’t see past our own ambition. I won’t lie – we had our growing pains. We had our cliques. We had our catty moments. They were certainly some cat-fighting and tears.

But slowly and surely there was a shift. It was so subtle at first we hardly noticed it but there was a change in our perspective. Somewhere along the way we became less interested in reaching the end of a goal and more interested in encouraging each other and enjoying the ride. We began to bolster our strengths and smooth out our rough spots. We became each other’s cheerleaders, counselors and best friends.

And as for me, I’m no longer the wallflower trying to fit in and just get by. I laugh loudly and proudly whenever I get the chance and don’t apologize for who I am. These women helped me SEE myself when they began to SEE me. I’m no longer invisible.

This last week, I’ve spent a lot of time “liking” and “commenting” on Facebook photos with abandon. Seriously it’s been a problem, but a good problem that I have enjoyed immensely. This weekend many generations of women will celebrate 100 years of the BlackList Honorary Social Club, the club that brought them all together, just it did me and my friends. This once in a lifetime celebration has spurred a sort of countdown to the homecoming festivities this weekend, and alumni far and wide have been posting pictures from their college days. I have loved pouring over the baby faces and teased hair of women I knew only as grown-ups when I, myself, was a baby-faced college kid. Even as a 19-year-old naive kid, I knew that by joining this club I was becoming part of something bigger than myself, something that would change my life. And boy was I right.

In addition to the 100th birthday of our club, the women who joined this club with me celebrate a milestone of our own. This is our 15-year anniversary. 15 years, that’s longer than I’ve known my husband.

To close out our acknowledgement of Women’s History Month here at Am I Being Catty, I would like to honor the women, the friends, the sisters that have changed me for the better (and sometimes for the worse, but that’s a blog that has yet to be written!).

I noticed something today in those pictures from the club’s past and the friendships chronicled in them. These were not just pictures of college days and shenanigans, although those are fabulous. These were pictures that told stories of relationships that crossed ages and miles. They were pictures of friends dressed as bridesmaids, friends holding newborns, friends comforting in grief, friends visiting after significant illness, friends’ children playing together. They were pictures of women loving each other as true friends. They were pictures that showed the power of girlfriends.

I won’t lie. We still gossip, get our feelings hurt, have miscommunications … and yes, we can be catty with each other. But there’s something to be said for a friendship that survives through the good times and bad times. It may not be that our friendship is particularly more special than others, it may just be that we know how to survive the hard times better and can move on from them faster.

Hug your friends tight. Here’s to another 15 years, ladies. And another 50 after that.

Ashley

 

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Namaste Y’all.

Never ones to shy away from tough topics here at Am I Being Catty, we’d like to invite you to buckle in ladies, because this post may be a bumpy ride.

As a person raised in the Deep South, I am aware of the inflammatory and provocative nature of race and ethnicity. I am a child of the 80’s and 90’s when the popular race-relation strategy was to be “colorblind.” In other words, “let me pretend not to notice the difference in your skin tone and ignore the cultural differences that probably go along with it.” I adhered to this “colorblind” philosophy for many years because I didn’t understand that while we, as humans, share a common human experience that does not mean that I, as a white woman, share the same life experiences as a woman of color.

This brings me to current events. Recently a former (and much loved and respected) professor shared an article from XOJane that was actually a response to this original article.  Here are some excerpts of Yoga Girl’s article for those of you who don’t have the time or inclination to read the whole original piece:

A few weeks ago, as I settled into an exceptionally crowded midday class, a young, fairly heavy black woman put her mat down directly behind mine. It appeared she had never set foot in a yoga studio—she was glancing around anxiously, adjusting her clothes, looking wide-eyed and nervous. Within the first few minutes of gentle warm-up stretches, I saw the fear in her eyes snowball, turning into panic and then despair. Before we made it into our first downward dog, she had crouched down on her elbows and knees, head lowered close to the ground, trapped and vulnerable. She stayed there, staring, for the rest of the class.

Because I was directly in front of her, I had no choice but to look straight at her every time my head was upside down (roughly once a minute). I’ve seen people freeze or give up in yoga classes many times, and it’s a sad thing, but as a student there’s nothing you can do about it. At that moment, though, I found it impossible to stop thinking about this woman. Even when I wasn’t positioned to stare directly at her, I knew she was still staring directly at me. Over the course of the next hour, I watched as her despair turned into resentment and then contempt. I felt it all directed toward me and my body.
 
I was completely unable to focus on my practice, instead feeling hyper-aware of my high-waisted bike shorts, my tastefully tacky sports bra, my well-versedness in these poses that I have been in hundreds of times. My skinny white girl body. Surely this woman was noticing all of these things and judging me for them, stereotyping me, resenting me—or so I imagined.
I thought about how that must feel: to be a heavyset black woman entering for the first time a system that by all accounts seems unable to accommodate her body. What could I do to help her? If I were her, I thought, I would want as little attention to be drawn to my despair as possible—I would not want anyone to look at me or notice me. And so I tried to very deliberately avoid looking in her direction each time I was in downward dog, but I could feel her hostility just the same. Trying to ignore it only made it worse. 
I got home from that class and promptly broke down crying. Yoga, a beloved safe space that has helped me through many dark moments in over six years of practice, suddenly felt deeply suspect. Knowing fully well that one hour of perhaps self-importantly believing myself to be the deserving target of a racially charged anger is nothing, is largely my own psychological projection, is a drop in the bucket, is the tip of the iceberg in American race relations, I was shaken by it all the same.

Ok, so there are lots of things I could say in response to this article for instance I could comment on Yoga girl’s unbelievable mind reading skills, or her co-opting of the experience of another human being (with whom she NEVER SPOKE) but those comments have already been eloquently covered here by another XOJane contributor.

I could also comment on how Yoga girl takes a narcissistic and biased view of her own body as not only the yoga ideal but also apparently the ideal of the unnamed heavy black woman (again, with whom she NEVER SPOKE). But again that view has been very powerfully expressed here.

Or maybe I could comment on how Yoga girl may need to re-boot her yoga practice by looking at her own mind and heart rather than worrying about who is or isn’t giving her the stink eye, but once again this has been beautifully stated here (this is my personal favorite).

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So you may be asking what’s left for me, a white woman, to add to this conversation about race, body types, privilege and yoga?  Well, as a matter of fact, not much.  The truth is I can only truly speak to my own experience as a middle class white woman.  I am not naive enough to believe that I have not benefited from my skin color and class.  I have been privy to plenty of conversations with others who share my white skin (and believe I share their “values”) to know that racism is not a relic of days gone by.  I am also not so idealistic (or pompous) to believe that my skin color and class have not influenced my view of others in good and bad ways.

I think the lesson in Yoga girl’s unfortunate online debut is remembering that everyone’s life experiences, culture, and racial and ethnic identities color their perspective.  And that perspective is probably very different from yours.

Welcome the diversity, embrace the differences and never assume that the craziness going on in your head (which is influenced by your own life, culture etc.) is also going on in someone else’s head.  Trust me, everyone has their own crazy.

And maybe next time there is a new person (of any color or body size) in your yoga, kickboxing or weightlifting class just say “hello.”

Peace and love ladies,

Ashley

#yogaisforposers #namasteyall #xojane

Keep it classy, internets…or at least keep it hilarious and confident.

It is an unfortunate reality that “fatshaming” has become a phenomenon that requires its own name and hashtag.  NinjaKitty recently blogged about Alyssa Milano’s super classy response to fatshaming here.

The internet’s newest celebrity fatshaming target is Gabourey Sidibe.  At Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards Gabourey wore this shimmering cream colored gown:

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And the twitter trolls went straight for the jugular with tweets like this one:

But this is where Gabourey Sidibe swoops in with the tweet of the century:

Seriously, Gabby just won the internet.  Way to keep it classy AND hilarious Ms. Sidibe.  And that my friends is how it’s done.  

Peace and Love,

Ashley

#gaboureysidibe  #keepitclassy

Country Cat Fight

A wonderful friend introduced me to the music of Kacey Musgraves over the weekend.  I was intrigued and delighted by her quirky and endearing lyrics so when I returned home I eagerly googled the singer.  But instead of articles about her songwriting I found several articles about her “sore loser face” which she displayed at the Country Music Awards held on November 6, 2013.

Here is the video evidence:

Personally I think that if I won an award I would want the camera solely on my well-crafted and perfectly practiced acceptance speech.  But the producers of these award shows seem to favor scanning the crowd for the losers to see if any of them are giving the winner the stank eye.

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I tend to perceive Kacey’s face here as bored, maybe with a touch of sadness but the overall impression is that she is not happy that her fellow nominee’s win.

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Bloggers and news magazines have already predicted a country catfight.  Seems legit right?  A camera catches your moment of bitchy resting face and suddenly they are declaring war.

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I can’t say I blame Kacey for her display of what appears to be disappointment.  After all I would be disappointed if I didn’t win an award.  It is entirely possible that Kacey had no ill intention and the camera caught her at an unfortunate time.  However, we would like to suggest Kacey practice her happy eyes and keep it classy when on national television.  Why? Because we don’t always win and sometimes we lose to folks we don’t like.  It’s a part of life, resist the urge to let your own disappointment outshine someone else’s victory.  Be the bigger person.

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you should play nice even if you didn’t want to?  Let us hear from you ladies!

Ashley

AIBC Team Member (and Miranda AND Kacey fan)

Fat is not a bad word.

545245_10151609576201990_1741740237_nMy daughter called me fat.  Talk about a catty punch in the flabby gut.  But probably not for the reason you might think.  I was not offended by her perception of my body habitus.  I was hurt that my beautiful daughter at the so young age of 3 understands that “fat” is not merely the name for the layer of cells underneath the skin of all animals.  She understood that “fat” was bad.  And it may be my fault.

As a rule there is no catty self talk in my house.  There is no “I feel so fat today” or “my thighs are so gross” or even “omg, when did he get so huge.”  We just don’t do it.  So when my 3 year old daughter pointed to my bare tummy, laughed and said “Mama, you’re getting fat!” I knew she had not heard that endearing expression from me.

Turns out a kid at school has been calling my daughter fat.   And just when I think that I have conquered those fat, self-loathing demons they rear their ugly heads at me through my daughter.  And in the moment where I should be the strong, unbiased mother doling out sage wisdom about body image and beauty and kindness I revert to the shy, whimpering, too-sensitive girl who was teased for being fat.

So with hindsight being 20/20 here is what I wish I had said:

Dear Daughter,

You are too young to fully understand how badly words can hurt.  Part of me hopes you will never truly understand.  I would love to shield you from all of those hurts but I know that is not possible.

I’m going to tell you a secret…I’m not perfect.  I have always struggled with my weight and with accepting my body.  I wasted too many years of my life feeling “less than” because I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin.

So when you told me that a kid in your class called you fat I automatically wanted to kick that kid in the shins wanted to cuddle you and make you feel better after hearing that someone had been cruel to you.  But I may have been misguided.  I assumed that the comment hurt your feelings because it would have hurt mine.

As a kid I listened to classmates call me fat and I believed them.  I believed that there was something wrong with the way I looked, something that I should change about myself to make other people more comfortable.  But that is where I was wrong.  I was always perfect just the way I was.  And so are you.

Your body will change in so many ways as you grow and mature.  Some changes will come so suddenly they will give you whiplash.  There may be times when you look in the mirror and feel unhappy with what you see there.  It’s ok to want to be stronger and more fit as long as you understand that happiness doesn’t come from a certain size or from a carton of Blue Bell.  All that matters is that you remain healthy and love yourself.

I promise to continue to curb the body comments, not just the “fat” ones, because it’s just rude to comment on the nature of someone else’s body.  I promise to keep having this conversation with you as you grow older.

And baby girl, fat is not a bad word.  Your mama spent too long waiting for her body to be perfect and expecting that perfection to bring her happiness.  But true happiness starts on the inside.  Your worth is based on your humanity, your selflessness and how you treat others.  Your strength comes from your muscles but also your heart.

So my sweet, silly, funny, creative, musical Butterbean let’s continue to grow together.

All my love,

Mama  (aka AIBC Team Member Ashley)

#fatisnotabadword #mamalovesyou #bodyimage

Not just a pretty face.

I am sure we all have a catty pet-peeve.  For some of us it is gossip, for others it is a fake friend (a frenemy, if you will).  For me it is the back handed compliment.  Specifically the “but you have such a pretty face” compliment.

Let me give you a rundown of how this conversation usually happens:

Me: I say anything about being fat.

Random Person: “But you have such a pretty face.”

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Please don’t misunderstand…I know my face is pretty and I appreciate that you also agree.  I am glad that you gaze upon my face and find it pleasing.  However, to say “but you have such a pretty face…”  gives the impression that you think that is my ONLY redeeming physical quality.

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To say “but you have such a pretty face” also implies that I should feel lucky that I have a face that is nice to look at since the rest of me is not so cute.  Imagine for a moment how that feels.

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I get it.  I’m not thin, skinny or athletic.  I am fat.  It’s ok to say it.  Literally I have more fat on my body than is necessary for my survival.  But my fat body and pretty face are not mutually exclusive.  It is in fact entirely possible to be fat AND gorgeous.  It is also possible to be fat and not disgusting.  Here is some proof.

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So for those friends, relatives, co-workers and random folks who are dishing out this (back handed) compliment to your fatty friends.  Knock it the hell off.  Consider this your public service announcement. So get out there and stop being catty bitches.

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Lots of love,

Ashley

AIBC Team member

#butyouhavesuchaprettyface #fatgirlproblems

#frenemy #level3catty

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Best Frenemies Forever.

let-take-down-notch-friendship-ecard-someecardsFriend or frenemy?  Seems like it would be easy to tell the difference between someone who loves you and someone who is waiting for you to fall on your face – or worse holding their leg out to help you fall on your face.  But I think at some point we have all been fooled.

I have been lucky in my life to have met my perfectly imperfect group of true friends relatively early in life.  I am even luckier that they have stuck around for the last (almost) 15 years.  I think my experience with these real friendships makes it harder for me to be fooled by the likes of the frenemy.  So I have composed some helpful tips (in the style of Jeff Foxworthy) on how to spot a frenemy in the wild.

If she ditches you at a bar for a hookup or if she encourages you to leave with a sketchy dude who drives a van…she is a frenemy.

If she allows you to leave the house under any of the following conditions: an orange bottle tan, a pink sweat suit, dandruff, leggings as pants…she is a frenemy.

If she posts and tags you in up-angle or otherwise embarrassing photos on Facebook…she is a frenemy.

If she only wants to hang out when she has nothing better to do…she is a frenemy.

If she flirts with your significant other, spouse, father, mother etc. …she is a frenemy.

If she tells your crush any story about you involving the words “stomach virus”…she is a frenemy.

If she knows you are terrified of being on stage and she secretly signs you up for karaoke…she is a frenemy.

If she uses that insecurity about being on stage as a way to shame you into feeling like you are ruining her night…she is a frenemy.

If you confront her about her bad behavior and she takes no responsibility for that behavior and instead blames it on you…she is most definitely a frenemy.

So be on the lookout ladies because frenemies pop up just about everywhere.  What are your experiences with frenemies?  Let us hear from you!

Ashley

AIBC Team Member