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34 New Things: Be a Mentor

Each year I make a list of new things I want to try. Some are easy, some are difficult, some are so ridiculously mundane. You can read about previous adventures here


It’s hard to view yourself as someone who has wisdom worth imparting when you’re pretty sure your own adult life is a comedy of errors, possibly involving hidden cameras. (On my recent roadtrip, I got pulled over and tried to convince the police officer that the receipt for the purchase of my car was actually the registration.  Like, I walked up the highway to his car, knocked on the window and was all “Is this it?”)Be that as it may, there are some things that I know about.  Things like writingtravel, moving a million times,  mastering the internet – and as a former teacher, I love few things more than helping people understand stuff that I know about.  When I added ‘be a mentor’ to my list for this year, I knew this might be sort of challenging.  I travel a lot and I didn’t want to bond with – and then inadvertently abandon – a sweet , in-need-of-reliable-adult-interaction preteen, so I decided that I wanted to try an internet mentorship of sorts.

I first met Alicia when she bought advertising space and Yes and Yes.  As with all of my sponsors, I checked out her blog to see if she was a good fit for my readers and I was impressed with her candid, engaging writing style and nice photography. She always sent me the links and photos for her sponsor posts before the deadline and whenever she sent through her photos they were always appropriately resized and labeled. (Your mom wasn’t lying about people noticing the details.) Eventually Alicia started contributing the Read // Eat series and I rather awkwardly asked her if she was in the market for a mentor.  As luck would have it, she was!

How does one mentor?  Well, we set up a once-monthly video pow wow. We talk about work and writing and interneting and life and I answer any questions she might have about reaching out to bloggers and publications she likes, how to deal with guest posts, and anything I know about.  It’s been so, so lovely to share what I know and hopefully help her avoid some of those mistakes we all learn the hard way (I’m looking at you, Twitter oversharing.)

I’m sure there will come a day when Alicia is helming HuffPo and I tell everybody that I knew her way back when. And then I’ll awkwardly email another youngster and ask if they need my input on the merits of @mentioning.Have you ever mentored or been mentored?  Tell us about your experience!

Your Surrender Is Significant

In addition to travel, cat outfits and living life on your own terms, I feel really strongly about media and gender and body image. Lovely, lovely Holly from Eating a Tangerine wrote this fantastic guest post. Let’s remember that we’re all in this together. I’m part of Team Female. Aren’t you?

To my fellow females:For every one of you who capitulates to unfair standards of beauty, it is THAT MUCH HARDER for the rest of us to resist.

When you deny yourself food when you are hungry, when you call yourself names, when you spend way too much money on clothing and makeup, when you let yourself feel guilty for eating dessert, when you spend more time and money than you can afford to on bringing your appearance into line with The Man’s dictates, IT AFFECTS US TOO.

It affects me. It affects my friends. It affects my younger sister and my little cousins.

Stop judging your worth by your appearance, like you’re some collector’s doll or a show dog. Stop doing things that you think are stupid just because it’s culturally mandated. Stop accepting standards of beauty without asking where they come from, what they signify, what you think of them. Stop, stop, stop.

Don’t you see, this heaviness you feel, we all feel it and for us part of the heaviness is what you have added by complying? And yes, some of your heaviness is my fault. It belongs to me too.

Your compliance is significant. Your surrender carries weight. Your capitulation is not just personal.

I am angry, yes. At myself too.

I’m going to keep saying no to all this bullshit, even when it hurts and it’s really tiring. I’m going to look my reflection in the eye even when it’s all wrong, and I’m not going to say that I FEEL FAT like “fat” is an actual emotion. I’m not going to idolize women who are clearly sick, or saturate my life with images of them. I’m going to eat as much as I need and I’m going to keep it down, and I’m going to do what I want to do even when I’m not confident in my appearance.

I don’t want to come off like I’m saying I’m a saint, somehow stronger than all this and above all this; frankly I cannot deal with myself and these pressures sometimes and please, I still struggle with disordered eating to an extent; I know what poison is like.

But I need this defiance even more. I need to know that I am not making this society any more oppressive for those of us born with two X chromosomes.

And you see, the flip side is this: if your surrender means something, then your defiance means even more.

Living within the lie can constitute the system only if it is universal … therefore everyone who steps out of line denies it in principle and threatens it in its entirety … As soon as the alternative appears, it threatens the very existence of appearance and living a lie in terms of what they are, both their essence and their all-inclusiveness. And at the same time, it is utterly unimportant how large a space this alternative occupies: its power does not consist in its physical attributes but in the light it casts on those pillars of the system and on its unstable foundations.- Václav Havel

So if you decide to give the finger to The Man and his beauty culture, I’ll be there with you. We can stand together and wave at the horizon and tell each other when we notice each other starting to cave, and then help hold each other up. You won’t be there alone. Promise.

love and defiance,