A Love Story. A Hairy Story.

This story is about a girl, mean boys, summer camp, expectations, and one very nice boy. It’s a love story, one that’s still changing and growing. God knows that even though I love my body and I’m comfortable with who I am, I don’t wake up and walk out the door every morning feeling like that. This is a story about my body hair.

Karl came across a website called Woman in the Raw about a month ago through Instagram. It’s a photography project that emphasizes the beauty of the natural female expression. The two women who started the site write, “our femininity is defined by our natural existence rather than having to acquire it through means of alterations.” They’re trying to create conversation about female body hair and the idea of femininity. Karl immediately thought of my hairy armpits, and next thing I know, he’s taking photos of me baring my armpits in the frigid winter temps and we’re writing our stories about hairy women (being one and thinking they’re cool).

You can read what Karl and I wrote here on my blog, but it appeared first on Woman in the Raw. I really hope you take a look at their site and read what others have written there. It’s important.

Besides the, “I will only wear a dress”phase I went through as a very young girl, I wasn’t a very girly kid.The thought of shaving and body hair never really occurred to me. When I was 11years old I spent my first summer at an amazing girls summer camp in NorthCarolina called Green Cove. I remember other girls in my cabin pulling out supplies to shave their legs before dances with boys. I put the shaving cream on my face as a joke. Shaving was the farthest thing from my mind.

In sixth grade my legs started to get hairy and for the first time I was explicitly told that hairy is not how a woman should be. One day I wore shorts to school, I walked up to the front of the room in Reading class to write an answer to a question on the board. I was nervous, a shy kid anyway who hated getting up in front of the class, and as I made my way between the rows of desks, one boy leaned over and whispered in a disgusted voice, “Look at her hairy legs!” I was mortified. Not soon after that I asked my mom if I could start shaving. The next year, in seventh grade, a boy in my Social Studies class made fun of how hairy my arms were. I had never considered my body hair, but suddenly there was too much of it.

So, I started shaving. I read beauty magazines with my friends as I got older, I listened to boys on my rowing team categorize my fellow female teammates’ thighs based on their size and I saw girls pile on make up in high school. My safe haven was that summer camp. Most summers, I headed off to the mountains of North Carolina where I was surrounded by strong, confident women. The hiking and climbing staff was notorious for not shaving. I saw them every day, sporting their hairy legs and arms, and I thought they were, well, just normal. Here, every girl was just herself, no fakeness, no make up, no cool kids, no weird kids. It didn’t matter how weird you were (and I was a weird kid in so many ways), at camp there were no standards for fitting in. Looking back, I know those summers as a camper influenced my decision to go natural today. My summers on staff there did, too. I’d go for days without a shower, I’d forget to shave all week, I’d rarely wear make up. But at the end of the summer, I’d always end up back in the real world, and find myself giving into the pressures of society and ideas of what feminine should be.

Fast forward to May of 2013, I met a guy named Karl. He was everything awesome. As the fall approached he decided to do No Shave November, and with a bit of convincing, I joined him. We were so excited to start not shaving that No Shave November began at the end of August. For me, the excitement was doing something out of the norm. How many women join their men in not shaving? When people asked why I wasn’t shaving, I responded with, “Why not?” November passed and eventually Karl’s beard took on epic proportions, and he had to trim it. But I kept on not shaving. As summer approached, I started to get nervous. My coworker and I frequent the pool at the gym connected to our office. Was I going to lay out by the pool all natural in my bikini? And what about when I wanted to wear t-shirts to work that didn’t cover up my pits entirely? My armpit hair was pretty long at this point and was starting to sprout out of certain shirts. I’m also an avid runner, and I wasn’t about to spend a hot Indiana summer wearing t-shirts, but what would other runners think?  Turns out I didn’t have much to worry about. No one in my office told me to cover up my pits and no one at the pool gave me more than a lingering glance. And runners? Please. It’s like I’d momentarily forgotten that we sweat, spit, and otherwise are disgusting in front of each other, so a little extra body hair wasn’t going to turn them off.

It’s been a little over a year. I’ve shaved my pits a handful of times, but they’ve mostly gone natural, and my legs more regularly. Legs get itchy! I like shaving when and if I feel like it, being hairy when and if I feel like it, not because I feel like I have to. And I somehow feel more like myself when I’m all natural. Maybe it goes back to those summers at camp and those “crunchy,” “granola,” confident counselors I looked up to so much. And some days I still get nervous about baring my natural hair. I recently trained for a sprint triathlon at my gym. Before the first swim practice I worried about what the coach and other people practicing would think about my unshaveness. But swimming was just about the swimming, and no one was looking at each other’s bodies and being critical.

All this time, there has been Karl. It turns out that Karl is really into an all natural lady. Maybe this story would be better if I had discovered on my own that going all natural felt beautiful, but in reality I needed a little push. I needed someone to tell me that my hairy legs and arms, the things that boys had mocked before, were sexy. Karl’s encouragement made me realize that I didn’t have to shave my way into a certain beauty standard to be beautiful for him and to feel beautiful for myself. We women are bombarded by how we should look, sound, every second of the day. We compare, we judge, we wish we were different. But shouldn’t we just want to be ourselves? Shouldn’t we take the time to figure out how we each individually feel beautiful? I feel certain that beauty is different for each woman, each person. I am lucky enough to be able to have someone who doesn’t prescribe to the normal beauty standard, who encourages me to be all natural if that’s what I want, and who is proud of me for displaying my hairiness. Every time I have a positive experience or get to shake up someone’s idea of femininity with something as silly and little as my arm pits, I feel surer and more confident in my choice. It’s a journey. This year, I’m looking forward to summer and to setting my all-natural pits free.

Here’s Karl’s perspective.

Hmmm…my perspective on women with hair…good question. In short, I think it’s great! It’s naturally beautiful. I wished more women would feel comfortable to be just how their bodies intended to be. I’m not really sure how I came upon such a perspective…I don’t remember one defining “aha” moment. I think it was just occasionally seeing a woman here or there lift their arms in public and I would catch sight of full tufts of hair. I found it to be so exotic! Or so alien…as if a hidden world was being uncovered piece by piece. I remember thinking, “women grow hair under their arms like a guy?!” And when you think about it, and remember middle school health class, you know that of course they do. But, being in such a visual/media society one tends to forget that.

I think that dovetails nicely into your question about a media/society disconnect in regards to what a “true” woman looks like. Society and the media have gotten to the point that women are pressured into stripping away very natural parts of their bodies to “fit in.” And then when you look more into the history of it and find out that women shaving their pits came about at the turn of the last century as a marketing ploy to sell more razors, it’s even more appalling. If a man is not shamed for letting his hair grow then why should a woman? There should be no shame whatsoever in how anyone truly is.

Another disconnect I see, and maybe this is me just being anal, is in historical films that pride themselves in their historical detail and accuracy. They put out a movie set hundreds or thousands of years in the past and all the women have silky smooth armpits and legs. Not very historically accurate at all. I see it as yet another attempt by the media to make women believe that their bodies must be “tamed.”

But, it’s nice to be with a woman, Julia, who embraces her natural beauty. I couldn’t be happier with that choice of hers. Years ago I had a friend at church who didn’t shave her pits and she was proud of it. I remember thinking to myself “I hope I end up with a woman who would be proud to be hairy too.” And, I did.

-Karl Bolter

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On Busyness. Maple Granola.

My first instinct was to spell busyness like this: business. Then I realized that’s an entirely different word. This post is about business, the business of my life for the past few months, but business sounds very coat and tie and heels, and, well, I’ve been busy, but I haven’t been business. I’ll never be business.

Being busy. That’s where I’ve been. Busy living my life and not telling you about it. Busy testing cupcake and salad recipes for bridal showers. Busy being an editor again while being busy being a marketing director by day. Yeah, that’s right, marketing director by day, editor by night. I am a super hero. Busy running my brains out, racking up the miles, looking to 26.2 miles in November. Busy making pasta with fresh peas from my garden and drinking bourbon ginger ales. Busy cooking brats over an open flame.

Busy exploring my city like I’ve never lived here before. Busy following the signs. Busy drinking good beer, listening to good music, and watching fireworks explode in the night sky.

Busy doing all this with this guy who keeps me busy every day with thinking how lucky I am to have bumped into him in this busy sea.

Busy. Have to remember to stop and take a breath sometimes.

Take a breath and look up at the stars and the moon, dip your feet into a lake, watch relationships being built.

Enjoy a cup of coffee, or three, with the person you love while the sun shines down. Take a breath and remind yourself why you’re doing all these things that keep you so busy. This relationship, even though it requires some driving, is inspiring and makes me believe in so much again. That second job surrounds me with people who are strong and courageous in a way I am certain I could never be. They are my heroes.

The busy is worth it. Every second.

So maybe you’re busy, too. Summer can be like that. It’s a funny season. The air is hot and thick, and the days are longer. Everything points to slowing down, yet summer always seems to be full of activities, of trying to cram as much into these warm, lazy days as possible.

This summer I’ve discovered the best food: homemade granola. It’s not crunchy and granola as in you’ll be a hippy making your own granola in your oven. It is crunchy and granola as in it bakes up into clumps of sweet, oaty goodness that wants to be covered in almond milk, yogurt, fresh summer berries, and really eaten right from a jar.

Did you know that granola is ridiculously easy to make? It is, and I feel someone really mean and selfish has been withholding this beautiful knowledge from me. Granola takes one bowl, one spoon, a measuring spoon, and one baking sheet to make. It doesn’t even take measuring cups if you have a kitchen scale (and I say, get a kitchen scale, because it’ll make you love cooking even more than you already do, and it’ll make all your measurements so much more accurate. Deb convinced me with her cookbook full of ingredients in weights finally.) This granola unassumingly sits in your oven, filling your house with a cinnamon maple smell.

The hardest part will probably be finding unsweetened coconut flakes. (I found mine at Whole Foods in the baking section.) The second hardest part will be believing that you made granola that sticks together in lovely clumps. The secret is the egg white (or 3 tablespoons of water + 1 tablespoon of flaxseed if you’re the vegan type).

In between all of the rushing around I’ve been doing, I manage to always make batches of this granola. My big glass jar is always full of it. Trust me on this one.

I would like to give credit where credit is due. The food styling in these granola, yogurt, and blueberry photos was all done by my boyfriend, Karl. I got a ridiculous amount of pleasure watching him lean over the bowls and carefully sprinkle granola over yogurt and place berries on top without any guidance from me.

Crunchy Maple Granola
Straight from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Ingredients
3 cups (240 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (50 grams) unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
1 cup (100 grams) walnuts (or other nut of your choice), coarsely chopped
1/2 cup (25 grams) toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups (215 grams) dried cherries, cranberries, or other dried fruit, diced into large pieces

Preheat your oven to 300°.

Combine all ingredients but egg white and dried fruit in a large bowl, tossing to coat evenly. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy. Stir into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout.

Spread granola mixture in a single layer onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. (If you don’t have parchment paper, don’t line the baking sheet with anything. You’ll just have to do some scraping of granola bits when you wash the baking sheet.)

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes. About halfway through the baking time, use a large spatula to turn over sections of the granola as carefully as you can. (I break the big chunks up accidentally often and sometimes lose track of what I’ve flipped. It’s OK. Flip the majority as best you can.) Rotate the pan.

When the granola is evenly browned and feels dry to the touch, transfer the pan from the oven to a cooling rack. Cool completely.

Once it’s completely cool, break up granola into whatever size clusters delight you. Sprinkle in dried fruit.

This granola will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 weeks. It keeps even longer in the freezer.

Roast a Chicken for Me

Hello from the Philadelphia airport! I am on my way to Madrid, Spain to meet up with Michael, his sister, and his mom and stepdad! It’s been three long months since Michael left for Sweden. The wi-fi here is atrocious. This is 2012, people! Get with the wireless world. So hopefully I can get this post finished. However, when you read this I’ll be in Madrid already. So technically, hello from Madrid?

Traveling stresses me out only a little bit. Let’s just say this has been a long week, and I won’t drink coffee at night when I’m anxious anymore. The only thing I’ve had planned out for weeks is my travel outfit. Does that sound dumb? Comfort is of the utmost importance when you spend a day and night traveling. Plus, if you want to bring anything extra bulky (like boots), you should probably work them into your travel outfit so as not to have to squash them into your suitcase. Plus, hair gets flat, greasy, and unfortunate after hours on a plane. Thank goodness for braids and head scarves.

Two weeks ago Michael and I had another cooking date—a whole roasted chicken. While this may sound slightly intimidating, trust me, it’s not. And a roasted chicken is just about the best thing you can put in your oven on a Sunday afternoon. Why? Well I’ll just tell you.

A roasted chicken is super hands off. Prep it the day before you plan to roast it by spicing it up a bit. Put it in the oven for an hour to an hour and  a half. That is it!

If you are one or two people a whole chicken will feed you for at least a week. This makes the cost worth it. Chicken on salads, chicken in enchiladas, chicken on pasta….endless possibilities. Get creative with your leftovers!

Chicken parts (bones, innards, the back) are great for homemade stock. Freeze that business and use it once you’ve gathered enough chicken parts and vegetables.

Thanksgiving is right around the corner (how in the world did that even happen already?!) and maybe you don’t celebrate with a large group of people. A chicken is a great smaller alternative to a turkey.

Now, where do you get a whole chicken? I suggest you get yourself to a local butcher or venture to a nearby farmers market and make friends with a chicken farmer. Either of these places will sell you a lovely local whole chicken. Whole Foods or Fresh Market are also excellent options.

Michael did a great job with this recipe as a beginner cook. He even proudly pulled legs and a breast off of the cooked chicken, and was amazed at how the breast looked just like a boneless chicken breast he’d buy at the store.

I roasted some seasonal vegetables (oh so frickin fancy, let me stick my nose in the air, lalala)—cauliflower and potatoes. Put them in the roasting pan with the chicken when there’s about half an hour of cooking time left. Just sprinkle some salt, pepper, and olive oil over them! I also happen to like a little curry on my cauliflower.

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That Really Deep Hole That’s Filled With Apple Crisp

Yesterday was hard. The first week Michael was gone was hard. I cried a lot. It was kind of like going through a break up all over again, but this time I had a kind and wonderful supportive boy to comfort me, instead of one to feed me crap lines like “this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” (What’s up with that anyway? I heard someone say that on TV, ahem Dawson’s Creek, today, and thought why do people say that? If this was really the hardest thing you’d ever done, would you be doing it?) So I sat around feeling sad for a week.

Then things got better. They just…did. Nothing in my life changed. Mike is still in another country. I’m still here, my life sort of on hold, sharing my bed with two girls (sexy, no?).But things got better.

Then yesterday hit. Like a fucking bag of bricks.

Yesterday the Jew in me welcomed the new year. Shana Tova! This year for the first time the days leading up to Rosh Hashanah were filled with anticipation, the kind you feel before Christmas. I think this has to do with the fact that I work at a Jewish organization now. The office was filled with people wishing each other Shana Tova, discussing holiday plans and meals, and talking about what they would do with their two days off. That’s right, I didn’t work yesterday or today. I couldn’t wait to spend the days contemplating the last year and looking forward to the new one. But then I spent Monday alone. Which would have been fine, but alone means lonely these days, too. And what with the holiday and all and the condescending little prick of a college “super senior” who sat down next to me at services, I just couldn’t handle the aloneness.

Now, I am not even here to complain. Guys, I’ve got it damn good. I don’t have to hide my religion, I get to celebrate it freely. I have a loving and loyal boyfriend who, despite living far away, gives me confidence in our relationship every day. I just. Fell. Into one of those huge holes, the kind where the bottom is really far away from the top, even though you can see the top, the bright blue sky, clearly. You just cannot climb out of that damn hole.

So you sit in there at the bottom and you wallow. Oh man, does wallowing feel good sometimes, right? And you wonder how you are a functioning adult and how you manage to get out of bed in the morning. And then you move to the wallowing part where you wonder why you don’t have kids yet. And just because you haven’t been having unprotected sex and pumping small humans out of your vagina doesn’t mean you haven’t been busy. And then you imagine what you’ll say next time someone asks you, “So what’s new? How’s it going” You’ll say, “well, i got out of bed today, and i’m much more self-aware, and i haven’t cried yet today,” or something equally brutally honest like that.

So whatever. I had the world’s saddest wallow-fest at the bottom of a big hole. The end only came after I had sat in the bathroom and cried, big hysterical ridiculous gaspy cries, for 15 minutes. Then I was suddenly near the top of the hole. Sometimes it just takes a good cry, right?

Sometimes it takes a good cry and a good apple crisp.

I haven’t indulged in making baked goods in awhile. Trying to, you know, keep that cholesterol down by avoiding butter. But suddenly I just had to. I turned to my Joy the Baker Cookbook, the chapter called “i need a hug, or a brownie. maybe both.”  I have this bowl overflowing with apples from the farmer’s market. Lola Kitty was suspicious at first.

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Then I turned the apples into an amazing crisp. Lola Kitty approved.

This crisp is more or less like an apple pie without the slightly time-consuming crust. (Even I will admit that a crust can be a hassle when all you want is some buttery comfort.) It bakes up nice and cinnamon and sugary with a crispy, slightly oaty topping. And it’s called “man bait” apple crisp. And as I stood in my kitchen blending butter, flour, and sugars together with my hands, I sighed. This is right. This feels so good. Thank God for butter and sugar.

So, maybe you’re in a hole. Maybe you need to catch yourself a man. Maybe you have too many apples from the farmer’s market. Make this dang apple crisp. And watch Joy make it in St. Louis in this video JTB apple crisp.

Things get a little weird. Obvs. We’re talking about Joy. Though she does have the talk show host “sewn up” …. and there’s even a Ghost reenactment. This is why I love Joy. She’s hilarious and weird and normal and lovely, and that’s how she is in real life. I met her.

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Love.

 

I’m certainly no expert on love. Who is, really? I do know what not love is, the platonic variety and the passionate lustful variety. Maybe you don’t know what love is until you thought you had it and then you realize you were wrong wrong wrong. Love does not betray you.

It sets you free!

Those Mumford and Sons, they know, I think. Their music sets me free, so I suppose I love them, right? Yes.

They totes inspire me, and as such, I like their new single. “I Will Wait.” I sure will wait, I’ll wait for you. Hey, that’s what love is!

 

Song of the Week

This has been a very long, brain-mushing week for me. Has it been for you? Here’s something that may make you laugh.

My mom just got an iPhone. This is her first fancy phone, so it’s a big deal. She’s getting the hang of it slowly. Yesterday I told her she should download Words With Friends. She successfully did that, but then got thrown off when the phone asked if it could send her push notifications for Words With Friends. She im’d me this:

Mom: it asks if i want it to send me push notifications
wtf is that
that sounds like a woman in labor
me: oh my god mom! that is all hilarious what you just said 🙂
Mom: yeah i’m funny

I am not sure where she learned the term “wtf.” And I think she’s absolutely correct—push notifications sound like what the doctor tells a lady in labor when it’s time to push.

Part of the longness of this week I contribute to the fact that Michael is in Sweden. He left last Saturday and will be back next Sunday. Turns out when you live with someone, he becomes a big part of your daily routines without you even realizing it. Just in little ways. So this past week my every day things have been just slightly off-balance without Michael just…here. The getting up, the making dinner, the walking the dog, the going to bed, you know. The things you take for granted until they’re just slightly different, and suddenly you’re searching for familiarity to knock things back into place.

So I’ve turned to music. One night I listened to three Beatles albums. And one morning on my way into work I put on the Indigo Girls. We sing “Closer to Fine” at camp and there’s nothing more familiar and comforting to me than a camp song. They take me to my happy place. Sitting in my car with this song blaring, I was in Middler Lodge at camp, a group of counselors standing in front of us campers during assembly leading us in song, doing all these hand movements with certain lyrics.

One summer I came home from camp and found the Indigo Girls album they had. It happened to have “Closer to Fine” on it. I sat in my room listening to that song over and over and over again on my little boom box.

So here’s my familiar song. What’s yours?

Happily Ever After

I found this in my drafts. I wrote it back in March and I’m not sure why I never posted it.

Tonight I had dinner with my mom and grandfather. First let me tell you about the restaurant, Taste. If you’re in Indianapolis, you really have to eat there. I’ve been a fan of their brunch for awhile (who are we kidding, I’m a fan of brunch in general), but just last week had the pleasure of eating dinner there for the first time. My mom and grandfather are apparently somewhat of regulars there and have a favorite waitress named Anna. She’s great. And so is the food. Last week I had an amazing salad with shrimp and greens and asparagus and green beens. This week we shared a beet salad with blood oranges, feta cheese, and greens, and I had a braised short rib that literally fell of the bone and melted in my mouth. The best part though might have been the beer experience. Some background. My grandfather, who is almost 94 years old, loves beer, but stopped drinking it about three years ago on doctor’s orders. Tonight I ordered a Goose Island Pere Jacques, this wonderful, syrupy, carmel-like beer. He watched me drink it and gush for a few minutes and then promptly ordered his own. His first beer in awhile. Mom and I were somewhat nervous, but he downed the glass in 15 minutes, clinking glasses with me and saying “l’chayim” on the first sip. Not a whole lot can beat having a magical beer with your grandfather.

One of my favorite parts of hanging out with Papa is listening to him talk about my grandmother, Mimi, who died when I was in 7th grade. She was this beautiful, opinionated, somewhat intimidating I think, woman, who absolutely loved to spoil those she loved. Papa adored, and adores, her. You can hear it in his voice each time he says her name. Tonight he, and Mom, reminded me of the kind of relationship I aspire to have. You know, the one where you’re spending your life with your best friend. He says he’d always loved Mimi, that I knew. The last six months they knew she wasn’t going to make it much longer. They would get in bed every night at 7:30 and watch Seinfeld. And those, he says, were the happiest six months of their life together for him. Just laying there, enjoying each other’s presence, and being each other’s best friends. My mom said the same thing about my dad. That as she says good night to him each night, she thinks how lucky she is to, well have me and my brother, but also to have my dad, to have her best friend right there beside her. And honestly, I know that my mom and dad balance each other out and fill in each other’s gaps in this really stupidly corny and great way.

And that’s just it. That’s my relationship standard. It’s a really high and awesome one. Let the search begin.