Blood Moon: We don’t want a heat pillow. We need sex!

 

“Bleeding is normal. We women are normal. Blood is who and what we are. Love a woman, then you must learn to love the bleeding too.”

Women bleed.

It sucks. You can dress it up however you like, and call it our “special sacred time”, and do ritual, and preach on about what a gift our bodies are.

But for me, and for many others, bleeding sucks.

I hate the way our periods are something shameful that we don’t talk about, and I hate the way I feel so godamn awful – sick and bloated and crampy.

Now I’m getting older, I also hate the way my cycle is becoming increasingly unpredictable. At present, my current thing seems to be that I bleed for a morning, then nothing for a few days, then it’s full on heavy heavy let’s turn the bathroom into a scene from “Criminal Minds” time for more than a week.

It’s tiring, it’s stressful, and I’m forever struggling to keep my iron levels up with copious amounts of vitamins and floradix. My doctor, to add insult to injury, has the indecency to call my cycle “normal…for a woman of my age.”

The worst thing of all, though, is the impact it’s having on my sex life. And how men just don’t understand.

Goddess_Venus____by_Villenueve

Yes, I’ve got a partner who thoughtfully gets me heat pillows for my aching back. He’ll even give me back rubs, when I ask for them. But sex during this thing that is rapidly turning into half my life?

No. Never.

I shouldn’t complain. I’ve been raised to never complain of course, because I’m female and god forbid we should ever complain about the lack of satisfaction in our relationships. We don’t complain: we just let it get worse, until we leave.

The rejection was even worse with my previous partner. I remember once when I bled on the sheets at night. He was horrified when he saw it: It was like I’d committed the most heinous crime. He wasn’t content until the sheets had been sterilised and I’d been given a top to toe shower. At 3 am in the morning.

Even then, when I returned to bed (feeling pretty bloody awful) he looked at me sideways. He didn’t want to touch me. He rolled over to the other side of the bed, as far away from me as he could get.

Hug me? Hell no. I was on my own.

That was probably the beginning of the end of our relationship: when I realised that my body and its normal functioning was abhorrent to him.

My current partner, as I said, is a bit better. A bit. He even went down on me – once – when I was bleeding. I was amazed by that.

But now that I seem to be bleeding more days than not, the sex is dwindling, and once again, I feel like a monster. An untouchable monster.

A female untouchable. Just like it’s always been.

What I want to say here, amongst all these reminiscences and all this very personal pain, is that bleeding is normal. We women are normal. Blood is who and what we are. Love a woman, then you must learn to love the bleeding too.

Our bodies are messy and wonderful and painful and we hurt. We feel pain and we suffer through this Goddess-given mess that is our femininity. It’s horrible, and lonely, and it is at this time of the month, above all other times, that we need to be told by those that profess to love us that we are beautiful.

It is at this time of the month, when we’re bleeding, that we need to know that we’re desirable, and sexy, and wanted. Because it’s at this point that we feel vulnerable, and weak, and sore, and in need of love and support.

Yet so often it is when we bleed that our men turn away. This is the time that we need them most, only to find they’re not there.

We don’t need a heat pillow. We need sex.

Men wax lyrical about our loveliness, but we need to know we’re desirable when we feel our ugliest. We need to know we’re wanted right at that point that society has deemed us most undesirable and untouchable.

This is something that I don’t think men, as a whole, will ever quite understand. But we women understand it very, very well.

When my partner gives me a heat pillow but refuses sex with me, he’s saying a lot about what he thinks of my body. He might not realise it, but he’s saying that I’m acceptable to him only when I’m neat and tidy in masculine, not feminine, terms.

He’s saying that he loves me only when he can have neat, porn-quality sex with me. But when I have my period, I’m dirty and unwanted and so it’s out with the heat pillow and on with his right hand instead.

I’ve told him I don’t feel like sex the first day I bleed heavily. And I don’t, mainly because it’s crime-scene central (I bleed really heavily). It’s so bad I don’t think he’d cope, and I wouldn’t enjoy it as a result.

But the rest of my period I get very horny. Yet by taking what I say about my first day and applying it to the rest of my bleed as an excuse not to have sex with me, he’s telling me that I’m not desirable when I bleed. At all. And that affects how I feel about our relationship the rest of the time, whether he realises it or not.

I don’t know what my body will do as I move into menopause. But it’s common for women at my age to bleed more days than not. Does this mean that I’ll be relegated to a “cuddle-only” partner?

I don’t know the answer, but I do know this: women bleed. That is what we are, what we do, what we will always do. Bleeding is the definition of what women are: it is our experience of life.

I just wish that experience could be a better one.

Lunar_eclipse_April_15_2014_Minneapolis_Tomruen2

When girls are too strong

I left my home town when I was in my early 20s. I’m surprised it took me that long to leave.

Since then, I’ve lived in a different city in the same country, and in two other cities in other countries. But the crux of it all is I couldn’t stay in my home town. I was the cuckoo that had to leave the nest.

Our parents expectations of who we are and who we will be don’t stop when we become adults.

My parents wanted a daughter who would be pretty, feminine, traditional – and go on in life to do pretty, feminine, traditional things.

I was the exact opposite.

Born that way…

When a child arrives and they’re not who – and what – we expect and desperately want them to be, things get difficult. Especially for the child, if the parents insist on trying to mould them into becoming something they can never be.

There’s a reason why so many gay kids leave their home town, moving far away. I’m not gay, but in the same way as gay kids often do in traditional families, I didn’t meet expectations.

I was too strong to change who I was. The only way I could be true to who I am was to leave.

When a home is not a home

The best thing I ever did was leaving home. Looking back, I only wish I could have left before I even became an adult, had that been possible. My parents are good people, but my home was fiercely patriarchal.

Even now, when I go home to visit, I’m very much at the bottom of the pecking order. It’s expected that I’ll help with the household chores (together with my mother and brother’s wife), while my father and brother sit and drink whisky.

This isn’t a home in which I feel wanted, welcome or equal. I don’t feel loved there, or accepted for who and what I am. I feel like my parents try really hard, but that’s it – they’re just trying to love me.

My failure to accept my patriarchal roots was an expression of my own inner strength and who I truly am, which was only given a chance to develop once I left home and was no longer stifled.

Once I left home, I went on to become a community leader, a mentor to other women, an internationally-performed composer, a competitive athlete. A woman of strength. A person with purpose.

Why women are not equal yet

Again and again, I see articles in the media querying why women haven’t risen to equality across the board in society. After all, the articles argue, we achieved theoretical equality in the 1970s – surely it has been long enough since then?

Surely one generation should easily be able to erase the inequality of thousands of years of entrenched abuse and inequality? That’s not much! It can’t be that hard!

I know the answer: we’re still dealing with the legacy of inequality. We’re still unequal. We’re teaching what we knew ourselves to our daughters and sons.

I see it in the women who are spoken over in conversation, I see it in the absence of movies and media about women, I see it even in the programming club where I volunteer, and among the 9-12 year olds I teach only 1 of 15 is a girl, because it doesn’t occur to local parents that their daughters might like to learn how to program. Or be good at it.

We’re passing on a legacy of misogyny. It cuts to the core.

Strong-Woman-quote.-4jpg-300x300

Why strong girls leave home

Girls leave home when it ceases to support them. They don’t come back because there’s nothing to come back for. I moved cities because, away from home, I could finally be myself without my parents criticising everything I did. It felt like a breath of fresh air.

When I return home for visits, every two years or so, yet again I feel that stifling, patriarchal, controlling weight holding me down and crushing my spirit.

Family dynamics can be difficult, especially when you don’t fit in with your family’s expectations. In anyone else’s world I’d be a success: I’m a professional woman, I’ve achieved in my career and in my hobbies, I’ve made a positive difference for so many people.

But what I wanted to do and be just didn’t fit in with what my family wanted. I was never going to be subservient and feminine. I was never going to be the pretty girl. I was never going to be the perfect daughter – an exact copy of my mother, minus all her mistakes. I was always going to be my own person. I think that came as a shock.

Raising girls is just raising little humans

Our society has a real problem in raising girls, especially non-traditional girls. We’re fine with girls who want to follow traditional paths, and who are beautiful in traditional ways, but we struggle with women who want to be soldiers, or bodybuilders, or engineers, or programmers.

Or even with women who just want to speak their minds.

We do our best to push and shove our girls into a tiny box labelled “acceptable” and anything else we don’t know what to do with. It’s time we started accepting our daughters – especially our strong, unique, powerful daughters – as amazing human beings in their own right.

It’s time we honoured their strength.

It’s time we welcomed them home.

Cinderella shoes: Why I, in my oversized body, said FUCK IT to the world

I’m a big woman. Not fat, not wobbly (which would be an entirely different sin of its own).

Just big.

I’m nearly six feet tall. I’m broad-shouldered, big-boned, and long-limbed.

There was absolutely no point in my life that I was not going to be large. Genetics decided that for me.

I take up space, which apparently in our society is a crime worthy of punishment if you’re a woman.

Because, in case you hadn’t noticed, we women are supposed to be small. Underweight, taking up no space, not making any noise or having any opinions. We’re supposed to be pretty, according to a very narrow definition of pretty.

Women are not supposed to eat.
Women are not supposed to eat.

The first time I was told I was too tall I was about 12. A guy I liked said I would be pretty if I wasn’t so huge. I was about an inch taller than him. We got on well as friends but he told me he couldn’t be seen with a girl who was taller than him.

Two years later my father started calling me “buffalo butt” and laughing at the “joke” because he thought he was a wit. I was medically underweight at the time. I started my first diet about then.

When you’re meant to be big, and your frame and your bones are big, and your feet are fast getting up to size 11, there is no diet in the world that will make you smaller.

My best friend said she was embarrassed when we went shoe shopping and the shop had nothing to fit me. My mother kept saying I should be more ladylike – whatever that meant.

I think it meant “less like me”. I think it meant less everything to do with me. Less of me.

I started to realise that’s what the world wants. It wasn’t just me either, with all my size. It wasn’t personal, even though it hurt like hell.

Women were supposed to be less than men. Not just less in our achievements and our abilities, but in our size, our space that we control, our earnings, our ideas, our voices. Everything.

We were supposed to be “assistants”, not the person being assisted.
We were nurses, not doctors.
We were teachers, not Principals – unless of a primary school or kindergarten.
We were secretaries, not the boss.
We were the scenery – the eye candy – in the movies.

Not the hero.

Nothing seems to have changed. We're still the "eye candy" and the "romatic interest".
Nothing seems to have changed. We’re still the “eye candy” and the “romatic interest”.

At school I remember asking about being an engineer, and being told, “Oh, you don’t want to do that! and being steered towards a career as a nurse or a teacher. I didn’t fancy cleaning, so I opted for teaching.

There weren’t many “acceptable” options for girls to choose from, after all.

Women live in a smaller world, and we’re supposed to be smaller to fit into it. But as I grew older, something clicked. I guess I started wondering what happens when a person demands a bigger world? What happens when we’re too big for the boundaries others set for us?

I sometimes wonder if I would be the same person today if I hadn’t been born too big to fit the role society wanted me to fit?

If I’d been born the “right” size, looked the “right” way, would I have challenged the role that I couldn’t fill?

Those Cinderella shoes were never going to fit me. So I created a new fairytale with myself as its champion. Would I have done so had the glass slipper fit?

cinderella

I don’t know. I don’t have answers. But I know one thing: I, in my oversized body, said Fuck It to the world.

The world as it was didn’t fit me, so I created a new world that suits me better. That I liked better.

And, as I look around, the Ugly Sisters – all of us who never, ever could fit the shoes we were told to wear – we are all creating our own worlds, side by side.

    They told me I was too big, so I used my height and strength as an asset and began to think of myself as an amazon, proud and strong, with a heritage that goes back thousands of years.

    They told me boys were smarter than girls, so I got myself a few degrees at University.

    They told me computers were for boys (I wasn’t allowed to touch my brother’s computer when it was bought for him, in case I – less than two years his junior and a teen at the time – “broke it”). So I created the largest online community for Pagans in Australia at the time of its creation, became a WebMistress, ran webpages and online forums, and learned my way around the internet, before taking on a Software Engineering degree.

    They told me I couldn’t fight because I was a girl, so I joined the Army.

    They told me sport was for boys and that I sucked at it, so I went to the State Championships in rowing.

    They told me girls were weak, so I became a bodybuilder and weightlifter.

    They told me girls couldn’t be Leaders, so I became a Leader of several communities, transforming them and removing previous corrupt leaderships.

    They told me I couldn’t write music, so I became a choral composer whose works have been performed worldwide.

    They told me girls couldn’t change the world, so I wrote stories with new worlds in them.

Be the change you want to see in the world

I’m just an ordinary woman, with no special abilities. Except I don’t believe in boundaries and rules, and I don’t believe in Impossible.

Maybe that’s what has made my world so amazing? Because only by believing in the impossible can we make it happen.

Women can do anything.
Too long we’ve been told to keep our horizons near, and our world small.
Too often we’ve believed it when we’ve been told what we supposedly can’t do.
The combination of being told to keep ourselves small and being told to appease others is deadly.

It’s time we all said Fuck It to the world, and made some noise. Because, by doing so, we might just discover who we truly are.

Does God care about gender? Transgender people and the Divine

Everyone is talking about Bruce Jenner at the moment. So here’s an interesting thought: does God – or do the Gods – care about gender?

Do our souls – if we have them – have genders?

You know, this never really occurred to me until recently. I remember reading somewhere that hardly anyone has a transgendered friend, and it’s something that few people connect with.

I must be different, because I can’t count the number of transgendered friends I have on one hand – I think I have eight or nine, last time I stopped to think about it.

The thing that strikes me most about people who transition is how little it affects who they are, to we people on the outside. To me, perhaps the most amazing feature of the whole process is how much they remain the same. They’re still the same people.

I remember being worried, when my friends have transitioned, that I’d lose my friends. But my friends have remained the same people inside. Their souls, if that’s the right word for it, have remained the same.

I suppose it’s naive to expect that gender should make such a huge difference, but before I knew people who had become male when they’d been female before, or female when they’d become male, I guess I’d expected their innate personality – the person they are inside – to change dramatically. It didn’t; it hasn’t.

So if it doesn’t matter to me, does it matter to the Gods?

A Goddess for everyone across the spectrum of gender

My patron Goddess is Aphrodite. Of all Goddesses she’s one to have a little fun with gender. She’s the Goddess of switching forms, of hermaphrodites and androgyny, and of playing games with gender roles.

A lot of people, when they think of Aphrodite, imagine this very, very feminine Goddess. But they forget that Aphrodite is also the Goddess who was spawned, so the legend goes, from the sea foam created by the castrated genitalia of Uranus, and her children include Hermaphroditus. She governs gender fluidity and transition, and is accepting of transition and non-traditional gender roles. The Gods aren’t necessarily easy to categorize.

Looks can be deceiving

Nor are people easy to categorize. Bruce Jenner, of all people, was portrayed as the stereotypical All-American male – the perfect athlete, the good-looking man who every man wanted as his friend and for his daughter as a partner. He was incredibly desirable and high-profile. Could anyone have seen this coming?

According to Jenner, it’s been here inside him all his life – inside him, waiting to come out. He started taking female hormones in the 1980s, 30 years ago. This isn’t a new thing for him.

That’s something you hear, again and again, from people who transition. The pressures to remain the gender they were born into are incredibly strong, and it is only once the pain of remaining who they are becomes too intense that they break the chains and push for the freedom to become themselves. Transitioning isn’t a kick, or a fad: it’s something they must do, and have needed to do for many years. It’s only society that has held them back.

We are all in transition

It’s both an indictment and praise to our societies that people feel such pressure to remain hidden for so long, yet are finally able to become who they feel they are meant to be. I think we’re societies in transition too, perhaps. But the signs are good that we’re becoming more tolerant, more accepting, and more positive for transgendered people.

We are transitioning too: we are learning, as a society, to be kind, open-minded, and to love unconditionally.

Do the Gods care? Personal perspectives

So – do our souls have gender? Do the Gods care? Will the transgendered be judged? Does any of it matter, apart from the happiness of the individual?

Or are the Gods, as the ancient Greeks might imagine, just playing games with us all, throwing the dice, making life more difficult for some than for others?

As a woman who, I suppose, is very gender-neutral, I’ve never felt the need to be a man. I can’t imagine what it is like. Yet I certainly fit more of a male stereotype than a female. I don’t own any skirts or dresses – at all. I wear a lot of men’s clothes. I’m a bodybuilder and weightlifter, spent time in the army, own a farm, castrate sheep and do most of the yard work around the property, work in tech, have tertiary experience in software engineering…the list goes on.

I can’t think of anything worse than knitting or sewing or quilting or wearing frilly clothes. But do I want to be a man? No. I’m just me. Somewhere in the middle of the gender spectrum, I guess. I don’t feel confined by any roles. Why should I be? But my experiences are different to those of others. I have no right to judge. My right is that of support, and of friend.

If I have a soul, it’s not pink or blue. It’s probably orange, or yellow, or maybe lime green. I’m not really into the concept of souls anyway, but if the Gods care about gender, then I believe it’s a very small part of what makes a person worthwhile.

So my view is, if a person needs to transition to be complete and whole and happy, then let them. Support them. They’ll still be the same person inside. Because they always were that same person inside.

We just couldn’t see it.

Paganism and simplicity

When a lot of Pagans start out, they get a bit of the “gear witch” vibe about them.

They buy stuff. Lots and lots and lots of stuff.

In the Pagan community, there’s so much stuff to be had, so many fabulous tools and toys. It can all be a bit overwhelming. And if you like to spend and possess and have lovely things, it can be real easy to start collecting a lot of stuff.

I went through this, and a lot of my friends did too. Tarot sounds interesting, so you collect a few tarot decks plus some books on the subject. Runes sound great too, so before you know it you have a few sets of rune stones and some books about them too.

You figure you must have a Wand (everyone knows a you’re not a Real Pagan[TM] unless you have a Wand!!!) and you must have a Blade (because they’re cool too, and a Blade has different energy).

Before you know it, you’re eyeing off those fancy swords online and wondering which you can afford. Or how many. Maybe a collection. Yeah…a collection would be great.

It all adds up, and builds up, and when you add the candles and bells and Tibetan singing bowls and God and Goddess figurines and chalices and cauldrons to the collection, no wonder so many Pagans are drowning in stuff! Plus the clothes – you feel like, as a newbie, the right ritual robes and capes will give you pagan “street cred”.

So you buy, buy, buy.

It’s all very addictive. And very, very easy to do.

And very, very wrong.

6593665365_be7281770d_z

Paganism comes from within

All the stuff in the world won’t make a person a Pagan. Which is a good thing. We’re a bit selective like that! Likewise, I’d argue that any path that encourages you to buy and own lots of stuff is a fool’s path.

You’ll find lots of Pagans with lots of fancy stuff all around the world…and they’re usually the silliest Pagans of the lot. They’ve forgotten that the Divine is immanent. Within us. It can’t be bought or sold.

The more stuff you collect, the harder it is to focus on the inner self, your connection with the Divine, and what really matters. Fancy stuff is just a temptation; a lure. A diversion from the truth.

A diversion from the truth.

prince

We all know that of course. It’s written clearly in one of the most valued early texts in modern Paganism, which is the Charge of the Goddess:

    “…If that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, thou wilt never find it without thee.

    For behold, I have been with thee from the beginning; and I am that which is attained at the end of desire.”

You won’t find Paganism in stuff, and you certainly won’t find Divinity. All the tools, and toys, and robes are just props.

You could even call them diversions for the weak-minded. They help set the scene for those who can’t focus without them. They hold no real power by themselves. Only living matter can do that: living energy.

That’s what we Pagans do: channel energy; create energy; focus energy. A wand in the end is just a stick. A blade in the end is just a hunk of metal. This is the real truth. Connection to the Divine comes from within, not from these lifeless things.

If you want to find the Divine, get rid of everything that isn’t essential. Then you will find what you truly seek.

aphrodite4

The hardest person in the world to love

I remember the first time I met J. I’ll call her J instead of her real first name, just in case by chance she is out there somehwre, reading this.

I couldn’t see any beauty in her at all. Short, dumpy and blonde, with a chin so minimal as to be non-existent, watery blue eyes, freckles. Nothing exciting.

We sat next to each other in our lecture, and as we were both new to Uni and didn’t know anyone, we started talking. She was so friendly and interesting. She was cool.

J told me about her plans (to be a pediatrician) and her background (a family of farmers with no education at all). Over the next few lectures I learned how proud her parents were that she was here at Uni, the first of her family. And I learned how she’d topped her school in, well, just about everything.

As time went on, I started to see J differently. I saw the character in her face, and the warmth and intelligence in her eyes, and the humour – and wickedness! – in her smile.

Over time, everything that had once been ordinary in my eyes disappeared.

She was beautiful. I couldn’t see her as anything other than beautiful.

The eye beholds…

Our eyes see what we want to see.

Once I began to know J, I saw everything that makes up the unique person that she is. I stopped seeing everything our society judges and criticises in women. Because she brought positive experiences into my life, everything I saw in her was positive.

I forgot how plain I’d thought her when we first met. Even now I can vaguely remember, but not well.

So it surprised me a couple of years ago when she confessed that she’d always struggled with the way she looks. She had difficulty accepting compliments. She found it hard to accept that a man could be attracted to her for anything other than short term sex. She – like me, and practically every other woman I know – compared herself to the images we see everywhere online and on TV and in the media, and she found herself lacking.

She thought her body freakish. And ugly. And bad. Anything but beautiful.

Mirror, mirror…

I’ve always found it odd that our friends and lovers can see the beauty in us that we cannot see in ourselves. They see us, as we are – all the good and bad. They see the whole human being, and they love the things that make us what we are, even if we don’t fit stereotypical beauty.

Like J, I find it hard to accept anyone could find me beautiful. Being dedicated to Aphrodite helps, because She is a Goddess who helps the beauty and power of all women shine forth. But it’s still hard.

Aphrodite empowers us.
Aphrodite empowers us.

I’m over 40, and all I see in the magazines is 20-somethings or very very airbrushed celebrities if they’re older than that. I see nothing that can make myself feel normal, feel beautiful by comparison. So I don’t look.

But it’s still there, that insecurity. It’s not just women, either. I told my boyfriend that he was beautiful the other day. He is. Yet he shrugged the words off awkwardly, disbelievingly. I think he thought I was saying so to make him feel good.

The thought that I could be saying the truth – impossible! How could he be beautiful! He’s not tall, dark and handsome. He’s actually kind of chubby and gingery and pale. But I happen to find him beautiful, because I see the person inside. I like what I see when I look at him.

Painful reflections

When I look in the mirror, all I see is flaws. I see the wrinkles around my eyes, and is that another grey hair? I see the lack of skinnyness, despite my hours and hours in the gym and watching what I eat. I see a very ordinary woman staring back at me. Nothing special. Tall, gangly, blue eyes, brown hair (going grey)…I’m no Scarlett Johannsen.

So many of us find ourselves the hardest person to love. We’re told we’re supposed to look like this or that, and of course we fail. Even the celebrities, chosen for their genetics, need to be airbrushed before they are perfect enough to be consumed by the masses. What chance does an ordinary human have?

Gwen Stefani is beautiful...but not beautiful enough, apparently :(
Gwen Stefani is beautiful…but not beautiful enough, apparently 😦

Maybe we need to look in the mirror less, and listen more. Maybe we should listen to those who see us, know us, love us, instead of comparing ourselves with a perfection that doesn’t exist.

Not only do real women – and men – come in all shapes and sizes, but different people find those different shapes and sizes attractive too. Brad Pitt is meant to be the most handsome man on the planet, but he does nothing for me. Everyone’s tastes are different.

I can *see* that he's handsome, but he does absolutely nothing for me. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
I can *see* that he’s handsome, but he does absolutely nothing for me. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Maybe when someone tells you they think you are beautiful, they’re telling the truth. They’re not saying that you look like Scarlett Johanssen or Angelina Jolie. They’re saying you are beautiful as yourself. Not even Scarlett or Angelina can manage to look like you.

Maybe the mirror lies. Maybe it’s a story-teller, weaving pretenses of what we think we should be, when we’re actually okay just as we are. Maybe the mirror is cruel, and untruthful.

mirror

And maybe we’re not hard to love after all.

Tell her she’s okay

I just read a post online. By a 24 year old girl. Her post was a manifesto of self-loathing.

She was talking matter-of-factly about how she’s a bit overweight, and she has extra tummy fat, and she doesn’t have a “thigh gap” and never did even at her leanest.

I felt like I wanted to cry reading her words.

Because I remember being age 13 and having a BMI of just over 20 (which is on the light end of things, and well within the normal, healthy range), and feeling fat. My father used to call me “buffalo butt” and laugh at me, so the dieting began.

I haven’t had a normal relationship with food ever since.

I remember my mother asking me “should you be having that?” when I wanted to have dessert along with my brother and dad, and I remember being hungry a lot of the time, but wanting to lose weight so badly. Because I didn’t look like the girls in the magazines. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much weight I lost, I still didn’t look like the girls in the magazines.

Ever since then, I’ve never been able to eat a meal without guilt – without either “watching it” or, if I ate normally, then compensating the next day for actually eating my fill. It wasn’t long after I turned 13 that I started binging on chocolate and chips, and being unable to control my portions in some types of food.

I’d restrict my eating for days at a time, then have a blowout and break the reins a few days later. I couldn’t hold it in, and I thought something was wrong with me, because I wasn’t strict enough with myself. I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t thin enough. I wasn’t good enough at denying myself the good things in life. I was a bad person. I was a failure at being a woman, because successful woman were thin, and you couldn’t be pretty and attractive if you weren’t thin.

When I talk to my friends about this, now we’re all grown women, I find that my experiences are really, really common. In fact, none of my friends seem to have what I would call a “normal” relationship with food. We see foods as “good” and “bad” – we associate eating with guilt and denial. We starve ourselves way too often, only to binge when we break the unattainable rules and goals we set ourselves later on. We all feel like failures, and we all hate our bodies.

When I think back on everything I’ve been through, and how disordered my relationship with food and my own body is, I can’t help thinking that we have severely damaged our femininity and sense of self with all of this. I don’t know why my dad thought it was appropriate to call his 13 year old daughter abusive names. Maybe he thought it was funny. Maybe he thought it would encourage me to diet and get skinny. But it stuck, and made me hate myself instead.

I looked at my body, and everything I saw was ugly. If my own father saw me as horrible and not worthy of love, what chance was there that any other man could ever find me appealing? Obviously I was truly horrible.

The truth, looking back on it, was I was a normal teenager. I wasn’t fat: I was lean and gangly, all arms and legs. I wasn’t hideous, although I felt that way.

But even if I had been fat, that’s exactly the time in my life that I would have needed support from my family, not words of abuse. I needed their love and acceptance when I couldn’t find it inside myself. Maybe I’d have felt different about myself my whole life if they’d treated me differently, and taught me a different relationship with food.

I don’t know, and it’s too late now.

But I’m a mother with a daughter of my own now. I have the power to change things. For her, there are no good foods or bad foods: there is just food. We don’t restrict food, and if she is hungry she can eat. We never force her to clear her plate. I tell her she is beautiful. And we believe it, all of us. She is beautiful. She’s amazing.

Getting back to the girl who posted, the 24 year old whose article I read, no wonder she hates her body. All she sees are photoshopped pictures of women who who are so manipulated by photoshop that they can’t physiologically exist.

This woman can't physiologically exist. Yay for photoshop!
This woman can’t physiologically exist. Yay for photoshop!

She sees images of models who are so skinny they literally risk death. Women who all fit just one mould, one shape, one age, one size. The women who she sees are so similar it’s hard to tell them apart. They’ve ceased to look real, and photoshop takes away any remaining humanity.

I don’t know the girl who posted in real life but I say she is beautiful. She is okay. We’re all okay. I’ve had enough of the one-size-alone-is-acceptable rubbish. I want moulds of a million different colours and shapes and heights and builds and musculatures. I want variety. I want to see role models for all of us. I want our young women to know that whether they’re a size zero or a size sixty, they’re okay.

If I could go back in time and talk to my 13 year old self, I would teach her so much. But most of all, I would tell her that she is beautiful, exactly as she is. She doesn’t have to look like a model to be beautiful. She just has to look like herself. And I’d tell her father to shut the fuck up. He has no right to call her names. No one has any right to call anyone names.

I never intended this to be a rant, but maybe we need more rants. There are too many women hurting here. Too many women who can’t eat a meal without feeling that they’ll need to diet the next day. Too many women who don’t want to look in the mirror because they hate what they see.

It all starts when we’re so young, and if we’re going to change our world, we need to start with our girls. Support them. Nurture them. Love them.

Tell them they’re beautiful. Tell them they’re okay.

They're all okay. Exactly as they are.
They’re all okay. Exactly as they are.

My great-great grandmother knew Gerald Gardner!

I’m sure you’ve met one. Who knows – maybe you are one. You know, those Pagans who claim lineage.

Some claim to be descended directly from Gerald Gardner (Britsh Traditionals).

Still others claim to have been part of some hidden coven in the New Forest that taught them everything (oh wait! That’s Gardner again).

Gerald Gardner. Creepy looking dude, huh?
Gerald Gardner. Creepy looking dude, huh?

From then on, of course, they’re infinitely better and so much more Pagan than you.

Feel insecure and insufficient yet? Yep. That’s the idea.

My potted history in Paganism

You want to know my Pagan lineage? Here it is: I got interested in Paganism through various books as a teenager, and then got together with a few like-minded friends. And we made stuff up.

We flew by pulling ourselves up by our shoelaces.

woman-flying

We knew nothing except that we wanted to learn. So we supported each other in the learning process, did a whole stack of courses and training, some more reputable than others, and gradually started figuring things out.

Some stuff worked, other stuff really worked, and a lot of stuff didn’t work at all. We were really, really eclectic! We read everything we could get our hands on, from Campbell and Frazer and Kramer to Starhawk and Fox and Buckland – and a whole lot besides.

I was involved with two main covens through the 90s and early century – MoonSpell Coven (which I originated) and then Akasha Coven, which I created and for which I was the HPS. Many of the members of those groups are still practicing, and almost all of them remain my friends.

Akasha in particular was very active in the wider Pagan scene in Melbourne, Australia, offering classes and public gatherings that attracted large groups of people and were very sucessful. My involvement in the Pagan scene wound down when I had children and just couldn’t keep up with the hours required for regular work.

But lineage? I have none. None of my friends do either – or they didn’t when I was working with them. Maybe they do now. But I still don’t. I’ve been in the Pagan scene since I was a teenager, I’m 43 now, so that’s about 25 years of practice, and I’m still unlineaged.

I’d say I’m pretty experienced now. I’m still considered a Pagan Leader in certain circles, and quite knowledgeable, but I feel like a novice in a lot of areas. I’m learning all the time. I love learning all the time! I’d never call myself an expert, although I know quite a bit by now.

Time is, change is…

That’s just it with Paganism though. It’s such a huge field that you never stop learning. Nobody is ever really an expert – not of everything, anyway. If anyone calls themselves an “expert” or starts giving themselves titles in my presence, my Bullshit Detector starts twitching. Like a Timey Wimey Detector, it goes Ding! when there’s Stuff.

timeywimey

bs

Does lineage matter?

The truth is, lineage doesn’t matter. Not one bit. The whole point of Paganism is that you do what you want, what works for you – without the need for a clergy. So you certainly don’t need someone Uber Important telling you what to do.

No practitioner is more important than the rest, simply because of who they happen to know or claim to know. Or claim to have learned from.

I’ve been fortunate in my time to have taken classes with some of the “big names” in Paganism. Did they teach me anything that was intrinsically better than what I figured out on my own? No. Maybe I’m just not someone with a “groupie” mindset, but although the experience of working with these people was generally good, it didn’t make me a better practitioner.

What has made me a better practitioner has been experience. Years and years of it. Making lots of mistakes. Learning from lots of different people from all different walks of life. Figuring out what works and what doesn’t – and doing the figuring out for myself.

I’ve made some big balls ups in ritual. Some of them at large public events I was running. I’ve stuffed up, screwed up, and ballsed up. It all helped me learn. I’ve had to learn humility, and I’ve had to have a healthy sense of humour.

Skills for becoming a better practitioner

I can’t reiterate it enough – a piece of paper, or a certain lineage, or a course from an education centre, no matter how reputable – none of these can make you a better practitioner.

What will make you a better practitioner is learning to listen to your own, inner self.
Learning to take in what works for you, and toss what doesn’t.
Learning to discriminate between the good and the not so good.
Learning to accept that everyone is different, and that what works for your friend may not necessarily work for you.

Having a sense of humour will make you a better practitioner, as will learning to not take yourself too seriously.
Learning that you will always, always be a novice in the world in most fields will help, while recognising that most of the people who claim to be adepts are actually novices too is also useful.

Learning to have a fully functional Bullshit Detector is a valuable asset. Learning that most people are just fumbling along in the dark is another useful asset. And being especially wary of anyone with titles or claims is a real, serious asset – hang on to that, no matter who you meet or what they claim to be!

Lineage isn’t important. The biggest fool can train, and the biggest fool can make claims. What is meaningful, in the end, is what you choose, what is purposeful and worthwhile for you.

meaningful

My path continues…

Like I said, I have no lineage. It is meaningless to me. I’m self taught, and taught by many, and taught by Life, and taught by the Goddess Aphrodite. That is humbling and empowering and enough for me.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to teach many, many others, and help them find their own paths, their own journeys.

I started on this path 25 years ago, maybe more. I’m excited to see where it leads me. But one thing I do know – I don’t need titles or claims or lineage or Big Wazoo outfits to impress anybody.

This journey is for my Goddess and for me.

path

Swings and roundabouts at Mabon

Have you ever noticed how history is cyclical?

I was at a Pagan meeting this afternoon.

The Pagan scene in Dunedin, New Zealand, where I live, has been very, very quiet for a long time. It was very active a few years ago – a little over half a decade ago – then it all died off for various reasons to do with a conservative element and a few nasty elements in the community – and everything went really quiet.

Until now.

greenman

Interestingly, I’ve also got a Munch (social gathering) tomorrow for the kinky community tomorrow. The kinky community in Dunedin has also been very. very quiet for a long time.

It was very active a few years ago – a little over half a decade ago – then it all keeled over for various reasons to do with a few nasty elements in the wider community – and everything went really quiet.

Until now.

At the Pagan meeting I went to, I heard how the University Women’s Officer used to do Womens Rituals. I just about died from shock when I heard that.

Imagine that! In conservative Dunedin! That all stopped of course, a few years ago. About the same time as everything else.

About that same time, the conservative city council of Dunedin began closing down student pubs, tightening up student behaviour they deemed inappropriate for various reasons, and generally restricting anything they considered to be not “suitable” for a staid and stodgy town.

To “clean it up”, was the excuse given, among a number of other excuses.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

Pots boil over

The thing is, life goes in cycles. And as much as a conservative trend may try to close down stuff it doesn’t particularly like, pots will always boil over in the end.

You can’t bully whole communities into submission and expect things to last that way forever without dissent and uprising and change.

I think that’s what’s happening now. The wind is changing.

eclipse

Written in the wind…

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the sub-communities are struggling to their feet again at the same time, afetr being all but killed off.

I don’t believe that you can close down pubs and venues for fun and letting off steam for students, and just expect that they’ll stop needing those outlets for fun and relaxation. Life doesn’t work that way.

Life is swings and roundabouts. Life is change. You can’t keep the Old Gods down.

ivyruins

Too conservative stifles our breath!

In Dunedin, there’s a really strong and powerful element, and it’s in charge, that would like to see Dunedin as nothing but a conservative, neat, polite, vanilla town full of suburbanites who wear suits and go to Church on Sundays and watch TV in the evenings and never, EVER would consider going to a Drumming-Trance-Pagan event or a play party.

Oh no, not ever.

That same element doesn’t approve of student pubs and student experimentation and kink and creativity and challenge and free thought, because those things are scary and uncontrolled and can’t be made a profit from easily.

But what it forgets is that we’re human. Not machines. We don’t come in little boxes, one size fits all. A fair number of us like to party. And drink. Some of us even like to do Pagan ritual, or kinky sex.

Or both.

The lid has been kept on the pot a little too long. All the while we’ve been here, quietly simmering away, but now we’re boiling over, and expanding out into the world again.

We're coming out of our closets again - but not quite like this! ;)
We’re coming out of our closets again – but not quite like this! 😉

Swings and roundabouts.

The more you restrict a subculture, the more it will grow and expand and thrive. Right under your nose. You just won’t see it happening until – bang! – suddenly it’s on your doorstep demanding rights.

Dunedin may seem a conservative town on the surface, but beneath that surface things are beginning to get really interesting.

I don’t know what will happen, but I’m sure looking forward to finding out.

And Happy Mabon! 🙂 May the Old Gods rise again!

mabon

Aphrodite and men: the gifts of Aphrodite

I’ve talked a fair bit about Aphrodite and embracing our sexuality and sensuality as women. But what about men?

men

How Aphrodite is relevant to men

Aphrodite teaches us that our sexual, sensual nature is a part of us, not separate and closeted away. That it’s okay – more than okay – to be sexual, physical beings.

It’s okay to feel, to experience, to love, to enjoy our bodies, to lust, and to experience pleasure and revel in it. It’s okay to enjoy beauty and enjoy being beautiful.

Being sterile, celibate, unfeeling, uncaring – none of these is a natural state of being for humans. Sex is something we all do. It’s part of who we are. It’s fun, it’s positive, and it’s something to enjoy and explore without shame or fear.

These lessons are just as relevant to men as they are to women. Yet they are not where we are beginning from.

Although it’s rapidly breaking down, we still live in a largely puritanical society that tells us to fear sex, be ashamed of our bodies, hate our physical selves and the selves of other that do not conform to some mythical standard of perfection (whatever THAT is supposed to be) and, in the case of men, hide away our emotional and sensual selves and pretend they don’t exist.

That’s a whole lot of negatives.

The Man Box

Start with The Man Box – everything that Society tells men they should be in order to be a Real Man:

The Man Box. Be a Real Man, dammit. Or you're nothing but a pussy!
The Man Box. Be a Real Man, dammit. Or you’re nothing but a pussy!

According to the Man Box, and the dysfunctional patriarchy that created it, men are not supposed to express or feel emotion. They’re not supposed to receive pleasure – only to give, in a very assertive, Dominant, forceful, controlling kind of way.

They’re not supposed to see women as equals, but as chattel, objects, items to be used and bought and sold. This is why “purity” and the concept of virginity in women is so highly prized in patriarchy – because women are objects to be valued and owned, rather than individuals with their own agency.

Men are not supposed to feel, or to cry, or to express weakness, or humility, or need. Yet all of these emotions are part of what it means to be human: they’re all part of the complete human experience.

The Man Box is strong, its mythos still alive and kicking. Our world is full of men who have been sold the Man Box, sold the patriarchal model of behaviour, and been screwed up mightily by it.

Can you imagine this guy expressing love and tenderness? Nup, neither can I. But I'll bet he'd be lousy in bed, and clueless about how to satisfy a woman sexually and emotionally.
Can you imagine this guy expressing love and tenderness? Nup, neither can I. But I’ll bet he’d be lousy in bed, and clueless about how to satisfy a woman sexually and emotionally.

Men who have bought into the Man Box model often can no longer connect fully with their emotions, are unable to have fulfilling, satisfying relationships with women or other men. They feel a huge amount of anger and resentment at the world, yet are not quite sure why. They’re also often quite homophobic – because being gay is the antithesis of what a “real man” should be.

They’ve been damaged by a model of being that doesn’t fit with what real, whole, healthy humans are, and need to be.

The healing powers of Aphrodite

The power of Aphrodite – embracing our sexuality and sensuality, reconnecting with our emotional selves, accepting all mutually consenting acts of love and pleasure – is incredibly healing.

The puritanical society we live in, where sex has been hidden away and seen as something dirty and shameful, and where women have been scapegoated for millenia for society’s ills (remember Eve and the snake? Yeah, it goes back to that old yarn and possibly well before it), has been in need of healing and resolution for a long time.

Society needs Aphrodite. We need Aphrodite. And men need Aphrodite too, just as much as women.

Reconnecting

Just as women have been disconnected from our sexuality, so too have men.

Sex has been hidden away for men too. There has been an insane amount of pressure on them to perform, to achieve in sex – and you see this in men continually wondering and worrying about the size of their penises, where the truth is, most women couldn’t really care less.

Is it big enough? ;)
Is it big enough? 😉

Becoming whole

Aphrodite teaches us to become whole. Stop comparing ourselves with others. Opt out of patriarchy. Choose not to see sex as something dirty but instead as something precious, sacred, joyful. Our sexuality is the gift of Aphrodite: it is given to us for pleasure and enjoyment, not for shame or ridicule or insecurity.

Once men start understanding that they can be whole, sensual humans – not mechanical, unfeeling robots that must exert power over others in order to have value – that’s when the healing begins. Men can receive as well as give, be beneath as well as on top, penetrate as well as be penetrated, and enjoy their bodies instead of feeling shame or insecurity, creating a healthier, happier dynamic between the genders.