Teen Me & The Selfie

Teen Me would’ve loved social media–for stalking boys. I can only imagine the hours I would’ve wasted reading posts and profiles and texting my friends back and forth to decode various nuances.

But what would I have done about the obligatory selfies?

I spent all of high school feeling massively insecure about my appearance! Writing My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters, along with the hard-earned wisdom of growing up, have helped me recover from most of my “nose issues,” yet my typical Snapchat still looks like this:

And my only Snapchat friends are my daughters.

My 9th grader spends a lot of time talking about the way girls alter their appearance online using various apps that brighten eyes, clean up complexions, shrink, enhance or blur facial features… Other girls simply hide all but their eyes. That would’ve been me!

In November a plethora of “leaf selfies” appeared on my daughter’s Instagram account. During a hike, we took our own leaf selfie as a joke.

I admitted that Teen Me would’ve been all over the leaf selfie, and any other means to hide my nose.

A few weeks ago, my step-sister scanned and emailed a photo of fifteen-year-old me. Even coming of age pre-technology hasn’t protected me from Throwback Thursdays!

My first thought: Aw! I like this photo. My next thought: Because you can’t see your face! And the next thought: Really, Syd, you’re still thinking like this? After all these years?

I’ve worked so hard–and continue to work as aging alters me yet again–to overcome my body image issues, and accept myself JUST AS I AM. But I’m no longer hoping to find a boyfriend, hoping to fit in at school, hoping to be somewhat popular, or at least not be stuck on The Outside, hoping that I’m okay–whatever that actually means, but it somehow has to do with beauty… right?!?

I have so much empathy for all those teens trying to create photos that make them feel like they fit within society’s too-narrow standard of beauty. Almost everything else in life matters so much more, but how can you explain that to teens living their most insecure years in front of an ever-present camera?

Teen Me wouldn’t have believed it, either.

Body Image Month

I’m really excited to be participating in Once Upon A Bookshelf’s Body Image Month. If you’ve read My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters, you already know how much I care about these issues. I try really, really hard to feel good about my own body (after years of hating my nose). But now I have daughters and I know that I have to be a good role model.

Popular teen radio stations in Utah regularly play ads for a liposuction company that promises to deliver the “body you’ve always wanted” in time for Christmas, Prom, Bikini Season… But here’s the thing: most of us will never resemble six feet tall fashion models, the ones sporting those bodies we think we want, in all the magazines and all over television.

Media images make it seem as if true happiness can be acquired through physical beauty. A few weeks ago I came across this article on CNN.com about a teen who regretted having a nose job. She thought that plastic surgery would help her overcome shyness. It didn’t. The cure for shyness is self-acceptance–flaws and all–not surgery.
These days I’m being bombarded with various procedures that will make me look “young.” I changed doctors when my gynecologist started offering in-office Botox and other beauty treatments. It’s bad enough to wear paper clothes and get weighed in the hallway. What would they do next? Make me look in a mirror for wrinkles? Now my hair salon is offering the same stuff. I already say no to hair dye, will I now have to say no to various injections?
I like being my age. As much as I love writing for teens, I’m glad that I’ve made it through those tough years. Now if I can just help my daughters and readers with their own journeys…
I’ll be guest posting for Once Upon A Bookshelf on July 29th, but please check out all the book reviews and posts starting today! http://onceuponabookcase.blogspot.com/

JE MacLeod’s Thoughts on Heidi Montag’s Surgery

JE MacLeod, author of Waiting To Score, posted a really thoughtful post about plastic surgery, body image, and self confidence on her blog today. Her inspiration were these photos of The Hill’s star Heidi Montag who recently had several plastic surgery procedures done at the young age of 23. Here are the photos, but make sure you check out JE’s blog post: http://jemacleod.livejournal.com/158148.html

I’ll just add that it makes me incredibly sad to see beautiful young women obsessed with their appearance when so many other personal qualities matter much, much more. I’ve never known anyone who found happiness solely through personal beauty. My bet is that Heidi won’t either.

Skin Deep

I’m usually pretty good at avoiding kiosk pitches at the mall. But somehow last weekend, I found myself letting a guy slather cream on my forearm. He talked the whole time about how the cream would slough off all the unsightly dead skin cells on my face. The 24 karat gold in the mixture would penetrate seven layers deep. Blah, blah, blah.

When my arm turned bright red as it reacted to all that gold, apparently, he turned to my teenage daughter. This cream would clear her unsightly complexion!
After rubbing various creams into her arm, he showed her the dramatic smoothness compared to the untreated arm. I couldn’t see it. But he’d promised to cure her acne!
For only $120 a jar. I shook my head, no way. But wait, there’s more, he said, adding boxes to the pile. All this for only $10! I felt like I’d gotten trapped in a bad infomercial. So I got out of there pretty quick and finished up our errands.
The minute we got into the car, my daughter burst into tears. “The first thing anyone ever notices about me is my horrible skin!”
That’s absolutely not true! I spent the whole ride home explaining that she’s beautiful, but the guy had to say that to try to get her to buy his product. That’s what advertising does: makes us feel unattractive, unless we use certain products. But I’m worried that all she heard was blah, blah, blah.

Body Image Week Guest Nose: Leigh Brescia

I’m so excited to be hosting Leigh Brecia during the Body Image Challenge. Her wonderful debut One Wish really shows how girls can slip into disordered eating. I highly recommend this book for older middle-grade as well as YA readers.

Remember to check in at MyFavoriteAuthor today! One (or more) winners will be chosen tomorrow from all the comments made today.

My personal challenge for Thursday: compliment three strangers. Read how it goes tomorrow.

Okay, here’s what Leigh has to say about her own body image struggle:

In One Wish, Wrenn has to learn to love herself for who she is . . . a lesson that most of us could have benefited from in high school.

There are several things I don’t like about myself, but the battle with my hair is long-standing. In high school, I had *seriously* curly/kinky/frizzy hair. It was uncontrollable, so most of the time I kept it pulled back in a bun or a french twist. I tried *so many* different products to straighten and tame my hair, and nothing worked.

One day I decided to try a Dark and Lovely relaxer. (No, I am not the appropriate ethnicity for this product.) Still, I was actually surprised to find out that it worked. So . . . every two or three months, I would relax my hair. It didn’t get rid of all the problems, but it definitely tamed my frizzies.

I think I was a junior or senior in high school when this happened:

I went to the drugstore to pick up my Dark and Lovely (which I’ve gotten some *strange* looks over, let me tell you), and I saw this new straightening product for white people hair. I figure since I’m white that this will work better. I buy it. I use it. It sucks. It did absolutely nothing. So . . . a few days later I go get my usual Dark and Lovely relaxer.

Okay, there is a *reason* you are supposed to follow instructions: like *waiting* several weeks before you try to relax or color your hair again. Because after a few minutes, my hair started to smell funny . . . like it was literally burning off my head. I freaked out, and headed to the tub, but as I was rinsing I noticed that my hair was shedding more than usual.

Oh my gosh. . . . I prayed to Jesus that my hair would Not Fall Out. And I swore that if I could keep my hair I would *never* complain about it ever again.

My hair didn’t fall out, and I never saw any bald spots, but I did have some pretty bad split ends for a while.

I use a straightening iron now, so I don’t have to worry about crossing chemicals as much. I don’t use relaxers anymore, but I *always* follow instructions whenever I’m coloring my hair.

I might hate it, but I will definitely work with what I have.

Lesson learned. 🙂

About One Wish
Overweight Wrenn Scott desperately wants to be popular and snag a hot boyfriend. Her amazing voice (for once) overshadows her weight when she lands a lead role in the high school musical. Pushing to get thinner by opening night, Wrenn’s waistline shrinks as she learns all the wrong ways to lose weight from a new “it-girl” friend in the show. By opening night, the old Wrenn has almost disappeared. After a crisis reveals her weight-loss tricks, Wrenn realizes there are much more important things than being thin, popular, or even dating a hunk. Buy one wish at here.

About Leigh Brescia
Leigh Brescia grew up in North Carolina, spending most of her days playing in the woods behind her home and imagining she was a princess. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English Communication from Mount Olive College and her Master’s degree from Fort Hays State University. She currently teaches online English composition courses for three universities, and an online “Writing Novels for Young Adults” course for UC Irvine.

When she’s not grading papers or writing, she enjoys reading and watching movies. She sings when she’s in a good mood and has killed every plant she’s ever owned. She currently lives in North Carolina with her husband and her three-year-old. Read more about Leigh at www.leighbrescia.com

Yikes! Television.

I started the Body Image Week Challenge doing something that I’ve been really afraid of: appearing on television. I’m known to avoid cameras so combining a camera with the potential to say something stupid…well, yikes!

Double yikes when the reporter asked me to bring high school photos. I hated the way I looked in high school! Reluctantly, I trudged down to my basement to find my old box of Reno High stuff. So many memories flooded my brain as I sifted through old pictures, notes, posters, newspaper clippings…. But the thing that struck me like a punch: I liked the way I looked. What had I been thinking? Why had I spent so much time and mental energy obsessing (negatively) over my appearance? I ran upstairs and called my mom. “Why did you let me hate my nose in high school?” I demanded. She was like, well, I tried. You’re pretty stubborn, blah, blah, blah.

Back to the interview: keeping the Body Image Challenge in mind, I looked at myself in the mirror yesterday morning and simply smiled. I refused to fret about my hair, makeup, weight, glasses, wardrobe or nose. I was just going to have fun.

And I did. Sure, I started out kind of nervous (there was this huge black camera looming in front of me). But like all good writing, television is edited. The best part turned out to be a surprise visit to The Cake and Flower Shoppe where I met my old boss. Even though I’d only worked there for three days, she remembered me and loved that I’d written a book inspired by that awful, awful day (I wrecked a delivery van and a wedding cake). We laughed about the whole thing!

So I guess the lesson for me (and maybe I’ll actually learn it this time) is this: things are never quite as bad as they seem when you’re mired in the moment. Turns out that bride got her cake in plenty of time!

Much thanks to Erin Breen at KTVN channel 2 in Reno! If you’d like to see the TV story click here. You can also read my guest post for the Body Image Week Challenge at www.myfavoriteauthor.blogspot.com.

MyFavoriteAuthor: Body Image Week!

I am so excited to be joining MyFavoriteAuthor’s Body Image Week! I will blogging about my own experience doing the Body Image Challenge and can’t wait to read about yours! Check it all out at http://myfavoriteauthor.blogspot.com.

The issue of body image and loving the skin that you’re in is something that affects everyone in different ways and in different degrees. There are a lot of books recently or soon-to-be released that address various aspects of the issue. SpeedReader of MyFavoriteAuthor has organized a Body Image Week with many other bloggers and authors participating with book reviews, author interviews/guest posts/videos, a couple of challenges and a great book giveaway at the end.

So check them out today to see the full schedule of the week’s events and where the various posts will be showing up around the blogosphere. And don’t forget to accept the Body Image Challenge today! Everyone who accepts the challenge and reports back at the end of the week will be entered in the giveaway to win:

WINTERGIRLS (signed) by Laurie Halse Anderson

I will be guest posting on Tuesday!

Guest Nose: Neesha Meminger

The main character in Shine, Coconut Moon doesn’t have any insecurities in the looks department, but she does feel very insecure about not knowing who she is. It’s an “inside-out” sort of thing. She’s fine on the outside, but there’s nothing of substance for her on the inside, and that’s what she sets out to discover.

For me, personally, the issue as a teen was always hair. Body hair. I’m not super hairy, but I do remember one of my male cousins saying when I was thirteen, “You’re a girl. You’re not supposed to have a mustache.” Obviously, I was devastated, but at the time, I retorted, “You’re just jealous because you haven’t started puberty yet!”

This experience, however, really shaped the single, biggest insecurity I had all throughout high school. It wasn’t until much later that I realized I’m not particularly hairy. And that many of the places i was waxing looked exactly the same pre-waxing as they did post-waxing. It was such an amazing and liberating experience to allow myself to be exactly as I was without worrying anymore, but also to see that it’s all so subjective — this whole beauty thing. Much of it is often not even remotely based in reality.

About Shine, Coconut Moon

Samar–a.k.a. Sam–is an Indian-American teenager whose mom has kept her away from her old-fashioned family. It’s never bothered Sam, who is busy with school, friends, and a demanding boyfriend. But things change after 9/11. A guy in a turban shows up at Sam’s house–and turns out to be her uncle. He wants to reconcile the family and teach Sam about her Sikh heritage. Sam is eager, but when boys attack her uncle, chanting “Go back home, Osama!,” Sam realizes she could be in danger–and also discovers how dangerous ignorance is. Buy the book on Amazon here. In Canada? Buy the book here.

About Neesha Meminger

Neesha Meminger was born in India, grew up in Canada, and currently lives in New York City with her family. All of her writing explores the inner landscape of her characters, and how it merges or conflicts with the outer. She writes stories of women and girls defining themselves and shaping their own destinies within the confines of their day to day realities. To find out more about Neesha Meminger go to: www.NeeshaMeminger.com

American Idol: A Best Legs Contest?!?

So how come American Idol judges never tell a guy that his singing was only so-so, but his “butt really looks great in those jeans?” So many times the judges will start a female contestant’s negative critique with something along the lines of “you’re a beautiful girl.” The guys rarely hear those kinds of comments.  

Last night Jeanine Vailes was told by more than one judge that her legs looked great. Hello?!? She’s trying to improve her singing. How is that possibly constructive? And how am I supposed to convince my teenage daughter that her thighs are just fine (and she doesn’t even sing!).
You can see it all here (fast forward to 1:44)

Guest Nose: Erin Dionne

Today it’s my pleasure to introduce Erin Dionne debut author of Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies–a book that deals with body issues front and center. 

Erin says:
Celeste, my main character, is “comfortable” in her skin at the beginning of Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies–meaning that she hides in big clothes and downplays her attractiveness because of her size. She wants to blend-in to prevent being teased, so she shuts down and creeps through her days avoiding conflict. It’s a terrible way to live!
There are so many contradictory messages about beauty aimed at girls (and women) today that sap our self-esteem. We need to not only embrace our unique selves, but also support one another! Girls are the first to cut down other girls for not conforming to X beauty standard (too fat, too thin, big nose, big butt, etc). There’s room enough for everyone’s distinctive styles and body types. Let’s start focusing on the positives, mmm’kay?
More About Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies
Thirteen-year-old Celeste Harris is no string bean, but comfy sweatpants and a daily chocolate cookie suit her just fine. Her under-the-radar lifestyle could have continued too, if her aunt hadn’t entered her in the Husky Peach Modeling Challenge. To get out of it, she’s forced to launch Operation Skinny Celeste–because, after all, a thin girl can’t be a fat model! What Celeste never imagined was that losing weight would help her gain a backbone…or that all she needed to shine was a spotlight. Buy the book!
More About Erin Dionne
Erin Dionne has lived on two coasts and in four states. Her debut novel, Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies, was inspired by events that occurred in seventh grade, when she wore a scary peach bridesmaid dress in her cousin’s wedding and threw up on her gym teacher’s shoes (not at the same event). Although humiliating at the time, these experiences are working for her now. 
Erin lives outside of Boston with her husband and daughter, and a very insistent dog named Grafton. She roots for the Red Sox, teaches English at an art college, and sometimes eats chocolate cookies. Find out more about Erin at www.erindionne.com.