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Identity

“You’re just too skinny! You don’t have enough meat on your bones to keep you warm.”

When he said it, I forced a laugh. It was a balmy Tuesday afternoon, and as we settled into our chairs in the small meeting room—the one notorious for its overactive AC unit—I pulled a blanket over my lap. I knew he was just trying to be funny. It was supposed to be a joke. But I’d learned years before to let jokes like that disappear into the cracks in the walls. There was no right response.  And well I guess, I was hugging a blanket to my waist on a 90-degree day.

But the words didn’t just drift away. Instead, I could feel them burrowing into my subconscious and making themselves at home. My thoughts spun like a Rolodex, cycling through all the other times I’d heard jokes like that. From the car-salesman-turned-VP-of-sales at my last job. The boys in the house next door senior year. That friend-of-a-friend I met at a happy hour.

It reminded me of the time I was sitting in that VP’s office, taking notes on the newest customer profile, and was asked about my running. How when I told him I was training for a half marathon, he chuckled, and suggested I eat at least 10,000 calories a day to compensate. Or the time I filled my plate with lettuce at a picnic and was told I should get pizza instead, because I can afford it. It reminded me of other times I was made to feel—unsure. Was I supposed to say thank you? Or should I be offended?

It made me wonder if I’d ever told someone, even with a laugh, that they were “too” anything. At work? With friends? Maybe with family? I’ve undoubtedly said some stupid things to people, especially those closest to me (sorry, sisters!), but I like to believe I’ve never told anyone something like that. I don’t know what makes people who they are, how they got that way, or if they even like it. I only know what it’s like to be me, and how hard that can be some days. So who am I to judge?

I hesitated to even write this post, knowing how tricky body image and weight conversations can be. Especially as someone who was lucky enough to have been born with genes that do most of the work, I’m admittedly unaware of how hard it can be to change the size you’re born with. I mean, I get it. I’m “skinny.” I do a lot of the things people assume skinny people do. Eat a lot of salads. Work out. Talk about eating salads and working out. But if you asked me to describe myself physically, “skinny” wouldn’t be one of the adjectives I’d offer.

The thing is, when I look at myself, I don’t see a “skinny” person. Or a “not-skinny” person. I see a person with too much torso and not enough hips. With abs that need to crunch and legs that need to squat, and still don’t look like they do in the movies. I see a person who gets cold in heavily air-conditioned rooms, even in the summer.

I also see the girl who wrote, “I wish I knew what it was like to be [her]. To look into a mirror and see perfect skin and perfect hair and a perfect face attached to a perfect body” in her 7th grade diary. Who has since (tried to) grow into her own, and remember that no one is perfect. Who, even still, sometimes withers around coworkers and friends for their thick hair, impeccable style and, let’s just be honest, voluptuous frames, because none of those things describe her.

But more than that, I see a person who’s trying to figure out what words do describe her. Because isn’t that what we’re all trying to do? Aren’t we all just trying to keep up with the ever-changing adjectives that make us, us? Why should anyone—coworkers, friends, strangers—get to choose them for us?

 

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By Any Other Name

It almost happened. I was almost ready. I could see myself doing it, see how nothing would change, really, once it was through. But then, just a few too many seconds passed and the moment was over. I sat back and took a breath. It was gone. Just as quickly as it had come, the feeling disappeared, smothered by a well-worn cloak of doubt.

People do it every day, I realize. So why is it so hard for me? Is it because going through with it feels like cutting the threads that tie me to my history? As if once it happens, the sisters I grew up with, the parents who raised me and all they stand for will float away like orphaned kites, as the distance between us finally becomes real?

Maybe it’s because if I don’t do it, every “hi, my name is” will still elicit, “oh, that’s pretty. What is that?” There are some who recoil in disgust at those words—but I’ve always welcomed the controversial “what are you?” conversation starter.

It could be because I’m afraid giving it up is giving in to change. My allergies changed. My skin changed. My future changed. Does my identity have to change, too?

I know it’s because I don’t want to sit down for dinner and be the only girl without a “z” in her surname. It’s because that happy hour is still etched in my brain, the one where the waiter immediately picked out the blonde among us and marveled at the rest, unable to tell which Italian was which.

I know it goes back to that other fear, the one about losing her—that mousey brown-ish girl I grew up with and know so well. The one who was secretly bossy, relentlessly stubborn, and knew her dog’s name really was Spanish for “pretty”—not an immigrant couple’s failed attempt at pronouncing “Linda,” no matter what those kids said. The one who struggled to love her dad’s nose on her face, once spending an entire semester obscuring it so a sixth-grade crush wouldn’t know it arched instead of sloped.

I don’t want to forget her, because she’s the girl who hated the words “arroz,” barrio,” and even “aardvark,” until her “r”s learned to roll instead of sputter. The one who refused to sign her third-grade library card until she’d perfected the peaks and valleys of every extra syllable in her longer-than-most last name.

That girl has been with me for decades. She’s seen me through break outs, break-ups and breakdowns. It took me a long time to learn to love her. Can I really leave her now?

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work

I’ve done a mix: Been a freelance writer for regional lifestyle publications, a social media specialist, and most recently an in-house marketing copywriter for a consumer electronics brand. But no matter what I write or who it’s for, one truth never ceases to move me:

Easy reading is damn hard writing.” –Nathaniel Hawthorne 

Email Marketing

Make-A-Wish Oregon: Walk For Wishes Fundraiser

BabyCenter: Baby Monitor Standalone

Advertising

Healthy Mom & Baby: Baby Monitor Print Ad

Romper: Baby Monitor Digital Ad

Walmart: Baby Monitor Digital Ad

Social Media Marketing

Facebook: VTechUSA Baby Soother Post

Facebook: VTechUSA Baby Monitor Halloween Campaign

Instagram: VTechUSA Baby Monitor CLEVER Collab

Twitter: VTechUSA Baby Soother Tweet

Web Copy

VTech: Make-A-Wish Partnership Landing Page Banner

Direct Mail Campaign

VTech Hospitality Marriott Campaign Landing Page

Magazine Articles

Lavender Magazine: City of Duluth Profile

Maple Grove Magazine: Community Program Profile

METRO Magazine: Local Business Review

University of Minnesota: Capstone Project, Product Review

Creative Writing

Creative Nonfiction: “Identity

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