Don’t exhale yet, Hillary supporters — Trump could win

Whew!

This is my last column about this miserable Presidential election!

By this time next week, it’ll all be over.

I hope.

I suspect, however, that the grotesque circus we’ve been enduring for over a year will result in a collective case of campaign PTSD. Whenever we hear words “the polls show…” we’ll curl into the fetal position and weep.

I’ve seen many elections come and go, but none as horrid and divisive as this one. Sure, bitter partisan strife is the bone structure of American politics, but it’s mostly about policy. Republicans and Democrats don’t agree on the goals, let alone how to achieve them. Election years magnify that basic schism by a thousand.

This time however, it’s not about policy. This time, it’s personal. Sarah Palin did the “set” on desensitizing the public to crude, ridiculous and vile speech in 2008, and Donald Trump made the “spike” in 2016. Trump has enabled closet racists and sexists to emerge from the shadows and spew their venom without consequence.

Yay! It’s OK to hate again!

Trump has cracked open the Pandora’s Box of human ugliness, and should he win on Tuesday, the lid will burst wide open.

Yes, I said that: Trump may win.

Sure, the polls show Hillary ahead by a slim margin. But how reflective of actual voters are those polls? I’ve never been called by a pollster in a Presidential election. Have you? I suspect that most Trump supporters haven’t been called by pollsters either. I fear we’ve underestimated the hateful legions, and that the Angry White Undereducated contingent will flood the polling booths.

Consider Brexit. Most of Great Britain went to bed thinking it would be defeated. They woke up the next morning and discovered it wasn’t. Sadly, as the stock market crashed worldwide and the world somersaulted in anxiety, the Number One topic googled in the UK was “What is Brexit?”

The majority of Brits were so disgruntled with their own government, so angry, so frustrated, feeling so powerless, disenfranchised and hateful toward immigrants, they used their vote as a protest, not even grasping what the protest meant. It just felt really good to vent their anger and aim it right at their own government.

Sound familiar?

Besides loathing our government (while using the postal service, driving on national highways and being protected by the military), most Trumpsters are driven by a blind hatred of Hillary Clinton. However, if you take emails and Benghazi off the table, most can’t articulate why. “She’s a criminal!” they squeal, ironically parroting the words of a man being sued for fraud over his sketchy university (mass fraud, by the way — more serious than email). If you ask them what crimes Hillary has been arrested for, let alone convicted of, you get “Duhhhhh…”

That’s because Hillary hasn’t been convicted of any crimes. Period. These are the actual facts. She was investigated for Benghazi and cleared. She was investigated about her emails and, while chastised for being careless, was cleared of wrongdoing. She is not a criminal, and anyone who claims otherwise is either ignorant or a liar or both.

“But there’s a new Hillary email scandal!” the Trumpanzees howl. (And also disgruntled Millennials who weren’t old enough to appreciate the Nader Effect in the 2000 election, and insist on voting third party as a protest and a matter of integrity. Enjoy your precious integrity, Mills, while the country collapses under the weight of a catastrophic Trump presidency. Me, I kinda hope you choke on it.)

As for this latest “Hillary email scandal,” some recent polls indicate that it has swayed some voters away from Hillary and toward Trump. Nevermind that these emails aren’t even Hillary’s. Nevermind that the FBI hasn’t indicated that there’s even anything criminal in them. It just feels so delicious to perpetuate the myth of Crooked Hillary, because wah, we still have poopy diapers because Bernie lost.

Those emails were a gift from Russia to the RNC, and are serving as a Hail Mary to defeat Clinton — the RNC’s singular goal for years. You didn’t think the Benghazi hearings were really about Benghazi, did you? That was orchestrated to derail Clinton’s bid for the presidency. Benghazi was intended to be the ace in the RNC’s pocket, and the RNC was so certain she’d lose, Congressional Republicans refused to confirm Barack Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court last spring. They were banking on a Republican president in 2016, surely Jeb Bush, who’d pave the way for a Justice committed to unraveling whatever social progress we’ve made and thwarting any more to come.

And then came Trump, and all the wheels came of the RNC bus.

Still feeling smug, Congressional Republicans? You’ve got a much bigger problem on your hands than the dreaded Hillary Clinton presidency. You’re responsible for the anger that allowed Trump to bubble to the top of your noxious partisan brew, and now you’re stuck with him, poised as he is to dismantle your own party.

There was an interesting NPR “Here and Now” interview on Nov. 2 with former Secretary of Defense, Republican Chuck Hagel, in which he commented that he no longer recognizes the Republican party, and that rather than one unified party, it has splintered into factions with conflicting values and goals. In other words, the party that Republicans know and love no longer exists.

The bigger threat, however, is that if Trump wins, our democracy may cease to exist. In addition to plans to sue all the women who came forward with allegations of sexual misconduct (hello, Middle Ages — we’ve missed you!), Trump has declared his intentions to sue journalists that write stories about him that “aren’t nice” — factual, in other words (goodbye First Amendment) and to throw Hillary in jail without a trial (goodbye Sixth Amendment). But I doubt that an assault on the Constitution matters much to Trumpanzees, gorged on Crooked Hillary red meat and ready to swarm to the polls. Which is why it’s all the more important for the rest of us to do the same.

Trump is not entitled to our bodies or our votes

There’s this old brain-teaser drawing of a young, fashionable lady who becomes an old hag after you stare at it for a moment. The predominant image is in the eye of the beholder. I was reminded of this drawing after watching the most recent presidential debate, because although we were all seeing and hearing the same thing, clearly I was seeing and hearing something entirely different than others.

The most striking result of that cage match was that the Republicans declared a Trump victory. You know that “yaddity-yaddity-yaddity” sound cartoon characters make when they whip their heads around in disbelief? That.

Aren’t debates scored upon the content of answers, the elegance of the delivery and the overall composure of the debater? In what sort of bizarro-world did Trump excel on any of those points?

Forget the bravado and bluster (which is pretty much all Trump has going for him), if you actually pay attention to what was said (google the transcripts), you’ll discover that Donald Trump didn’t answer most of the questions, even when the moderators repeatedly steered him back to the question. His strategy was to deflect the issue with inflammatory reminders about the horror of ISIS or to pour gasoline on the flames of irrational Hillary hatred.

The only specific actions Trump stated were his intention to grant huge tax cuts for corporations (Bernie supporters, pay attention) and to declare that once elected, he’ll use his political power to jail his opponent. This, of course, is what dictators do. Clearly Trump’s been studying the Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein playbooks. Whose strategies will he adopt next? Bashir-al Assad? Idi Amin? Hitler?

The debate brought to mind our local Academic Decathlon, for which I served as an essay judge for about 10 years. There was a scoring rubric for the essays, and one criteria was how well the student addressed the writing prompt. If the student didn’t respond directly to the prompt and rambled off into the weeds, his/her score was a zero.

Even by high school essay competition standards, Trump’s debate performance was “zero.”

On the rare occasions when Trump managed to stay on topic, he repeatedly just declared things to be “a disaster.” Our military, our healthcare, our inner cities… all disasters. Beyond the fact that these things simply aren’t true — even if they were, labeling the problem isn’t the same thing as solving the problem. When pressed for solutions or policy, Trump’s default answer is that he’ll “take a look at that.” Period. Taking a look at the problem also isn’t the same thing as solving the problem.

“That turd is a disaster!”

OK, so how do we clean it up?

“We’ll take a look at that.”

Trump is no more qualified to pick up after the family dog than he is to run our country.

Beyond the lack of content in his rambling diatribes, the way he lurked behind Hillary’s back was unsettling — particularly in the context of the avalanche of  evidence exposing his lifelong disdain for women.

Most of us women have experienced the sixth-sense feeling when someone is walking too closely behind us. Some of you reading this right now will immediately recall what that sickly gurgle in your stomach feels like. It’s a feeling of being stalked, like a prey animal, and it triggers the “fight or flight” response. Those of us who know that sensation of prickly heat down our backs surely flinched a little watching it play out on television.

Even more flinch-worthy was watching Trump repeatedly interrupt Hillary and shout her down. Even though she remained calm and composed, continued speaking and didn’t give in to this bullying tactic, in the end, he can yell louder than she can and she got drowned out.

All the women in the room: Raise your hand if you’ve ever been plowed over by this verbal bulldozing tactic, either personally or professionally? (Both my hands are way up.) How many times have you not been heard, simply because the male with whom you’re disagreeing can yell louder and, often times, longer? This is a simple male domination strategy. It’s how they’re wired. Men attempt to outshout each other, nose to nose, until one of them tires or concedes, or they just do what men do and start throwing punches. Most women aren’t wired this way, and even those who are, or learn to be, have a tough time out-yelling a man.

This behavior, taken in the context of the insults and indignities Trump has expressed and continues to express toward women, reveals that he is a sexist pig at best and a bona fide misogynist at worst. This alone disqualifies him from being elected president of a country where more than 50 percent of the population is female. Not only would his presidency put women’s rights at risk, but it would serve as a role model of the worst sort for our young men. Do we really want our sons to look up to a man who says it’s OK to grab a woman’s genitalia whenever he pleases? Do we really want our daughters to look up to a man who condones this? Moreover, isn’t it astounding that we are even having this conversation in the context of a presidential election? The bar of conduct has fallen so low, you’d have to dig it out of the mud to get underneath it.

Trump does not value old women (read: over 30) or ugly women (not beauty pageant contestants) and amongst the women he does value (beauty pageant contestants or those who look like them), he feels entitled to kiss and grab them whenever and wherever he wants, simply by virtue of his celebrity. Imagine how his sense of entitlement will balloon if we endorse his perspective and elect him president.

There’s another historical ruler who viewed women the way Trump does: as property. He had his way with them, married or not, willing or not (and they were all willing, because the other option was death), and tossed them aside or had them beheaded when he tired of them: Henry VIII. The parallels with Trump are uncanny, from the serial wives to the megalomania to the weird little round mouth.

Women have made great strides since the days of the Tudor court. Will we participate in electing someone who will shove us backwards, to the days when our value is measured by our sexual desirability? Will we elect a man who will have the power to appoint Supreme Court judges that can strip away all the rights women have achieved? Remember, Trump declared that a woman who has had an abortion should do time in jail. Yes, he said that too. It’s hard to keep track of all the misogyny that has tumbled from his mouth, just by the sheer volume of it all.

Don’t be duped into writing off Trump’s words in the recently exposed Access Hollywood tapes as merely “locker room talk.” Vulgar language isn’t the issue. It’s the vulgar intent, which declares that powerful men are entitled to do with women’s bodies as they please.

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Lennon, Prince, and the accumulation of distance

It’s a strange thing, this getting older business. The accumulation of time gives you perspective. Distance. With distance, you can sometimes see things much more clearly. Make sense of them… see them in context.

Like mountains.

Or moguls.

I have been wearing purple since the news broke that Prince was whisked away from this earthly experience, so suddenly and so unexpectedly. I have witnessed the loss of many musical geniuses over the years… Presley, Freddie, Lennon, Jerry, Michael, Bowie… Prince. Hell, I can even remember when Jimi and Janice left us, although at 11 years of age in 1970, I didn’t recognize the musical significance of those losses.

I do now. These artists didn’t merely play music. They brought something to the musical table that never existed before. Music has more facets because of them.

I also recognize now why losing beloved musicians pinches so much harder than, say losing actors and actresses. It’s because unlike those pampered Prima Donnas, who exist to soak up as much attention and cash as they can, musicians exist only to create music and give joy. (Well, OK, maybe some cash too.) Musicians are pure creation. They give us something that will last for generations, and string generations together. A particular song can transport you to another time and place. Music is magic.

You realize these things when you accumulate some perspective and distance.

Me, I’ve accumulated nearly 57 years. I’m the same age as Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince. Two down, one thankfully still with us. (Note to Madonna: Please take care of yourself, babe. We’d like to keep you around a bit longer, and it just won’t be the same without you.) Maybe this is why Prince’s death pulled the rug out from under me, as Michael’s did at the time. We’re the same age. And I know that I’m nowhere near ready to cross the veil into the next phase. I have a lot of living left to do… a lot more life to stuff into my eyeballs. So did Prince. So did all of them.

I was out driving today, pondering the impact Prince had on my musical life, and it began to gel in my head. When John Lennon was murdered in 1980, it tore the musical world to shreds. It was a truly heart-crushing blow. And, what bitter irony that he was murdered just as he was reemerging from spending a few years as a mere “house husband,” raising his sweet boy, Sean, and when he did reappear, he was finally whole and healed, looking forward, feeling positive, rested and ready to create music the likes of which we’ve never heard and… we never got to hear it. A lunatic’s bullet snatched his life faster than his wire-rimmed glasses shattered against the cement.

John Lennon was 40 years old.

Forty.

Fucking.

Years.

Old.

Accumulating perspective and distance stuns you with the concept of how young 40 is. How tragically young.

I grew up with the Beatles. I can remember when they arrived from the U.K. to go on the Ed Sullivan Show. I was still in kindergarten, but I remember the images on our black and white TV vividly. I remember that I was wearing a bright pink sundress with flowers on it, and my feet were tucked up behind me as I watched something that I didn’t quite understand, but knew that when the “Mop Tops” shook their heads while singing “Twist and Shout” — I got chills.

Conversely, I can scarcely remember a time when there weren’t Beatles. Maybe those are the bookends that clue you as to whether or you grew up in the sweet spot of rock and roll music or not: You can’t remember when there weren’t Beatles… until there weren’t Beatles anymore and they went their separate ways. If you can’t even remember the day there weren’t Beatles anymore… worse yet, when there wasn’t John Lennon anymore… you missed out on that sweet spot. Which isn’t to say there hasn’t been great rock and pop music since then… it’s just that, well, I guess you had to be there.

When the Beatles split up, although Paul’s stuff was sweet (sometimes cloyingly so — I’m looking at you, “Silly Love Songs”), Lennon’s was spicy. Me being more spicy than sweet, Lennon’s post-Beatles work was a musical beacon for me. The lyrics. The musical complexity. The pushing of the envelopes. The breadth. The whimsy. The pain. (Listen to “Mother” and just see if it doesn’t shred your soul a little.) John, was — is — in a class all his own. Musical divinity, as far as I’m concerned. When he was murdered, a part of my soul was murdered too. And, I am but a mere grain of sand on the beach where the wave of grief over Lennon’s death crashed, and inundated… and never totally receded.

When John Lennon died, it created a musical void. Post-Lennon, we had Daryl Hall and John Oates, and Blondie… the sunset of Chicago and… John Cougar (Before He Was) Mellancamp… Toto and Tommy Tutone… Charlene (remember that sappy mess? Google it.). The top song of 1982 was “Let’s Get Physical” by Olivia Newton-John.

We refer to these musical times as the Dark Ages, children.

Or just “meh.”

John was gone. What did it matter. Who gives a shit. Let’s see how many times we can play “Betty Davis Eyes” before we shoot the stereo. or ourselves. (Yes, kids… vinyl.)

And then 1983 rolled around, and Michael Jackson soared out of the forgotten ashes of our sweet youth like a glittering phoenix. Michael spun pop music around like the proverbial bottle and off it moonwalked in an entirely new direction to the beat of “Billie Jean.” It was by no means Lennon, but nothing could ever be Lennon, and Michael was just something entirely new and fresh… a big musical distraction, just when we needed one, lest A-Ha threaten to subject us to a follow-up to “Take On Me.” (Help. And no, I don’t mean a remake of the Beatles’ song.) That was also the year that Prince caught the attention of the mainstream world… we heard “Little Red Corvette” and it was “get in, sit down, shut up and hang on, baby.” By the following year, Prince ruled the number one position on the Billboard charts with the haunting, fascinating, “When Doves Cry.”

These were additionally the early days of MTV, the birth of which I also witnessed… we were introduced to Cyndi Lauper, Culture Club and Tears For Fears, and not long after that… fasten your seat belts: Madonna. If you can remember when Madonna rolled around the stage floor in a tutu and sang “Like A Virgin” at the MTV awards, and wondered, “What the fuck was that,” then you remember the third prong in the trifecta of musicians that left indelible imprints on music of the early ’80s… and filled the void left by Lennon: Michael, Prince and Madonna. The trajectory of music changed. Michael was an unparalleled performer. Madonna was an unparalleled musical business woman. And Prince was an unparalleled musician. Nobody could touch them then, or now… or ever will.

And, ah, Michael… I remember when you arrived on the scene, that little bitty boy with the honey-sweet voice. I remember when you even became a Saturday morning cartoon. I remember your picture on my wall, torn from the pages of Tiger Beat magazine, right next to Donny Osmond and Bobby Sherman.

It’s hard not to swoon even now.

But then Michael disappeared… like Donny and Bobby. And when he resurfaced… wow. This was not the Michael of our childhood. All grown up, dead sexy and exponentially even more talented than before, which seems impossible, but Michael Jackson was an otherworldly creature, where “possibility” is relative. Just like Prince. Prince was a musical gymnast. Listen to “When Doves Cry” or “Gett Off” or “Musicology” but don’t merely listen. Try to “see” the music like you’d watch a dance performance. See Prince’s music, like you’d see choreography. It’s complex and profound. And then he freakin’ defies gravity and dances to it while he’s singing! And shredding his guitar!

Like Michael, Prince was another otherworldly creature, where possibility is relative. And, like Jackson, Prince could move his body in ways that the rest of use can scarcely believe we’re seeing, let alone be able to do ourselves.

Michael, of course, eventually crumbled under the pressure of his celebrity, and lacking a true childhood experience for a solid foundation… well, all the King of Pop’s horses and all his men couldn’t put him back together again. He dissolved, physically and emotionally before our eyes…

And then… he was gone.

But Prince was different, despite the pressures of a superstar life. It seemed he’d always be with us, just as he had been for more than three decades.

Three decades, people.

Sure, I can remember when there was a time before there was Prince, but he’s been here longer than not.

Until April 21 of this year.

Like a breath — just gone.

As I write this, the cause of his death is under investigation, but rumors are boiling that it was an overdose of painkillers, and of course everyone’s ready to file that under “just another celebrity overdose.” But wait. Back up a few steps. Prince may have looked pretty much the same as he did 30 years ago, but the reality is that he was 57 years old.

I am 57 years old.

Let me tell you about 57 years old.

Shit hurts. Constantly. Chronically. Joints. Tendons. Muscles. If it bends, it’s stiff. If it flexes, it’s sore. Activity that was effortless at 30 is a whole ‘nuther animal when you hit 50. Your body will no longer do what it once did, and if you try to force it to, your 57-year-old body will take you to church about who’s in charge now. (Hint: It’s not you.) Now, I know this just from being an average, reasonably active person, and not someone keeping the high-speed schedule of a musical icon, traveling all over the world month after month, performing with crowds who still expect him to slide into the splits and back, and spin on his high heels like a dervish, and dance and jump and play guitar for hours on end. Week after week after week after month after year.

Remember those otherworldly moves Prince could do on stage? Do you suppose that those same moves started to become more treacherous in his 50s? He may be otherworldly, yes, but he was still human. Is it any surprise that Prince was probably in chronic pain? Knees? Hips? Back?

Have you ever had real back pain? I did once — my pelvic bones shifted, and pinched a nerve in my lumbar spine. It literally dropped me to my knees — that was the only way I was could move around, until a chiropractor jolted my pelvic bones back into place and the pain vanished instantly. This wasn’t a little backache. It was shocking, searing, incapacitating pain. And I wasn’t even dancing onstage like a rockstar. I just took a random wrong step, and BAM. “On your knees” commanded my back, and all I could do was whimper, “Okay.” Your 50s are like that. Your body will break in new and improved ways, and leave you to figure out how to deal with it.

But what if you couldn’t? What if that pain was permanent? Would I have taken prescription painkillers? In a fucking heartbeat. For as long as I needed to. Until you’ve experienced that kind of pain, do not judge those who turn to drugs for relief, because you don’t know. You do not know. Prince’s friends insist that he wasn’t even into alcohol, let alone drugs. He was a vegan, and a healthy guy. At this moment, however, the popular unverified verdict is that Prince overdosed on”Percocet.” But not everyone who uses pain medication, or even overdoses from it, is a garden variety drug addict. Some are merely in severe, relentless pain. I suspect Prince was one. If you’re going to villainize someone for being in pain, and trying to alleviate it, well, just… fuck you, then.

Undoubtedly, Prince pushed himself too hard. He pushed his 57 year-old body to keep the pace of one 30 years younger, and suffered the consequences. And because he is Prince, he kept pushing anyway. And, besides being a 57-year-old man, he was also a very tiny 57-year-old man. Maybe an overdose overtakes a small person more suddenly than a large one. There are a lot of reasons to not judge Prince’s use of painkillers.

There are vastly more to grieve his passing.

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This is the expanse of blue sky I saw while driving today… matching Prince’s jacket in the “Raspberry Beret” video… and it made me smile… and say, “Thank you.”

So, there I was today, wearing purple, driving along pondering all this, listening to a Prince CD in an effort to cling to a wisp of him, and I notice the vast expanse of blue sky while I’m driving down this empy country road I’m on. Bright cyan blue… dotted with white puffy clouds — a rarity here in hot, dry northern California… and I realize… that the cloud-dotted blue sky matches the jacket Prince wore in his “Raspberry Beret” video. Truth be told, that was never my favorite Prince song — a little too sugar-pop for my tastes — but looking at that sky, and that sweet little song and video running through my mind… it made me smile. And I decided right then and there, that whenever I see a cyan sky dotted with white puffy clouds, I’m going to think of Prince, and how I spent 30 decades of my musical life with him in it, how he was one of the stars in my musical constellation, and I’m not going to grieve… I’m going to smile, and be thankful to have witnessed such exquisite talent.

Thank you, Prince… you gave us pure joy. Pure, exhilarating, breathless joy. For 30 years. Thank you.

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This purple flower bloomed next to my walkway, some time between 10 a.m. and noon, on Saturday, April 22… and never had before.

And so, moments later, feeling suddenly refreshed with gratitude where there’d just been the dull, gnawing ache of grief, I pull into my driveway, and walk up to my house where I’ve lived for 17 years, and in the span of time that I left, ran my errands and returned… a purple flower had blossomed along the walkway to the door… where none had ever blossomed before. I had no idea it was even there. Or even what it is. I even made my husband come look, because I couldn’t believe it myself.

“Purple… for Prince,” I told him.

And maybe that’s just sheer, utter, weird coincidence. But I choose to believe that it’s a “you’re welcome.”

Is it megalomanic to think that Prince could make a flower bloom in my humble little yard, just for me, just one of hundreds of thousands of fans, all grieving world wide? Well, maybe it’s not about me at all. Maybe it’s about Prince. And Prince could do anything.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, evidence about chemicals in fabrics

Dear Boob Blog followers and fellow breast rash sufferers,

Despite the women who come streaming to this website reporting rashes from Victoria’s Secret bras, and now other brands as well, Limited Brands (parent company of Victoria’s Secret) has refused to acknowledge anything awry with their product other than to say that the level of formaldehyde in their products is at such a low level that people will not react to it.

Unless you have an allergy to formaldehyde, or whatever else is in that Chinese-made fabric. (No, they didn’t admit that — you have to read between the lines of the “explanation” on Limited Brands’ website.)

Check out this research done by Greenpeace, investigating the chemical content of several clothing manufacturers, and guess what: Victoria’s Secret is on the list, and the results are not squeaky clean.

In a test for phthalates and nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), all the products tested contain phthalates, and 50 percent of the products tested contained NPEs. Phtalates are a known carcinogen and linked to breast cancer.  NPEs are hazardous to marine life, and ultimately to human life.

Read the entire study here:
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/publications/toxics/Water%202012/ToxicThreads01.pdf

Greenpeace takes the issue of chemical-infused fabric one step further: the waste products from the use of these chemicals, as well as chemicals washed out of the clothing and into the water system carries the chemicals into the food chain. We eat the fish that live in chemically contaminated water, and on and on the toxic cocktail goes.

I don’t know about you, but in my personal experience, I know what seems like too many women with breast cancer, lung cancer, lupus, autoimmune disease… why the spike? All these children with autism — maybe it’s not vaccines, maybe it’s the cumulative chemical load that begins in the womb and continues on into childhood. There are hazardous chemicals in the air, water, ground, most every product, and even organic products can be truly chemical free if they’re exposed to air, water or ground. The human body didn’t evolve carrying such a massive accumulation of chemicals. Of course it results in a physiological collapse: disease and death.

Once again, I must reemphasize that the solutions to this chemical fabric contamination are simple. The easiest solution is just — stop it. These products were made elsewhere without the chemicals that are causing these reactions. They can be made again without those chemicals, but maybe not in China. Hey, here’s a wild idea: Make the products in the U.S., where there will be some oversight and control! Would I pay more for an American-made, chemical-free product? Oh, you bet!! Shut up and take my money!!

The other remedy, that should be as simple as a simple label would be to notify consumers of the trace chemicals in the fabrics, so that those of us who are allergic can avoid them. There should also be instructions on how to “detox” the product, and maybe special laundry detergents that will perform this. Great for the bras and our breasts, but then comes the issue raised by Greenpeace in their study: what do the chemicals do when the go down the drain? (Short answer: nothing good.)

In their report, Greenpeace says this:

The need for leadership and transparency

As global players, fashion brands have the opportunity to work on global solutions to eliminate the use of hazardous substances throughout their product lines and to drive a change in practices throughout their supply chains. As part of this leadership, it is vital for brands to commit to Zero Discharge of hazardous chemicals by 1 January 2020. This commitment must include ambitious programmes that match the urgency of the situation, and that will lead to the swift elimination of all hazardous substances. It must also include transparent information about the chemicals that the brands are currently using and discharging as they move towards zero elimination. While these brands continue to use our public waterways like their own private sewers, threatening people’s livelihoods and health, we have a right to know which chemicals they are releasing.

The role of governments

Greenpeace is calling on governments to adopt a
political commitment to “zero discharge” of all hazardous chemicals within one generation, based on the precautionary principle and including a preventative approach by avoiding production and use and, therefore, exposure to hazardous chemicals. This approach must have at its core the principle of substitution, such that hazardous chemicals are progressively replaced with safer alternatives, and include producer responsibility in order to drive innovation and elimination of such chemicals. As a vital first step to this process, a dynamic list of hazardous chemicals should be established and include chemicals like NPEs and phthalates for priority action, and have a publicly available register of data on discharge emissions and losses of hazardous substances.

The role of “People Power”

As global citizens and consumers we can also use our influence to make this change. Together we can demand that governments and brands act NOW to detox our rivers, detox our clothing and ultimately, detox our futures. Last year, thanks to global people power, six international brands – Puma, Nike, Adidas, H&M, Li Ning, and C&A, signed up to the “Detox Challenge” and committed to work with their suppliers to cut their toxic abuse.

This is just the beginning.

A post-toxic world is not only desirable, it’s possible. Together we can create it.

“People power.” We do have some, you and me both: It’s in our wallets. Look at the list of clothing manufacturers in the Greenpeace study and simply: Do not buy their products. Yes, it’s tough. There is just nothing in the world like a Victoria’s Secret bra. There is also nothing in the world like the discomfort the rash from their bras will cause, except maybe rolling naked in poison oak.

But first, we grieve for our Harbin heart

Right now, as we speak… by all indications, Harbin Hot Springs has been reduced to ash in the Valley Fire in Lake County. Those who don’t know what Harbin Hot Springs is may shrug and think, “Yes, Harbin Hot Springs, and half of California.” It’s true… piece by piece, California is becoming charcoal. Harbin Hot Springs is just one more item to tick off on the “cremated” list.

Those of us who are part of the extended Harbin community already feel the grief. It is a death. Harbin is the heart where all the veins meet. Where WE all meet.

Met.

The place itself is gone… the memories, those cannot be destroyed. And oh… the memories…

About 10 years ago, I discovered Harbin while attending the very first Goddess Workshop, taught by Lokita Carter. Without any exaggeration whatsoever: That one experience changed my life. In that workshop, I discovered a pulse of life I’d been yearning for, searching for… I could feel that it was there, but didn’t know where it was. Until I found it. That one workshop led to other discoveries, in particular, the Pagan community of which I am proudly a part. The Harbin path led me directly to the door of the Pagan world. I found My People. My Community. I could, finally, exhale.

I returned to Harbin again and again after that first workshop, to attend other workshops with Lokita and her husband Steve, but mostly just to go there and soak up the serenity and peace and vibe of the land and the people. And the people… everyone there was of like mind. There were no political or religious barriers, no arguments about candidates or countries… just love. Healing. Oneness with the earth, everything that grew there, everything that lived — and died — there.

No other place on earth made me feel more at home in my own body, my own soul, than Harbin Hot Springs. It truly is sacred ground to me. It’s where I go when I need to transcend the roar and rattle of everyday life, whether in a car, or traveling by meditation, sitting right on my own living room floor. Harbin is home.

The memories… they come to me like a montage….

… the first glimpse at the iron dragon gate… letting us know we’re home…

… sipping hot Cafe Americana on the porch next to the Blue Room, watching the day wake up, still in sweaters because the mountain mornings are chilly

… carrying my ribbon round and round the Maypole

… sitting quietly by the fountain, in the dark, looking at starts, listening to the frog that lived in the little pond near the vendors

… early mornings spent soaking with my husband in the warm pool… the first touch of a toe on the surface and sinking into the warm mineral waters, feeling every ounce of stress just melt away… floating there, him holding me, nothing but water against skin… morning sunlight making dancing patterns against the overhanging fig leaves… closing my eyes and seeing dancing red light… feeling nothing but love and healing and light and warmth

… our handfasting in the temple with only the people who performed the ceremony – Steve and Lokita Carter. We wrote the vows, and when Lokita called us inside, she’d made a ring of pink rose petals, in which the ceremony was performed, right under the peak of that amazing, swirling structure

… morning yoga classes… stretching tight aching muscles and feeling them release and relax

… our favorite tuna sandwich at the La Sirena cafe, sitting in saris, pointing and laughing at all the little lizards skittering across the steps, and so many wonderful meals at the Harbin restuarant

… dancing and swirling in the temple until we were soaked with sweat and sitting on the cushions until we could jump up again

… walking the quiet paths along the grounds, stopping to find out what insect makes that chirping noise and what is crawling to make the grass crackle… pointing out little ferns that grow here and there… savoring the spicy, heady scent of bay laurel everywhere

… feeling warm, bare skin, soaking up sun on the sun deck… completely relaxed and at one with our bodies, with those around us, with (at that moment) the entire planet

… holding each other on the sun deck at night, star gazing, looking for satellites drifting by… feeling the wonder of gazing up at the same stars that every human being who ever lived also gazed at… in the same wonder

… and oh, the massage… heavenly, heavenly massage, particularly with Cora, who I adore so much…

… and the watsu… with Joe… so gentle and healing, melting into bliss…

… the funny jays bouncing on the lawn with their black, pointed tufts on their heads, so different from our valley jays

… the Buddha head at the warm pool… leaning my hands against the side and looking at him… and the path up the hill… hearing the sound of waterfalls and happy sighs…

… the turkeys gobbling, strutting… the deer wandering around, chewing brush, resting in the shade

… the huge, amazing buck that wandered right to the top of the stairs about the market, his head and antlers framed in orange and yellow fall leaves, backlit by the autumn sun… him staring us down… and us backing slowly away…

… the funny little orange tabby cat who always found us when we’d sit in the garden or near the Zen sandbox (oh, how I hope he made it out… how I hope…)

… quietly walking the labyrinth and placing a “Stupid Cancer” button from my friend on the altar at the center… praying for Harbin’s healing energy to touch her… sadly, it did not…

… Samhain, Beltane, Mabon… at Harbin, they all had their special flavor… going with that flow… jumping the broomstick over a fire on Beltane, which is when our handfasting took place… so special

… a Samhain ritual, holding hands in a circle by the meadow building as the light died… singing… “We all come from the Goddess, and to her we shall return, like a drop of rain, flowing to the ocean… hoof and horn, hoof and horn, all who die shall be reborn, corn and grain, corn and grain, all who die shall rise again.”

… so many, many more memories… too many to enumerate… they all swirl in my heart, and my mind. The sounds, the scents, the sensations… they’re all there, still safe. Still beloved.

Our Harbin, our Heart… has been cremated… but she shall rise again, not as we remember her, but reincarnated with the love and devotion of all of us who will welcome her in her new form. Buildings and structures can be destroyed by flames. Community only becomes stronger, and the fuel is not flame. It’s love.

Namaste.

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The tip of the temple peaking through the trees at sunset, under a full moon in May 2015, our sixth anniversary and our last visit to our beloved Harbin Hot Springs.

Boob Blog: Don’t throw away those Victoria’s Secret bras — buy more!

You may remember that the last time I wrote about my rash issues that I’ve connected to Victoria’s Secret bras, I had a nice chat with some VS staff and they recommended that I go see a doctor to be tested for my chemical/textile allergies. Their position remained that there is nothing wrong with their bras, and that I am merely one of a relatively few number of people who reacts to something in their bras. When I find out what that is, they can then advise me which bras would be safe to wear.

Wait a minute — does that mean they already know which chemicals are in which bras, which, by default, means they know that something in their bras is making certain women break out in horrific breast rashes that itch like poison oak and take weeks to go away?

Hmmm….

Anyway, I told them, I’ll play along. I’ll see a doctor, and that’s just what I did last week. I made an appointment with a leading UC Davis allergist, and explained my situation. First off, he informed me that the skin patch test for textile allergies the VS rep recommended doesn’t exist. Secondly, he said, without the item of clothing that caused the problem, there’s no way to test for what I might be reacting to.

Shit!

Long before I even realized there was a connection between these rashes and VS bras, I’d thrown away the particular bra I’d reacted so violently to, as well as another one that caused a mild reaction — rough, tissuey nipples rather than the full-blown rash. Into the garbage, vile things!

HUGE mistake.

I’ve been advising women who visit this blog to save their bras in zip-lock bags because they may be useful evidence for those with severe allergies to whatever is in those bras — formaldehyde being a prime suspect. You see, there were no bra rashes until VS moved its manufacturing site from India to China and then — bam! — breast rashes started bubbling up all over the place. A CBS news report targeted formaldehyde in the Chinese-made bras. Aha!

So, the story gets a little curiouser, in that VS knows full well about the rashes and they must be concerned about them, given that they contacted me about my blogs — how could my humble little blog possibly get the attention of a multi-national billion dollar corporation? Not only have they read my blog, and they’ve also apparently read the comments, because how they deal with customers has changed. Formerly, if a customer complained of a breast rash related to one of their bras, they advised them to return it and get a full refund at any VS store, no questions asked. Okay, fine, you get your $40 back, but nothing has changed overall.

Just last week, however, a woman commented on one of the Boob Blog posts that she contacted VS and informed them of the breast rash, and they said they’d refund her money, no problem, but then they advised her to throw the bra away.

Whaaaaat? Throw it away?

I find this very odd. There are a couple ways to interpret this. One, they are having too many bras returned that can’t be resold and are tired of filling the dumpster with them. Two, it’s more cost-effective to just refund the money than deal with customers in person. Or three (put on your Tin Foil Conspiracy Hats, please!), they’ve analyzed those returned bras and discovered some sort of nasty chemical presence, and are advising women to throw the bras away so their customers won’t have any evidence to take to a doctor.

Ladies! Hold on to those bras! In fact, go buy more of them! Let’s see if we can figure out which bras are the culprits – a certain fabric? Color? Style? If we have enough of them, we can find a common denominator. So, this is what I intend to do. Go back to my beloved cotton VS bras, partially to see if I can find one that causes the problem and also because I have tried a few other brands, and bottom line is they all suck. The best you can do is find ugly bras that are comfortable. But — who wants to wear an ugly bra? I don’t. The best I could find is JC Penney’s Ambrielle line, and it is tolerable.

So, there’s the irony: We need to buy our VS bras and hang on to the ones that cause the problem. Maybe all of us can find a laboratory willing to receive them to figure out what’s causing the problem.

Oh, one more thing I found out from the allergist is that although there’s no way to figure out which textile chemicals I’m allergic to (well, there probably is a way, but it would be like finding an extremely expensive needle in a haystack), there is a blood test to detect formaldehyde allergy. So, I’m going to go get that, because I still believe that formaldehyde is the issue.

In the end, this rash issue is frustrating, particularly when there is an easy solution: VS could either put warning labels on their bras to alert those with chemical allergies, just like they do with eggs or nuts on food, or they could design a line of clothing made from 100% U.S. grown hypoallergenic cotton. Which I already suggested to them, along with ideas about marketing it and pointed out to them that this is a wide-open market for them. The only hypoallergenic bras on the market are too hideous to wear, unless maybe you’re Amish or something. I would not have them on my body. I’d rather let the girls bounce free than resort to that.

So. Bottom line: If you have “the allergy,” hang on to that bra!! Don’t throw away your only evidence! If you’ve already thrown the bra away or returned it and gotten a refund — go buy another one, and if you don’t react to it, great! But if you do, put that thing in a baggie and contact me!

 

 

 

Women are raped from the day they’re born

Rape is more than the uninvited penetration of a woman’s body by a man. It’s more than being overpowered, abused and shamed. It’s more than the body parts involved, it’s the psychology of it all. When a woman is raped, her very sexuality is raped. It is perverted and contorted into the shape the abuser chooses.

Our very sexuality — raped. Consider that…

In our society, female sexuality itself is overpowered, abused, shamed and, yes, raped from the moment we’re born into the world as “female,” because different rules will be placed upon us based simply and arbitrarily by our chromosomes and genitalia. Actually, sexuality for both sexes is raped from the start, from the moment Baby slaps a hand down on his/her genitals while Mom changes the diaper and pulls that exploring hand away, but it plays out differently. But how it plays out over the long run is so much more insidious and damaging for girls than for boys.

In most families, children are treated differently based upon gender. Girls are discouraged from fighting, boys are discouraged from crying — and it has nothing to do with whether that girl is a tough little scrapper or the boy has a tender, fragile heart. We’re molded into whatever our parents perceive as normal and acceptable, regardless how we feel about it. Step outside that “normal and acceptable” template, and we get reprimanded, punished and shamed. And, that goes double, quadruple even, when it comes to sex.

Childhood rolls along into puberty, and regardless of what Mom and Dad taught us to do or not to do with our bodies, Mother Nature will step in and let youngsters know in an irrefutable way that their bodies have urges and sensations that are difficult, if not impossible, to ignore. In adolescence, however, the visible evidence between boys and girls is different. A boy will see a photo of a girl in a bikini and get a stiffie, and there it is: Front and center and throbbing, and not to be ignored. This is why teenage boys take long “showers” but never seem to be any cleaner for it.

So here’s the thing: Girls get stiffies too. But you can’t see them. It’s undetectable to anyone else, barring a little face flushing and squirming. Teenage girls also take long “showers.” And I’m going to toss the great equalizer right into the spotlight: They say 80 percent of males masturbate. That being the case, I’d guess that 90 percent of females do too. You know all those nerve endings in a big, ole penis? The very same nerve endings are packed into a clitoris — in one 20th the amount of space. The clitoris… she will not be ignored. She will, however, be lied about, because girls are showered in shame for their sexuality, and even more so for taking ownership of it and doing whatever they want with it. This is the root of the whole “Virgin or Whore” polarity.  A woman has two choices — deny her sexuality and be a virgin, and view her genitals as some rare prize that will be gifted to only the most perfect prince, or claim her sexuality and be labeled a harlot. Meanwhile, males are happily getting to know their own sexuality, exploring and discovering as normal sexual beings do, without having to be in the either/or category.

There is no male equivalent for the word “harlot.”

Very telling, isn’t it?

The reason is that exploring sexuality is encouraged for most males and viewed as normal (barring, of course, those whose sexuality has been suffocated by extremely religious parents), while the very same behavior is scorned and shamed in females.

How fucked up is that. Seriously.

Thankfully, we now live in a society where both males and females can explore and discover their bodies and sexuality freely, and have access to protection and birth control. Why NOT find out what amazing sensations can come from that throbbing pole or button that screams for attention? Why the fuck NOT? If God didn’t want us to enjoy our physical bodies, he wouldn’t have created them to be capable of such exquisite pleasure — both male and female. To say that exploring one’s own body is sinful is akin to saying that looking at a blue and pink and peach streak of an incredible orange sun sinking into the ocean on the horizon’s edge is also sinful. We have senses. They are meant to be used and enjoyed. You don’t get a rebate for what you don’t use or enjoy. You just go to your grave missing out on the cumulative pleasure you could have experienced while existing in your one and only trip through this world in the one and only exquisite body you will ever get.

So, this is where we’d arrived in years past — both sexes given a green light to own and enjoy their sexuality, and if the people around you don’t like it — you can move away from them and find a place more in line with your own values and beliefs. Recently, however, I saw a discussion ignite on my very own Facebook wall about the issue of intoxication and “legal consent.” If a man and woman are both intoxicated, and they have sex, the theory is that the woman is incapable of legally consenting to sex, and therefore the man is guilty of rape.

What a bunch of politically correct, hypersensitive victim-mentality bullshit. It’s sexism at its worst! And, this “men bad, women good” thinking erodes true feminism. All men are not bad. All women are not good. And, there is a vast space where those groups intersect. Unless a woman is unconscious or unless she said “no” (in those cases, yes, it’s rape, absolutely), if a guy and a gal tie one on and end up having a wild and crazy night of delicious sex, both are responsible for whatever happens. Transfer this “legal consent” argument to a car. If a woman gets drunk, gets behind the wheel and causes an accident that kills someone else, she is guilty of vehicular manslaughter. No one in their right mind would say that she didn’t legally consent to driving the car, and therefore she is innocent. The law applies to males and females equally. Inebriation does not guarantee innocence — nor does it equate to helpless victimhood.

The other piece of this imbalance is that women, from the moment we’re born, are brainwashed into believing that our genitalia is at the same time priceless and filthy, when in fact, it’s neither. Our genitalia is our genitalia, as our noses are our noses and our ankles are our ankles. This irrational, erroneous hyper-religious garbage we’re saturated in is the real issue, the real crime… the real rape. Brainwashing is psychological rape. It’s the forced penetration of someone else’s will. It’s the injection of something unwanted and uninvited into our most private, sacred space… our very own minds and souls. Unlike physical rape, however, as adults, as we realize the ludicrous self-abasing poison we’ve been force-fed our whole lives, we have the power to put up a protective barrier between what we believe and what others want us to believe. We truly can say “NO.” And put a stop to it. Just like that. We have all the power in the world — we just seem to sit around waiting for someone to give us permission to use it.

Empowering women means lifting them up to an equal level with men — not pulling men down. Everyone rises up to the same level on the game board, everyone has access to all the pieces, and moreover, everyone takes responsibility for where they put those pieces and how they use them. Those who are unable to take responsibility for their choices and actions should stick to taking long showers until they are. Mature, consensual, curious sexuality is about the best fucking thing (redundancy mine) on earth. Great sex is fabuloso-awesome-wonderlosity covered in candy-coated glitter and dripping with caramel honey. On a rollercoaster.

Which actually sounds like fun… and if I did it, yes, I’d own up to it, and not blame it on the tequila. Moreover, I wouldn’t blame it on the guy who bought me the tequila, in a vain attempt to protect myself from layers of multi-generational, cultural and societal shame, over which I feel helpless.

Our entire society needs some sexual healing, and women in particular. We need to de-villainize the human body, especially the female human body, and strip away the centuries of fear and shame, and learn to view our sexual sensations as just one more in the line of taste, touch, sound, smell… just another wonderful thing to enjoy while we explore our existences in our bodies.

Girls, ladies, sisters… you have genitalia. Get over it. It’s no more special than the plumbing the guys have. They aren’t prizes, they’re pussies. Meh. Essentially just another body part. But let me tell you, learning about that body part will be a lot more fun than learning what your knees can do. Enjoy it. Own it. Empower yourself by taking back your own genitalia and your sexuality. You’ve been raped long enough.

Boob Blog: Victoria’s Secret responds to breast rash issue

Those of you who’ve been following the sad saga of rashes that appear to be triggered by Victoria’s Secret bras may be pleased to know that VS is apparently, finally, listening. I was contacted by one of their “external communications” reps, and I was all set to let them know they had a tiger by the tail. Turns out, I was pleasantly surprised. It was not only a pleasant, civil discussion, where all sides were heard, but also ended on a note of “how can we make this work for everybody.”

People. How often in life does that happen? Like… never? Maybe the VS reps and I should take a seat at the United Nations and start working on world peace.

For those of you who came late to this party, I’ve been blogging for a couple years about a severe breast rash that I finally figured out was triggered by a particular VS bra, which makes the investigation into the cause very tricky because it’s not all the bras. Only certain ones. One random day, I googled “Victoria’s Secret breast rash,” and bingo: a CBS report on formaldehyde in the fabric. Since my first blog on the topic, testaments have come trickling in at a steady pace from women who had the exact same experience: nipples turning rough like sandpaper, and getting a tissue-like texture, and horrific, irresistible breast rashes that itch like poison oak. Many cannot resist the itch (like myself) and end up bruised and with broken skin.

And then… not knowing what the cause is… we put the bra back on, over broken skin.

The result is UGLY. And definitely not sexy.

A few women have reported this issue with other brands, but 98 percent of the women responding here were VS customers. And here’s the thing: Virtually all of them say they can’t find an acceptable substitute for VS products — they want to go back to VS but are afraid. You can find comfortable things that are ugly and matronly, or cute sexy things that are uncomfortable, flimsy and cheap, but nothing that compares to VS. That is product loyalty, people.

Some women got fired up and suggested a class action suit against VS, and I entertained that thought for awhile myself, but have decided that this approach won’t make anyone happy, except for the lawyers. Lawyers are the bottom-feeders of humanity, and they are perpetually ravenous. They’re essentially prostitutes with law degrees — they’ll blow anybody for a buck. And, in the end, even if a class action suit against VS was successful (the last one wasn’t — the VS lawyers made mincemeat out of the plaintiff), what would it gain in the end for you and me, sister VS loyalists? Forty bucks? Fifty bucks? That’s being overly optimistic. More likely, it would be about $11.75 apiece — don’t spend it all in one place. Meanwhile, the bottom-feeders are fat and happy, gulping down the barracuda’s share of the settlement. At the end of the day, we’d go through all the stress and hassle, just for a little pocket change that won’t even buy a pizza. And more important — still no bras we’re happy with.

Here’s the other thing: Upon further consideration, I’m also realizing that those of us who react so violently to whatever is in some of those bras are a very small minority. We are like those with severe peanut allergies, who could die from eating a drop of peanut butter. So, part of our responsibility is to be aware that we’re allergic, but it would also be nice if garment manufacturers could label products that may contain trace amounts of chemicals that are known allergens for some people — just like they do with products that contain nuts or eggs.

Will that happen? Until someone dies from a breast rash, don’t count on it. That said, while maintaining innocence about textile additives, the VS rep suggested something quite reasonable: Get a skin patch test and find out what I react to, and then they can guide me toward a product that will still work for me. OK, sure. That’s reasonable. I’m willing to play along, because if there is a way to get back into their all-cotton bra (heather gray!), I’ll do it. That is the world’s most perfect bra, and all-cotton ones are hard to find, let alone sexy ones (where I live, it’s 106 degrees today, hence my love of cotton over polyester, which makes sweaty boobs smell like ballsacks — also not sexy).

So, I’m going to line up this skin patch test. I’ll report back after it’s been done, and how things went with VS.

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Seriously! Who would put their boobs in this ghastly thing! AND! It sells for $55.75 at herroom.com. This vile garment is an insult to boobage everywhere. For $55.75, I think VS could do infinitely better.

My other pitch to VS was a new line of products. I told them they’ve pretty much played out the “very sexy” thing. They’ve torn right through that envelope. They’ve done it all. What’s left? Rhinestone encrusted buttplugs and matching cotton candy nipple caps? There’s nowhere left to go with sexy. You know where there is somewhere to go? Comfy. Comfort is the new sexy. As long as it still looks sexy, of course. I suggested they develop a brand new line of bras that are hypoallergenic. It’s an open market. Google hypoallergenic bras and you’ll see bras so heinous, you usually have to be Mormon to wear something that unattractive under your clothes.

So, come on VS, make some all-cotton or all-hemp, 100% natural bras and panties, and if you make them in the good old USofA, that would be even better. There’s even a built-in test group — all the women commenting on this blog. If we don’t react to the product, you are golden. You will make a freakin’ fortune off this line: “Barely Me.” Not only did I hand VS a name for this product on a golden platter, I rattled off about 15 potential product slogans off the top of my head: “This is how sexy feels”… “Sexy is as sexy feels”… Seriously, I can spray this stuff out like a sprinkler set on “genius.” (Somebody hire me to do marketing. Newspapers are a dead end.)

As I was floating all this by the rep and also her assistant who was on speaker phone, she said, chuckling, “Stop! Don’t tell me anything more! If we use them, you’ll say we stole your idea and sue us!”

And I replied, “Oh, I totally will!”

And I would, if Barely Me© comes to a VS shop near you, and I’m not getting compensated. Because, let’s face it — it’s fucking brilliant. BUT: I wouldn’t sue over the formaldehyde, or whatever it is, because given a choice between $11.75 or having my favorite heather gray cotton bras back, I’d rather have the bras.

Fear not, my itchy sisters — ditch Victoria’s Secret and try Ambrielle bras

Not by virtue of any actual plan I set in place, this blog has unofficially become the “Boob Blog” — not as a celebration of our lovely breasts, but because it has become a place where women who have been suffering from mysterious breast rashes have discovered that A) they aren’t alone and B) it’s not a disease — it was their Victoria’s Secret bra.

The cure for the horrid, itchy, unsightly rash is simple: Stop wearing VS bras and see what happens. If your rash clears up… and comes roaring back immediately when you put it on again, it’s the bra.

No, you don’t have some weird form of breast cancer! You can exhale now!

A 2008 ABC news investigation indicated that the source of the issue apparently is formaldehyde in the Chinese-made fabric in some Victoria’s Secret bras. VS, of course, denies all of this, but will take back any rash-inducing bras and give a refund, no questions asked. That’s a LOT of bras returned. I’m sure they know about the issue, but fixing the problem might be interpreted as an admission of culpability, so they just keep selling these bras — yes, even NOW! — and women keep buying them.

Part of the problem, of course, is there’s just nothing else like a VS bra. Many of the women responding and commenting on this blog have verified this. We can find comfortable bras, sure. But… they look dumpy. The cute, sexy ones are cheap or don’t provide great support. Everyone is searching for a satisfactory replacement — it’s the question I’m most often asked — and we’ve all come up empty. (How sad is this… all these loyal customers, and VS isn’t interested in supplying us with a product that doesn’t cause those with a formaldehyde allergy to suffer miserably.)

Well, take heart, my itchy sisters! I think I’ve found something. The line is called “Ambrielle” and has lots of cute styles and a wide range of sizes. The bra is available on the JC Penney website. I followed the fitting directions, and although I was a bit shocked at the result, I gulped and ordered. For a site unseen fitting — not bad! In my opinion, the cup size runs a bit big, but not enough to send it back. Will I order more? You bet!

Another woman who comments on this blog also discovered Ambrielle. She’s been wearing her bra for several weeks, without any rash! I wore my new one all weekend – nothing! We both ordered cotton blend styles.

So, former VS customers… if you’ve been searching for a replacement, maybe we’ve found it! Give Ambrielle a try! You can buy two of their bras for what one VS bra costs!

Introducing the term ‘belly shame’ and destroying it at the same time

I googled “belly shame” recently, and what popped up? A verse from Philippians and stories about pork bellies. No one has coined the term “belly shame” yet? How can this be, given that nearly every American female has it? Maybe we’re so ashamed of our bellies, we can’t even say the words out loud?

Just ask women how they feel about their bellies, and most will wrinkle their nose in discomfort. They won’t even respond with words, and if they do, they’re derogatory. We hate our bellies, to a pathological degree. Why? Because belly shame is drilled into us from childhood.

I was talking with a friend about bellies yesterday, and she told me about going to summer camp as a child. She was sitting in a two-piece bathing suit and another girl pointed to her and said, “Ewww — you have rolls.”

“It was the first time I felt ashamed of my body. Before that, I didn’t know anything was wrong with me.”

She added another salient point: The girl who ridiculed her had already gotten the message that a normal, fleshy belly is disgusting.

My own belly shame began while reading a teen magazine. Sandwiched between a feature on Donny Osmond and a how-to piece on macrame was an article about weight, which declared: “An inch of pinch equals flab.” I pinched. I was flabby times three! I was horrified! I was suddenly physically unacceptable!

I was 12.

And so it begins.

By the time girls become teens, if we succumb to Big Beauty, we’ve accepted that however we’re shaped, it’s wrong. And there’s a product to fix that!

Except it doesn’t.

And we buy it by the caseload anyway.

Ladies, how many times have you seen magazine headlines that scream, “Ban That Belly Fat”? You know why there are so many? Because they sell. It’s not really about bellies. It’s about bucks, and how many belly shaming rakes in.

More recently, round bottoms and ample thighs have become mainstream sexy, and I thank you, my sexy sisters of color, for raising awareness that beauty comes in a variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Sadly, no one of any color has been able to do the same for bellies. Ghetto booty, yes. Ghetto belly, oh hell no.

I wonder if the source of belly hatred is evolutionary: Maybe our cavemen ancestors avoided thick-waisted females because they were likely already pregnant and therefore poor choices for mates. A tiny waist means fertile ground. A thick waist — maybe not. Maybe men are genetically predisposed to avoid thick-waisted women. Something to think about. Kinda makes sense. Those cavemen who got a rise for round-bellied women didn’t spread their seed any further. They went the way of the pterodactyl.

As for belly fat itself, true too much isn’t healthy. But I’m not talking about a 57-inch apple-shaped person on a path to heart disease. When I say “belly shame,” I mean average, garden variety, normal American females with average, garden variety, normal American bellies.

Women stupidly — yes stupidly! — compare their normal bellies to the perfectly taut, flat abdomens of the professional anorexics on the fashion magazine covers and believe that unless their bellies look like that, they’re fat. You know what? Most of those models don’t have perfect bellies either. They’re the creation of someone sitting at a computer, transforming women into his/her own idea of female perfection.

In other words, those women — those bellies — don’t actually exist, except in a “Plato’s Table” fashion.

Hmmm. “Plato’s Belly.”

Hint: It doesn’t exist.

Belly shame is painful enough on its own, but it’s exaggerated even more after we have babies. Except for a rare, lucky few, our bellies are never the same after we give birth. They’re plumper. They sag. The muscles are stretched and no matter how many crunches we do, our abs never look the same as before. Some of us have caesarian scars. Most of us have stretch marks — and, a thousand crunches a day won’t change that.

Most women look at their stretch marks and feel despair. The notion of wearing a bikini is abandoned, and we suddenly prefer sex with the lights out. We see flaws rather than the symbols of how our bellies got that way: by carrying and birthing the babies we love more than our next breath.

An interesting movement exploded onto social media via Instagram recently: “Love Your Lines.” It’s helping women to not only accept, but be proud of their stretch marks. Women are starting to push back against the “stretch marks = ugly” meme. If we can learn to “love our lines,” could we also learn to love our bellies?

Mother’s Day is next Sunday. How about taking the day to do some self-mothering and reject our belly shame? Begin by replacing your negative thoughts and feelings with positive ones. First, stand in front of the mirror and just look at your bare belly. (I bet you’re squirm already. How sad is that?) Cradle your belly, like the famous Gaia statue created by Oberon Zell, and for every negative thought you have, say to yourself — out loud, so your brain hears it —“Beautiful belly.” Rinse and repeat.

If your belly shows the saggy, striped signs of having carried children, here’s another mantra: “I love my kids.” Recall your love for your children, really feel it in your heart, and transfer it to the visible signs of having carried them. Channel that pure, sweet love right onto your belly. Your scars. Your stretch marks. Feel the love there. Trust me, that infusion of self-love will feel infinitely more wonderful than your lifetime of belly shame.

We women still have some work to do. We’ve reclaimed our sexuality via birth control. We’ve made strides in equal rights, voting, education, employment and finances. We’ve cleared these external hurdles, but still stumble over the internal ones — the ones that erode our self-esteem.

Let’s use Mother’s Day as an opportunity to reclaim our self-esteem, beginning with our bellies. Reject Big Beauty. Reclaim your beautiful belly. It’s fine just the way it is. Don’t be the one who tells you otherwise.

#NoMoreBellyShame

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This Gaia statue was created by Oberon Zell, and can be found on GoddessGifts.com, as well as many other outlets.