Four weeks ago, I woke up utterly depressed. I had just married the love of my life a few days earlier so why did it feel like I was grieving?
My husband and I had managed to stay totally present on the day itself. Our married friends had warned us that it all goes by in a blur so we made sure to savor as many moments as we could. But no one gave me the heads up that I might feel deep sadness afterward.
I consulted my favorite oracle: Google. A number of articles popped up on my computer referring to post-wedding depression, the post-wedding blues, and wedding withdrawals. There are even message boards where new brides talk about their feelings with other new brides. As one article title put it, Post-Wedding Depression is a Real Thing.
The post-wedding blues is described as withdrawals after the high of the big day, accompanied by a feeling of “what next?” There may even be a sensation of emptiness, now that there is no more wedding planning to take up so much time and space. And the blues doesn’t just affect women. My husband was hit by them, too.
That first week after our wedding, we lived in a pink cloud of newlywed euphoria laced with malaise. You wouldn’t have thought we had both just experienced the best day of our lives.
My husband and I processed our feelings by recapping our favorite moments with each other, over and over. When we exhausted our list of what we loved about our wedding, we proceeded to nitpick about what didn’t go right, over and over. I hated my bouquet. How could the DJ have forgotten to turn the microphone on!? Why did I improvise my speech instead of use notecards?! All this talking and obsessing, I now realize, was our way of trying to hold on to the day.
When we were done sweating the minutiae with each other, I called girl friends that had been at the wedding to talk about the day with them. What did you think of the food? Did you like the flowers? Did you have a good time?
Driving in traffic aggravated my senses. Running to the grocery store left me feeling drained. I kept losing track of time, arriving 45 minutes late to my chiropractor. I had no appetite, except for leftover wedding cake. I was weepy at the slightest provocation.
“It’s our first time back in our house as husband and wife,” I told him, sobbing in his arms. “I’m so happy!”
Five-and-a-half hours, which was how long we had from the start of the ceremony until the last dance, was just not long enough to take in everyone and everything. For every moment that my husband and I got to savor, there were twice as many missed. If only we could have cloned ourselves. We could have attended cocktail hour and snuck off with our photographer for pictures. Instead, we had to choose just one—the photos—and miss out on the other.
And then there were all the people who came for us. To have our families and friends from the different eras of our lives seated across from us at the reception made me feel like—to quote an old Belinda Carlisle song—heaven really is a place on earth. It’s also emotional overload and a bit of a teaser because good luck having a real conversation with any of them.
I understand that weddings are not set up so that the bride and groom can spend quality time with anyone but each other, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t feel lousy about this at the end of the night. I still do.
The day after the wedding I tried to steal more moments. I woke up at the hotel at 6am, rushing from one relative’s room to another for a few minutes of conversation. I sent a long email to an old friend that had come from across the country whom I hadn’t seen in years until our wedding. I apologized, lamenting that we didn’t get any concentrated amount of time together. He responded graciously, saying he was just happy to have been there.
“Let’s get married again,” I said to my husband, teary-eyed. “That way, we can spend at least another two minutes with everyone and hit up cocktail hour.”
A few of the articles I found on the post-wedding blues provide strategies for dealing with this type of depression and its side effects. Plan a trip, advises one psychologist. Focus on your life with each other. All good advice, but maybe these particular blues are supposed to be felt and sung.
Granted, not all newlyweds suffer from wedding withdrawals, but there are plenty who do. So why not embrace this as part of the process and make space for it? For my husband and I, singing the post-wedding blues has been unavoidable and necessary.
It’s been a month since our wedding. I’ve taken to calling my husband by his new title every chance I get. Husband, what time is it? Husband, can you pass the TV remote? Good morning, husband! It’s as if we’re in the honeymoon phase of our relationship all over again except that we’re married.
Yet there are still some days when I just can’t seem to help myself, and I break into my now all too familiar refrain:
I miss our wedding… I wish we’d had more time with everyone… that damn bouquet.
The other day I printed out a list of search words that people have used, landing them on my blog. Aside from the expected—find my sensuality, stories of women, big round belly, female breast stories, what happened to Barbie’s Skipper—some other interesting terms come up, including:
- Forward facing vagina pics
- Filipino girls for pleasure
- Her face as she climaxes
- Girl pleasures herself with her tummy out
- Beautiful lady pushing beer bottle in vagina
Based on these terms I suspect that there are people searching for pornography who are finding Stories from the Belly instead.
This isn’t the first time my work has been mistaken on the surface for pornography. Several years ago I wrote a chapbook of poetry and prose that I gave to family and friends. When I asked an uncle what he thought of my work, he said, “I didn’t finish it because I don’t read porn.”
Porn? I thought. Could he and I be talking about the same chapbook?
The collection had come out of a writing class in which we were told to put together what we’d written into self-published form. As someone who suffered from writer’s block for years, I was thrilled to have generated anything at all.
My poems and short essays covered a range of topics—from a poem fantasizing about life as the real Laura Ingalls Wilder to one about how I always tried to be whatever the man in my life needed instead of just being myself. There are also references throughout alluding to sexual and sensual experiences. But did that instantly qualify my work as porn?
“Are you sure that you are referring to my chapbook?” I said.
“Yes.” He replied. “There is no way I will read the whole thing. It goes against my values.”
His response devastated me. Could my work be that offensive? And how could I be making porn and not even know it? I don’t even like pornography because of how it objectifies women and turns sex into exaggerated acts of performance.
If my uncle was right, then surely the world would be a better place without me as a writer pushing that type of material out into the planet.
That night, I went online and got on Merriam Webster.com to look up the word:
Pornography “noun por·nog·ra·phy \-fē\: movies, pictures, magazines, etc., that show or describe naked people or sex in a very open and direct way in order to cause sexual excitement.
Is that what I had done? I went through every page of my chapbook looking for explicit descriptions of sex or naked people but couldn’t find any. Granted, in one poem there is a line about how I kissed a different boy every day my freshman year in college. In another poem, I write about having sex with a lover under a mango tree (although—full disclosure—that never happened. I just liked the imagery that the words evoked).
But were sentences like that enough to cause sexual excitement in anyone? And even if they did—was that my fault? And what would be wrong with that anyways? And If I were to ever describe a sexual experience in detail, would that automatically make it pornographic?
My uncle’s reaction to my work played on my fears that my writing was not fit for public consumption. I worried that he was right and I lacked the barometer for knowing the difference between the appropriate and the profane. I even considered placing an X-rated label on the cover of my chapbook as a warning.
In The Uses of the Erotic, feminist and author Audre Lorde wrote about how people often mistake the erotic for the pornographic: “The erotic has often been misnamed by men and used against women. It has been made into the confused, the trivial, the psychotic, and plasticized sensation.” When in reality, she explained, the erotic is “the assertion of the life force of women; of that creative energy empowered, the knowledge and use of which we are now reclaiming in our language, our history, our dancing, our loving, our work, our lives.”
For me, that first chapbook was the re-accessing of my creative force that I’d stopped up for so long. One of the reasons that I had subconsciously blocked myself as a writer was because I was so afraid that if I did write from my depths, one particular story would come rising to the surface, forcing me to deal with its truth—and that is exactly what happened. It was the story about how I was sexually abused when I was a child. And so began the process of me taking back my voice, my creativity, my body, and my sexuality as my own as I exorcised what was not mine—in reclamation of my feminine erotic nature.
Years later, I have a stronger sense of what my work is and what it is not. But that isn’t to say that I sometimes still don’t get paranoid and worry.
When I first launched this blog, knowing some of the topics I was dying to tackle, the old fears came up. For about five minutes, I literally marked my site as X-rated to warn unsuspecting people away from its contents—and then I decided to do as Lorde suggested and stop misnaming the erotic. No more using it to shame women, including me.
Still, with all the confusion that exists between the erotic and the pornographic, I shouldn’t be surprised that when some people go searching for porn they wind up here. What must the reader searching for “girls allow snake to pass through the vagina” think about my posts? Or the reader wanting to see “boyfriend shrinks and goes into girlfriend’s womb.” I wonder.
Imagining the startled, WTF expression on their faces makes me smile.
I grew up on fairy tales. For years I believed that I too could instantly know a guy was “the one” without getting to know him first and hoped that someone might sweep in one day and—just like that, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo—my life would become what I needed it to be. Since then, I’ve (thankfully) woken up to the reality that no one—man, woman, or fairy anyone—is coming to save me. I’m the one who’s always had the power.
So when I went with a friend to see the movie Cinderella, I was absolutely expecting to hate this live version of the classic animated film. High heel glass slippers that are bad for your feet, finding true love based off several hours of eye gazing, magic-wand type solutions to hard problems, and the heroine staying stuck in a bad situation rather than taking empowered action. What could there possibly be to like?
Well, I just loved the film. I was just as enchanted by the story as I was when I saw it the first time as a girl. The special effects, including Cinderella’s worn and torn dress transforming into an exquisite ball gown as she turns around and round, made it seem as if the cartoon had come to life. It didn’t hurt that the actor playing the Prince was so easy on the eyes or that he seemed like a very good man.
Does this make me a bad feminist because I loved it? The thought, for a moment, crossed my mind. A few years back, I would have said yes and been wracked with guilt.
In her Bad Feminist manifesto, author Roxane Gay writes about how you can be a feminist and still be into things that may not exactly fall under the supposed umbrella of “feminist-like.” She gives many examples, including her desire to be both independent and taken care of or how she still enjoys rap music even though some of the lyrics are degrading to women. Still, as she points out, none of these personal preferences make her any less committed to the issues that are integral to the feminist cause.
Like Gay and other feminists, I believe that men and women are equal and should be treated as such. But that doesn’t mean there still isn’t room for me to appreciate when my boyfriend takes charge in certain situations, opt to sometimes keep my mouth shut rather than speak out, or enjoy the results that come from working out several times a week while knowing that my worth has nothing to do with the size of my waist. None of these have any bearing upon my 100% dedication to calling out misogyny when I see it and supporting other women in owning their power and loving their bodies.
But when I first began coming out as a feminist I worried that some of my preferences might. Shouldn’t I, as a feminist, get offended when a date opens the door for me or refuse when he offers to pay for dinner? Shouldn’t I, as a feminist, stop watching movies like Love, Actually, with its unflattering portrayal of women? (For more on that read here.) Would a “real” feminist enjoy wearing tank tops that show off her cleavage? (The answer to that is yes).
Being a feminist began to feel restrictive and limiting—the opposite of liberating. And for a while, I went back into my “I’m not a Feminist” closet because I didn’t feel like I could hold on to the many contradictions that make up me and be a good feminist too.
In her manifesto, Gay also writes, “I bought into grossly inaccurate myths about who feminists are—militant, perfect in their politics and person, man-hating and humorless.” And like her, “I don’t want to buy into these myths anymore.” I have a feeling some of the myths were made up by those seeking to shut the movement down via negative spin tactics.
It wasn’t until I realized that I had been trying (and failing) to fulfill some ridiculous stereotype rather than being myself—a person who happens to believe in equality for all—that I finally became comfortable not just owning that I was a feminist but embodying that in ways that are specific to me.
Just as being myself doesn’t take anything away from feminism, being a feminist takes nothing away from me. If anything, feminism has given me more choices that allow me to be who I am in my personal life and out in the world.
As for Cinderella, I think of my appreciation for the movie as not unlike my relationship to certain foods. I know that potato chips or fried pork rinds aren’t the healthiest but that doesn’t mean I won’t indulge in them occasionally and relish every bite. (And to paraphrase Georgia Platts, the author of BroadBlogs who posted a thought-provoking comment below, not every story about a woman has to be a feminist one.)
Then again, at the end of the day, a love story that involves two people, excited to have found each other, and brave enough to make a go at creating a happy life together—what’s anti-feminist about that? Besides, I’ve always been a sucker for a happy ending.
There is so much more to a woman’s relationship to her breasts than meets the naked eye. In this post, I am thrilled to have two of my favorite bloggers, KS of Kosher Adobo and Jennifer Berney of Goodnight Already, joining me as we pay homage to this most famous of feminine body parts.
I am a junior in boarding school. Behind me is a “Save Sex” poster and a perfume ad: “Femme Fatale: When the female of the species is more dangerous than the male.” It’s the night before the first day of school. I am tugging on the neck of my shirt, admiring my bra strap. Every bra I owned just a year before was white or beige, looking more like bandages for my then AA breasts. But this 36B brassiere, red and lined with lace, which I bought with my mom, was bold, and I want to show it off. In a girls’ dorm after lights out was the safest place to share my joy. Check out my new bra, I say, lifting my shirt for N., who took me to Victoria’s Secret for the first time. N. owns silky negligees and has more experience than I, but she delights with me, anyway. Having grown up with sisters, these female friendships are as natural as breathing. Beautiful, she says.
I loved the curves of my changing body. It was expanding, taking up room, and it was exciting. I wanted to make out with the world – but I didn’t want anyone to put his hand up my flannel shirt. (Or maybe I did but I hadn’t fallen in love, yet, much less kissed a boy.)
Though I couldn’t express it, then, that first red brassiere became one of my earliest lessons in femininity and self-acceptance. When I think about who I was at sixteen, I imagine a woman, who would be ready for love and men someday, but, until then, she could keep whatever it was – her breasts, her secrets – her own. She would find beauty in her own reflection and in other women’s eyes.
KS is a textbook TCK who was born in the Philippines, raised in Saudi Arabia, and has lived in New England, USA, for the last twenty years. She writes about her intercultural marriage, diversity, and reproductive health on her blog Kosher Adobo.
THE USEFUL BREAST
Once, at a crowded farmers market, an acquaintance of mine broke from our conversation to pull one of her breasts out of the top of her sundress and nurse her infant daughter. Though I tried not to react, I could not hide my alarm. I approved of public breastfeeding, but did she have to make it a spectacle?
As I prepared to welcome a baby, my own approach to public breastfeeding was to conceal as much as possible. I ordered nursing tank tops, nursing shirts, and a hand-made nursing cover—a small curtain that ties around a mother’s neck, designed to hide both her breasts and her baby. Why wouldn’t everyone use these? I wondered.
My son arrived, and our early days together included meandering walks where he would nap against me and wake up, hungry, the moment I settled down at a café. As it turned out, the nursing cover wasn’t so helpful; I actually needed to see my nipple to align it with my newborn’s mouth. And once he had latched I did not want to cover him with fabric. I wanted to see his eyes and his soft whorl of hair. The café was a friendly place, but still, I overheard strangers refer to me as “that woman over there who is breastfeeding.” It didn’t matter that my breast was hidden by my shirt—I was still a spectacle.
I wish that we could learn to recognize the utility of a breast in the same way we recognize the utility of a hand. Bared in the bedroom, or half hidden beneath lace, of course breasts hold erotic allure. But just as I must sometimes remove my gloves to find my keys or write a check, I must sometimes lift my shirt and unhook my bra to perform the serious task of feeding my child.
Jennifer Berney lives in Olympia, Washington with her partner and two sons. She blogs at Goodnight Already.
LOVING MY BREASTS
If my breasts could talk, they would tell me that they like it when I show a little cleavage. Give us a bit of sunlight, let that heat tickle our skin! I’m tenderer with my breasts than I used to be—unwilling to use them to be objectified; more eager to self-savor the sight of them, ripened and full as they peek over t-shirts or hang naked before the mirror. And underwire… my breasts love underwire!
At my last medical appointment, the doctor asked if I knew whether the breast cancer gene runs in the family—we do have a history. No, I replied. Well, maybe you should find out, she said.
My first thought was Angelina Jolie and her mastectomy, reconstruction—two procedures that, even with insurance, I cannot afford. But would I want to if I knew the odds were stacked against me? To lose my breasts, whether by choice or because I must, would be devastating. I’ll take my chances, I tell the doctor. Then again, maybe if I had children, like Angelina, I too would choose differently.
My breasts aren’t that sensitive when it comes to physical sensation—at least not like what you read in romance novels where a suck, a flick, a lick can elicit moans of ecstasy. When I was younger I would pretend all that, worried about what it might say about me if I didn’t make some noise.
These days, my breasts will settle for nothing less than real pleasure even if it means sometimes feeling nothing. Because my breasts, like the rest of me, are no longer afraid to demand tenderness… a little roughness…whatever they need. My breasts know that their worth doesn’t depend on looking good or putting on a show.
My breasts, with their ability to feed a life, are their own kind of superpower.
Diahann Reyes is a freelance writer and performer. She lives in Los Angeles and blogs at Stories from the Belly: A Blog About the Female Body and Its Appetites.
Lately, I’ve been feeling disconnected from my own sensuality and needing a way to plug back into that part of myself. I figured what better way to re-spark that inner connection than to take a sensual movement class.
I didn’t tell my boyfriend that I was going because I needed this experience to be just for me. We’ve been living together for a few months now, and while I love him truly, madly, and deeply, I suspect that being with him is the reason that I’ve shut down my connection to my sensuality.
I have a good friend who doesn’t think about her age. Every year, when I call to greet her happy birthday, she asks me, half-joking, “How old am I, again?” I know her age because she is ten years older than me. She prefers to mark her years not by time but according to how old or young she feels.
In some of the reviews I’ve read of the movie Nightcrawler, actress Renee Russo is described as an aging actress. The “aging” reference really bothers me. Sure, Russo is aging. She’s sixty right now, next month she’ll turn sixty-one. Then again, aren’t we all, every one of us, aging? From the moment we are conceived we age by the second. Yet it is usually women upon whom aging gets pinned and not in a positive way.
Age is a funny number. As a young girl, I couldn’t wait to be older—old enough to drive, to date, to drink, to be considered “credible” as a news anchor, which is what I thought I wanted to be. When I moved to Hollywood after my thirtieth birthday, one director told me that he couldn’t cast me in a role I really wanted because I didn’t look old enough to play a woman my age. “If only you looked as old as you really are, you’d be perfect for the job,” he said, ushering me out the door.
An ad for the upcoming Bravo series Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce was recently banned from subways and city buses in Los Angeles and New York because the content was deemed “inappropriate.” In the poster, star Lisa Edelstein is shown smiling while giving the camera her ring finger (as opposed to her middle finger).
There is a faded tan line on that finger, right where her character’s wedding ring used to be. The tag line accompanying the photo is “Go Find Yourself.”
I like the ad, which caused me to do a double take the first time I saw it. Is that an F-off gesture? I wondered, before realizing that it was the ring finger and not the middle one that Edelstein was raising.
When women come together
Their bodies can reverberate
Creating a rich stew
Of yummy nourishment
I’m floating in a warm pool surrounded by women. Eyes are closed. Hands gently lap the water. Movements are languid, barely making ripples. One woman sits underwater, as if suspended. Above the surface, her breath rises, forming bubbles.
We look like we are hibernating, which in a way we are. This is, after all, a retreat.
It’s just us ladies, so no pressure to pull in one’s tummy to create the illusion of flatness. No need to wear oversize t-shirts to hide soft upper arms or round thighs or skinny hips. No need to walk sexy or look hot. Each of us is resting, saturating in what it feels like to fully inhabit our own skin. We are hiding nothing.
Several months ago I wrote, “Stopping the Violence,” a blog post about a verbally abusive relationship I was in. He and I were together for nine months—longer, if you count the times we got back together. While nine months might not sound like a long period, the emotional injuries I sustained from those months with him were significant. It took me years to recover.
Yes, I stayed. Even after he punched a wooden fence one night in a jealous fit because I’d said hello to an ex-boyfriend. Yes, I stayed. Even after he swung his fist at me, stopping just before making contact with my face.
I definitely have had my issues, some of which I was working out with him. For a long time, I used to think that it was all my fault. If only I had been stronger or tougher, or perhaps less broken. Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten involved with him at all.
I saw a woman at the bank the other day. A bank teller. She had the same kind of liver spots on her face that my grandmother used to have, right on the side of her cheeks by her eyes. She had laugh lines like my grandmother did. The shape of her face was almost exactly like hers. So was the texture of her skin. I wondered if the woman’s skin, like my grandmother’s skin, is what old lady Filipina skin is supposed to look like… like a coconut but not so hard, smooth even though it looks rough.
Seeing this woman was like looking at grandmother again, as if she were standing in front of me even though it wasn’t really her. The teller also had drawn in eyebrows, except my grandmother never used black eyeliner to pencil in her eyebrows. She always used a brown pencil. (Although when my grandmother was in her seventies once, she drew one of her eyebrows in blue because she was in a hurry and didn’t notice. When my sister pointed it out hours later my grandmother laughed so hard that she had to put her hand over her mouth to keep the rest of her laughter from spilling out all over the floor.)
I wanted to touch this bank teller’s face. I wanted to press my face next to hers and inhale deep to see if she smelled like Pond’s cold cream and Johnson’s baby powder, just like my grandmother. If I could have stood in front of the teller window longer I would have looked at her hands to see if they were wrinkled in the same places where my grandmother’s fingers had been wrinkled too.