Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Favorite Things Roundup: December

I've given this some thought, but the truth is that there is only one thing I could possibly put on a list for December:

1) Christmas

I am a complete nerd when it comes to Christmas. My man had to practically hold me down to keep me from putting up the tree early--I don't see anything wrong about a Christmas tree mingled with jack-o-lanterns, do you?--and I was happily able to put up some more decorations this year since we are home for the holiday.

I realize there are lots of haters out there when it comes to Christmas. Yes, it's completely commercialized, yes, it can be a major source of stress, and yes, it can be really expensive. But I love the warmth in winter, the lights, the colors, and the anticipation (which might be my favorite part). My heart still leaps a little when I see presents under the tree on Christmas morning, and not because I got more stuff. My family says I'm impossible to shop for, and generally buy straight off my list or buy gift cards, so there actually aren't many surprises. (It should be noted here that my man is an exceptional gift-giver. His are ALWAYS surprises.) I get excited because somewhere in me there is still a little girl who thinks Santa or a Santa-like entity still exists who wants to give us one day when being thoughtful is celebrated. I love giving presents; my man has to hold me back on that as well. If he didn't, we'd be totally broke. I love the eating, I love the holiday specials and I love the carols.

For the Scrooges out there, I feel badly that Christmas has been lost for them. Christmases for me have been great, but I know that's not the case for everyone, and some people have a long list of reasons why they personally have learned to dislike Christmas. I think that ultimately each of us have our own definition of Christmas, or whatever winter holiday we choose to celebrate. As for me, love and magic are at the core of my Christmas, and I wish you both this year.

(So get off the computer! Go be with people! I'm only online because I'm stuck at work.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Corset Cover-up

One of the perks to my new job is a very steep discount on membership to a health club. I myself have never really been one for working out, the problem being that I don't like to sweat (I'm always worried it will cause me to break out, even though my skin has been under control). I like Pilates because it makes me feel strong, but it's expensive and I get bored doing the same workout all the time. So, I decided to start out with a one-week trial membership and see how things went.

I slipped into my tennis shoes and imagined them waking from an age-old slumber, much like the cartoon bullets that spring to life in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? when Detective Eddie Valiant enlists their help in Toon Town after many years of disuse. These are the same gym shoes I got when I started working my very first retail job in high school, and tennis shoes were a required part of our uniform. I washed my face, filled up my water bottle and went up one floor to the cardio room.

It took some time for me to reacquaint myself with this land of nefarious contraptions designed to inflict non-sexual pain. First, I forgot to be mindful of which treadmill I chose, and didn't take into account what channel was playing on the TV, so I wound up watching ESPN meatheads digest the Sunday football game. I was too embarrassed to move, though, and stuck with it. The first half-mile was hard, not least because I was in front of a mirror and saw how awful I looked as I ran. After a mile, I switched to another machine, and then headed up to the weight room for part two of my workout.

Back in the day, I used to be very enthusiastic about weight lifting. I got a weight bench for my birthday one year, and even brought my barbells with me on family vacations. I credit the weightlifting I did in my years of early puberty as the reason why it's not very difficult for me to get my arms back into shape. But recently, my man was sitting next to me on the couch and said, "You look great in that dress, but you would be devastating with toned arms." At first I was offended, then felt sad because he was right. I had allowed my once-beautiful arms to lose their muscle tone, and was now determined to restore it. This I knew I could do, and was doing some curls on the weight bench when a large man came over to me and asked me if I was okay. I told him I was fine. He asked me again, and I told him I thought I was doing fine, but it seemed like he thought otherwise, so tell me what I'm doing wrong. He showed me the proper way to curl (how could I forget?!?) and then demonstrated to me how some of the machines worked.

Ever since that day, I have been in pain, but the pain feels good. My thighs scream at me when I sit down, and my calves share the sentiment. I went back two days later, and though I'm still sore, I like that I'm getting strong. I can already see a difference.

The thing I realized is that I had let myself go because, in a corset, I look great. I'm not fat, but I have gotten soft, which is not something I see when I'm laced and looking in a mirror. In a corset, my waist looks great and my tummy is flat. The shape of my legs doesn't matter much because my skirts generally fall below the knee, so I don't notice so much if they expand or contract. And I gave up on my butt a long time ago. However, none of this is any excuse for not taking care of my body. Even if I look good, that doesn't mean I have a healthy heart. Flexibility is important, and working out helps me feel less guilty if I eat poorly one meal.

My father was just diagnosed with diabetes, himself having once been a star athlete who later let himself go with the various stresses of life. Now he can't eat the way he'd like to because he's spent the last few years eating whatever he wants with no regard for his health. It's hard on him now having to make sudden, big changes, and it's hard on my mom as well. My corsets are great and I won't stop wearing them, but I also can't let them trick me into thinking I am healthier than I am.

Friday, December 12, 2008

R.I.P., Bettie Page

Today we mourn the death of Bettie Page, unquestionably the queen of pin-ups. In her obituary in today's New York Times, Bettie is quoted as saying, "I want to be remembered as a woman who changed people's perspectives concerning nudity in its natural form."

I think she did. One of the great things about Bettie is how natural she looks--no implants, no tanning. Her trademark hairstyle is often a little frizzy, and her locks are never ramrod straight. I imagine she rolled out of bed, showered, and let her hair air-dry as she drove to a shoot. She doesn't wear lots of make-up, and generally isn't dripping in jewels and rhinestones. More or less, she's wearing underwear that happens to match.

Another thing I take from her referring to "nudity in its natural form" is her SM photography, although I am sure that is not what she meant. Nudity inspires different feelings and thoughts for everyone, many of which stem from a culture that treats nudity as taboo. Her work helped to make it okay for people to have their dirty thoughts, partially because she herself was so clean and tasteful. One thing that can be very difficult about enjoying SM play is that most people go through various stages of denial, in much the same way that I imagine gay men and women do as they come to realize their homosexuality. It's hard to admit that you enjoy being spanked or tied up, or to confront an innate desire to inflict pain on someone you love. Bettie helped make SM public, and it became part of the sexual revolution she inadvertently helped launch.

It's my belief that there is still an awful lot of prejudice and misunderstanding about SM and the people who practice it. I myself am extremely private about it, whereas my man is not, because I am very sensitive to the criticism I anticipate from others. But the message Bettie sends has helped me be at ease with my own desires. Sex is fun, and it's fun in a lot of different ways; there's really no right or wrong way to enjoy it and assumptions to the contrary are thrown out when you look at the scope of Bettie's photos. Like Bettie, you can be a good girl in soft lace some of the time and still be the bad girl in leather at other times. Because come on, admit it--you are a little bit of both.
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Pinup Tales by Kitty du Vert is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.