Postcard Wednesday: Looking Good

2014-10-28 07.22.34This postcard is an ad for a book titled Women in Clothes. I picked up several at Brazos Bookstore here in Houston when I attended a reading in September. They were on a table, for free! I probably took more than I should have, but I wanted to have one of each of the three postcards on display, and I wanted a few more that I could send out.

Out of the three postcards available for the taking, one stood out to me. “When do you feel your most attractive?” By looking at the postcard, it seems most respondents said “Jeans.” One apparently did not say jeans, hence the strikethrough.

That would probably have been me.

I’m not liking jeans lately. And when I say “lately” I mean the past four years. I have a denim dress, a dark denim jacket, and one pair of capri-cut jeans that might be on their way out. I also have a pair of chambray pants that look like jeans, but let’s be honest: I bought them because they look like jeans but don’t fit like jeans.

I have a problem with jeans. (And pants in general, but I’ve found a pair at Old Navy that fit me well and I’m slowly buying a pair in that style in every color.) It’s not about style but more about fit. Jeans don’t fit me well, not anymore. When I try on jeans, I feel tight constricted uncomfortable–generally not good. So I try to stay away from jeans.

From time to time I take a pair to the dressing room, hoping to find a daily staple that I can wear when I’m not feeling dressy or that I can wear with my cool t-shirts. I’ve only succeeded in finding one pair, my capris. And even those are on their way out. I haven’t found a pair that fit me right and that still won’t squeeze me in all the wrong places.

It’s hard to fit this postpartum, plus-sized body into jeans. Jeans are not made to give. They are molded into a certain figure, a certain size, and I’m afraid I don’t fit that mold. Depending on the brand, the mold is different, and that presents its own challenges.

Once upon a time I had lots of Gap jeans. That was my brand, Gap. I fell in love in grad school with their straight leg jeans. 12, straight, regular (or short, depending on the look I was going for).

I miss the ease of my Gap jeans.

I miss the ease of my Gap jeans.

I could buy them with my eyes closed. Even when I was thinner I had problems fitting this curvy, Puerto Rican body into jeans, so when I discovered this particular style from Gap I was thrilled. I knew the fit and I knew how they would look. And I felt great in them.

Now, I don’t think my postpartum body is made for jeans, not the way they’re made for plus-sized women at least. Wait, let me flip that around: there is a lot less jeans variety for women who are bigger than a size 12.

Meanwhile, despite the messages that mainstream media sends us about how bodies like mine are not good (overweight, not healthy, taking up too much space…), I’m still learning how to love my body the way it is. For one, my body has gotten stronger. Sheesh, when I was a size 12 I ate poorly and slept at weird hours. I now try to eat healthy (although sometimes, like last week when I visited Under the Volcano and discovered they have this delicious thing called Italian Queso, I might go a little crazy and eat whatever sounds tasty). I also swim, semi-regularly. Conference season (compounded with the end of baseball season) messed up my swimming routine, but I’m trying to get back into it! I started walking too because I want to get stronger in the pool. I remind myself to drink water regularly. And I try to tone down the negative messages when I try something on and it doesn’t fit me.

For me, one of the ways I practice self-care is to dress in ways that I feel good about myself, that I feel attractive in. And being plus-sized that means I need to be more careful about the pieces I buy. I can’t go bargain rack, like I used to; have you seen what the bargain rack for plus-sized women looks like? Now, I search for online stores/boutiques that specialize in fashion for plus-sized women. And that can get a little pricey. Old Navy is still my go-to for budget-conscious fashion.

Target used to be my go-to for affordable, cute outfits. Not anymore. I may buy pajamas there or tights, but I can’t buy their clothes like I used to. They don’t fit me right. I guess that’ll cut down on my Target habit.

Who am I kidding, I’m still gonna go to Target every chance I get.

But back to the question: when do I feel most attractive? Lately it’s when I wear lipstick. Lipstick is my sexy weapon of choice.

My two favorite colors nowadays: Nars in Schiap, and Urban Decay in Jilted.

My two favorite colors nowadays: Nars in Schiap, and Urban Decay in Jilted.

I remember feeling very self-conscious about lipstick when I was in my 20s. Lipstick made people notice me, and I didn’t want to be noticed. I felt very visible in my body, my brown curvy, Puerto Rican body. I didn’t want to bring more attention to my body. I wanted people to notice my brain, something I was more comfortable showing off.

Or maybe I wanted to be noticed but I didn’t want to seem like I was trying too hard. In grad school, I wanted people to take me seriously, and with bright lipstick who would do that? With lipstick, I would feel like I was trying too hard. And the introvert in me sometimes didn’t like all that attention (most of the time didn’t like the attention).

But in the past year, I’ve ramped it up. At the age of 33, I’ve embraced the visibility of lipstick. I’m okay with being seen. It’s an act of defiance.

Scenes from a Week, Miscellaneous Edition (10.20.2014-10.26.2014)

2014-10-20 20.08.18Monday:

At a bar, I see these candles next to the register. I think it’s a sign but I’m not sure of what. They remind me of Puerto Rico, although here I’m sure they’re supposed to add some ironic touch to the bar decor. But maybe they don’t. Maybe whoever put them there thought the bar needed divine intercession. Intercesión divina. Or they needed the extra heavenly help. I come from a culture where people have patron saints and where these candles are a mainstay of every home. San Judas Tadeo, my mother’s patron saint, looks straight at me, but it doesn’t scare me. I’m used to seeing him around.

2014-10-21 10.12.40


Rummaging through my jacket’s pockets, I find a Metrocard. This card is the one I used to pay my fare en route to the conference the morning I left New York. I splurged on a taxi right after the conference: I had a flight to catch and I didn’t want to risk taking a train and a bus to La Guardia. So I caught a cab. The driver didn’t talk. That’s fine, I didn’t want to talk either. I just wanted to stare out the window, take the city in. It was a smooth ride until we got above 34th Street. I dozed off for a minute or two while we sat in traffic. I was so tired. I was looking forward to going home, but I didn’t want to say goodbye to the city just yet. I always feel like I’m leaving too soon.

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I’m ready to leave the house and take my daughter to pre-k, but then I remember I need my voter card. I am not sure why I need it but I’ve been reading about how strict Texas is getting about voter fraud and IDs and I’m determined not to screw this up. I need to vote before I leave town.

I drive south on Bissonnet Street to the Early Voting Polling Place. I’ve never been this far south on Bissonnet before. The park is nice. A lot of people walking this morning. And the kiddie park area is nice too. But I’m looking for the “Early Voting” signs. They soon appear, and I drive slowly, looking for the next blue sign and white arrow. I find the entrance surrounded by yard signs, I park, I check my wallet for ID, and I get out of the car. I walk in, and I am nervous. Will I be okay? I moved here a year and a half ago. I changed my name. I forget stuff. The electoral rep looks up my name, repeats it back to me, and says, “You’re good ma’am. Sign on the sheet to my left.”

I get a ticket with a number. I’ve never had to input a ticket with a number before. I’ve voted in different states, and in Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico I got pencil and paper, but here it’s a screen with a wheel and some buttons. All I can think of is Scandal and Defiance, Ohio. Where does the card go in this machine?

2014-10-26 07.32.34Sunday

Some weekend mornings I wake up to the sound of my daughter calling out for me from the left side of the bed, checking if I’m up. This Sunday, I wake up to reading.


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First Drafts

I’ve been thinking a lot about first drafts lately. On Wednesday, after my first “Postcard Wednesday” post went live, I decided I’d use the post (and the rush of creative thinking) to start the first draft of my postcard book. I opened up the Scrivener project I’d created in June and felt detached from the chapter headings I’d created back then. I made another subheading, and titled it Essay 1. I wrote 37 words and added the two pictures from Wednesday’s post. I was unsure about where this was going or if I was getting ahead of myself, but a draft has to start somewhere. I started it at Number 1.

There’s a quote that many folks online line to cite, attributed to Dorothy Parker: “I hate writing, I love having written.” It’s supposed to embody how difficult some writers find the writing process. But I enjoy the rough draft stage. It’s not all fun and games, but I like the freedom to put down on paper anything that comes to mind. I am a perfectionist and I have strategies to revise extensively. I try to enjoy the first draft stage.

But I find difficulty in starting. That’s why I often start a first draft with a freewrite. I give myself permission to fuck it up, to write whatever. That strategy only works when I trust that I will eventually come to some coherent idea after the first few clumsy attempts at the first sentences. And trusting yourself is hard!

I think that’s where writerly self-care is important: we have to nurture The Writer Inside Us so that we can develop the trust to push past those first few clumsy sentences, all the way through to the end of the first draft.

Readers, do you feel you trust your writerly voice? How did you develop that?