Category Archives: beauty

all things that I find beautiful


NaPoWriMo logoAgain this year, I’m taking on National Poetry Month and turning it into National Poetry Writing Month! Like last year, I’ll be writing and posting one poem per day for the entire month of April. Here are the prompts I’ll be using… All prompts except #13, #20, and #21 are gratefully taken from #30dpc. The exceptions are borrowed from poetryprompts.tumblr.

Day 1: Write a short poem (5 lines or less). Be sure to include at least two strong images. Don’t over think it, just do it!

Day 2: Write a poem with pen and ink, quickly, without lifting your pen from the page. Post image if possible. No edits.

Day 3: Write a poem to someone and share it with them.

Day 4: Found poetry. Look to Craigslist, newspapers, Twitter, anywhere for unintentional poetry. Using the original text, punctuate and use line breaks to turn it into a poem.

Day 5: Make something. Anything! Write a poem about your spontaneous making experience.

Day 6: Write a poem from Mars. Describe ordinary things in unfamiliar ways, as through the eyes of someone from another planet unfamiliar with our culture/objects/emotions.

Day 7: Write an ode to one regret that you have.

Day 8: Find a short poem (one page or less) that you love. Cross out every fourth word. Replace the crossed out words with your own choices.

Day 9: Write a poem while doing something else.

Day 10: Listen to an excerpt of Joe Brainerd’s “Remember”. Write your own version.

Day 11: Find a poem you love. Translate it in some way. It could be from its original language to another. It could be from one voice into another voice. Rewrite something contemporary in a way that makes it sound old or something old into modern English.

Day 12: Write a limerick for a stranger.

Day 13: “Stichomancy is one of the oldest forms of divination (at least 3000 years old in fact), in which the querant opens to a random page of randomly selected book in a library, to find an excerpt that applies to the situation at hand.” Whether or not you believe in stichomancy as a form of divination, try getting a random book passage and use one of the sentences from the passage in a poem.

Day 14: Terza rima was created by Italian poet Dante in the late 13th century for his epic poem The Divine Comedy. It’s composed of “tercets woven into a rhyme scheme that requires the end-word of the second line in one tercet to supply the rhyme for the first and third lines in the following tercet.” It’s sometimes considered too difficult to use this structure in English, but do it anyway! Write a poem in terza rima.

Day 15: Experiment with a poetic form. Break all the rules!

Day 16: Do you find it difficult to express one sense (sight, hearing, taste, smell, touch) more than others in your writing? Paying special attention to that often ignored sense, write a poem with exaggerated sensory detail.

Day 17: Use volta (a poetic turn) in a poem of any length (it can be a sonnet, or not).

Day 18: What’s your favorite color? Jot down three adjectives that describe that color. What’s your favorite animal? Write three adjectives that describe that animal. What’s your favorite body of water (general or specific)? Jot down three adjectives that describe the feeling it evokes. Now, imagine yourself in a white room, no windows, no doors, no noise. Three adjectives that describe the feeling that evokes. Now, write a poem using all of your adjectives in any order.National Poetry Month 2014 poster

Day 19: Write a poem about something you hold sacred.

Day 20: Write a confessional poem.

Day 21: While in a public place, write down occasional sentences you overhear from others’ conversations. Use at least one of them in a poem.

Day 22: “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” –Hemingway. Write a short poem that is also the “truest sentence that you know.”

Day 23: Write a poem that fits on a post-it note. Stick it somewhere public. Post a picture.

Day 24: Compose a poem out loud. Use a tape recorder, smartphone, or have someone write it down for you.

Day 25: Write a poem inspired by a YouTube video. Be sure to share the link to the video that inspired it.

Day 26: Circle all the verbs in a magazine article. Use as many of them as you can to construct a poem.

Day 27: Spend time with an object you feel connected to. Write a poem using the object to construct an extended metaphor.

Day 28: Write a poem that’s 140 characters or less. If you’re on Twitter, tweet it!

Day 29: Write a prose poem.

Day 30: Write a poem where something (big or small, abstract or concrete) comes to an end.


I can see snowflakes
on your eyelashes
when you walk in the door.
They melt quickly,
but the crisp pine smell
you bring with you lingers.
Sweep me up into your embrace
without bothering with your
jacket or gloves and tell me just
how much you adore me just in case
I’ve forgotten since the last time
you arrived home. Kiss me
and let the melted snow in your hair
drip onto my cheeks like tears.
Love me cold and hard,
day and night.

by V.E. Duncan

Weight and light

In the land of womanhood, there is an obstacle course of shit to deal with surrounding weight. You weigh too much, but if you diet, you’re anorexic. Love yourself, but only if you’re a size 2. Oh, and, by the way: every single manufacturer is going to have different sized clothing, but they’ll all still say “size 2”.

I intended to talk about my struggles with my weight, dieting, and the like in writing “Omg no more food for liiiiiiife“. That somehow devolved into talking about how my need for control in certain areas of my life. So I’m going to address the original intended topic here.

I have a tumblr blog, as many of you may already be aware, but I don’t post anything personal of substance there. Mostly, I reblog stuff from the other tumblr blogs I follow, sometimes with such eloquent comments like, “OMFG” and “gaaaaaaah cuuuuuuute” and “Hahaha this is totally me” and so on. Most of the reblogs are presented without comment, however, and reading through them, you’ll find themes covering misandry, anarchism, feminism, paganism, cartoons and comics, anime and manga, Supernatural, Sherlock Holmes, cats and cute animals, human rights, passive aggressive notes, Disney, Star Trek stuff, charts and graphs, tattoos, beautiful women and men, general geekiness, depression, making fun of men who participate in misogyny, and more.

Anyway, within the last half-year or so, I subscribed to a tumblr called Skinny Sparkles and started reblogging some of the posts, mostly ones showing women with braids and/or beautiful hair, women jumping (action shots) or holding strenuous gymnastic poses, and quotations inspiring continued weight loss and maintenance.

When I first started following the young woman’s tumblr, I was intrigued by her apparent ability to balance between good health and anorexic “thinspiration” in her personal life. She has a “before and during” image, which I’ve reblogged here in the event that she ever removes it from her own tumblr. I don’t consider the “before” image to be of a person at all over weight, but I was impressed with her decision to use how she looked as a measuring stick over how much she weighed. She told her subscribers that she never weighed herself, but simply ate very healthy foods—fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and etc.—and avoided “bad” fatty foods, drank lots of water (and no soda), and worked out every day.

I actually am overweight, as it turns out. Not horribly, but enough that I’ve begun to notice it. My “healthy” weight is somewhere in the 140-160 lb. range, and I’m at least 20 lbs. over the top of that limit right now. Skinny Sparkles inspired me to think about what kinds of foods I put into my body, and to seriously consider planning more physical activities into my daily schedule so that I can become more healthy overall. I wouldn’t mind having my current weight if I knew it was muscle and not fat—who wouldn’t? It’s not about “losing weight”, Skinny Sparkles said; it’s not about what the scale says.

It’s really about how I look and feel in the clothes I want to wear.

There are many ways to overcome that pressing anxiety, and by far the easiest—societally speaking, at least—is to adhere to a strict regimen of food intake, lots of water, and lots of exercise. I could also change what kinds of clothes I want to wear—change my expectations and perception of my body so that the clothes that better fit me now are also the ones that I pick up to look at while I’m shopping. Or, I could say, “Fuck it; patriarchy is screwing me and every other woman on the planet with it’s unrealistic expectations of women’s bodies and clothes” and then toss the whole idea out the metaphorical window. That is to say, I could train myself to give zero fucks about what other people see when they look at me on any given day.

Now, one of my friends asked about why I was reblogging some of Skinny Sparkles’ stuff, the posts of which all have the following underneath the images, and which I’ve never bothered to delete:

skinny-sparkles: CLICK HERE to join The Weight Loss Community!!🙂

I was actually already in the process of writing my “Omg no more food for liiiiiiife” entry when she (my friend) asked, but when I sat down to finish that essay, I realized how off-topic it had really become—I hadn’t mentioned Skinny Sparkles at all, and talking about my own weight loss crap had somehow segued into how much control I feel like I have versus how much control I think I need to have, etc.

Currently, I don’t look or feel good in the clothing I like. I have to do one of those three things; I have to either shape up, get clothes that fit better, or learn to give zero fucks. The second choice of the three is actually the most difficult since I’m very tall and have trouble finding (1) shirts that fit my bosom and my arm length, and (2) pants that fit my waist and leg length. Generally speaking, I can have one choice from each category, but it’s rare and unusual to find some piece of clothing that covers both choices. Finding clothing like that is like… it’s like seeing a leopard in the wild—it’s possible, but it’s so rare that it’s really impossible, practically speaking.

I’m a jeans/casual type of lady, but I’d still like to have some curves to show off when I want to, you know? I work better with something to weigh against (no pun intended), and so “just eating healthy and working out” wasn’t going to work for me. I don’t like running because I’ve been seriously harassed while out on a route in my own well-to-do suburb of Los Angeles. I don’t like lifting weights or whatever; I’m not a gym rat. I could go for some kind of cardio or dance class, but that would probably require money that I don’t have. I decided early in my weight loss plan to just cut out trying to do any kind of physical activity more than the things in which I already participate. (For example, my job requires me to be on my feet for 95% of the time I’m clocked in.)

I wasn’t expecting it to be a fast process; I had gained the extra 20+ lbs. in the three years since returning home from New York City. I was expecting it to take at least a year to lose it again. There was no rush anyway; I wasn’t trying to fit into my wedding dressing in less than a month (no, I’m not getting married). I’m not the type of gal to sit out on the beach or even swim or even wear a bathing suit with any regularity, in the summer or otherwise, so it’s not like I had to “do something” by the time beach season came around again.

I started a weight journal. Originally, I intended only to weigh myself once a week, write in my goal weight and current weight, and then write a few lines about my progress or lack thereof, if applicable. I did that for a month and discovered that I’d actually gained weight in the time I’d been recording it. I switched to weighing myself every day so as to better understand my weight fluctuations, including “water weight” and the like. I tried to eat healthier, but as I mentioned before, I’m not any kind of chef, and usually my desire to just not have to deal with food-making trumps my desire to eat something beneficial to my body.

There’s more incentive, for example, for me to do the dishes after someone else has cooked because (1) I know that leaving dirty dishes around draws pests, (2) if the dishes aren’t clean again soon, whoever makes the food won’t have anything to use to prepare or serve it, and (3) it’s a way for me to say “thanks for cooking for me; I appreciate you”… If I’m cooking for myself, I’m much more likely to just eat from an open can of SpaghettiOs with a spoon because then I’ll only have to wash the spoon and will be able to just toss the tin can when I’m done. It seems like laziness (and, to an extent, it is), but it’s also my mind over-thinking how efficient I can be with the least amount of effort necessary.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, Skinny Sparkles posted an essay titled “SHOCKING Confession. PLEASE Read. This could change your life.” wherein Skinny Sparkles admits to starving herself, taking laxatives and diet pills, and weighing herself constantly. (I reblogged the confession as well, which is linked in this post, just in case the original poster decides to take her confession down.) She warns against starvation diets and tells her readers that she has only given good advice to them, but she just hasn’t been taking that advice for herself. Now, she says, “you can inspire me.”

Most of the responses she received were in the vein of “Wow, I’m so proud of you for coming clean!” and “I’m so sorry you’ve been struggling all this time!” and so on. When I read the confession, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “Wow, she lied this whole time. Maybe I should starve myself to get the results I want.” I was angry that someone who I considered a role model was actually just a hypocrite. I stopped weighing myself and writing about my progress. I decided that maybe giving zero fucks really was the right path to take.

But every time after that when I looked in the mirror, or picked up a fork-full of delicious food, or opened the refrigerator door, I still felt fat and loathed myself. It’s still like that; nothing has really changed, except now I’m more cynical and less hopeful about the whole thing.

I don’t (think I) have an eating disorder. I like eating. I don’t binge and purge. (Though I do simply binge sometimes, as you’ll recall.) I don’t not eat, and yet I’m still obsessed with the way I look and feel in the clothes I wear. I still want to get rid of the belly and thigh fat I’ve gained since moving home from NYC. I just… I don’t know. I had a plan, and the inspiration for that plan ended up being a hypocrite.

I don’t want to have to think about this any more, honestly. I would like to give zero fucks, but society (especially popular culture) refuses to talk about anything except dieting, staying young (or young-looking, at least), and “pleasing your man”… None of which I’m interested in at all. I’m just so done with hearing the same thing over and over; so, so done.

“Omg no more food for liiiiiiife”—@veduncan

Or: Yes, I have control issues.

(title from my May 17th tweet)—I have this ongoing love/hate relationship with food. Basically, I love food, and when I eat it I hate it. It’s not like that exactly, but… well, let me explain.

Every time I look at food, sit down at the table for dinner, or take my empty plate to the sink to be washed, I feel fat and hate myself. I’m not thin like I was in high school, and I didn’t realize until recently how much that I bought into the “you’re only pretty and worthwhile if you’re thin” paradigm that women have to struggle with every day.

I’m very particular about putting some things into my body; but what and/or how much seems pretty arbitrary on the outset. For example, I’d gleefully eat an entire bag of Cheetos Puffs and yet would never take a single sip of a daiquiri or margarita, despite the former being logically, arguably more damaging to my health than the latter. I rarely drink coffee or espresso drinks, but I love Dr. Pepper and root beer (except for Barq’s brand, but that’s a different story). I also like black teas—Earl Grey and vanilla chai being two readily accessible favorites—so I know it’s not about the caffeine or lack thereof. I don’t eat meat (except by accident once in a while) but I’ve eaten nothing but those mini powdered doughnuts, the kind found at 7/11 and gas stations, for days on end.

I sometimes claim it’s a health thing, but really it’s my controlling what goes into my body… and what doesn’t… and subtly, possibly somewhat subconsciously poking it in the figurative eyes of the people around me. Except I’m not very good at that, either. I’m overweight. It would be one thing, I suppose, if I was irritating and looked good, but mostly I’m just irritating. I have more belly fat than is really seemly. I have curves in the wrong places. I don’t have any extenuating health conditions, so it really is because I eat too much and exercise too little.

This kind of control over “my stuff” extends beyond food, though I admit it’s most obvious when I eat nothing all day and then scarf down three old fashioned glazed doughnuts in a row at 9 PM. It’s supremely difficult for me to talk on the phone, but texting is just fine. My best friend says I drive like a grandma, but I guess I think in terms of that old saying among pilots that my father told me once when I asked him about the one time his father flew under a bridge in a tiny twin engine and was grounded for a long while: “There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.” At least, that’s what I tell my best friend about why I drive the way I drive.

Really, I guess, it’s a combination of two primary things. First, it’s more efficient to coast up an off ramp and stop at the red light at the end with a light tap on the brakes than it is to speed up the ramp at 65 miles per hour and then have to suddenly stop short at the end just like everyone else. I know drivers behind me are often irritated by such behavior, but honestly, I’ve been trying to give myself permission to just be okay with pissing off more people more often for myself without being completely apologetic about it, and driving is a relatively safe way to go about asserting myself, albeit rather passive-aggressively. Second, and partially related to the first, I have obsessive-compulsive disorder, the unique aspects of which cause me to imagine turning the wheel violently and flipping the vehicle or driving straight off a bridge into a gulf below. I haven’t done what I’ve imagined, but I’m deathly afraid of it, not to mention the distraction from my driving of just “seeing” (in my mind’s eye) said in the first place.

But, I digress. Food. That is, specifically, my relationship to it… which is to say, unhealthy. Here’s the thing. I don’t cook. I’m not a chef of any kind. Which isn’t to say I can’t make decent, non-burned food, but I just… don’t. Maybe it’s a subconscious reaction to patriarchy; I wouldn’t be surprised. I just know that I like eating food while putting in as little effort as possible making it. That means that I’ll take a piece of bread from the breadbox or refrigerator with the intent of making toast with jam or honey and instead will eat the bread unadorned, as is, because I don’t want to go to the effort to put it in the toaster and wait for it to toast. It’s funny in a sad way, but I’m not joking. If I could get away with eating MREs and protein bars with an occasional family dinner, I would.

For me, food is a bane. It’s necessary for life; I can’t just up and quit like a smoker could with cigarettes, or wean myself off of it, or anything like that. Plus, in the culture in which I live, mealtimes are also social times, and not eating at those times is likely to be looked down upon, or at least looked strangely upon. I can make excuses (“I ate earlier” or “I’ll eat when I get home”) but even if they’re accepted, it’s still awkward and often other people want to share their food with me. It’s not like I’m bulimic—have you ever thrown up for any reason? It’s not exactly fun or tasty. It is, in a word, gross. (Not to mention it rots your teeth.)

And I’m not exactly anorexic, either. It’s not that I don’t eat—I eat plenty—it’s just that I eat the wrong things because my desire to not waste my time on something that’s not important to me (that is, food) almost always overpowers my ideally eating healthy, correctly-proportioned meals. And I don’t have any set mealtimes, either, since my job requires that I be available to work anytime between 4 AM and 10 PM six days of the week. I work better with a rigid, self-disciplined schedule (another part of OCD, and possibly related to my post-traumtic stress), and my life just doesn’t allow for that at the moment. And who knows; it may never allow for me to have as much control over “my stuff” as I really want.

I will happily eat food prepared for me, but even thinking about that raises my hackles; I don’t want to depend on anyone without properly giving something in return (though my actions often conflict with this ideal). Going out for a meal is fine, since I pay for it with money and I try to tip well because I know first hand how crappy working in the food service industry really is. And (bonus!) I don’t have to clean up afterwards. But if my (metaphorical) partner makes me dinner, how do I even the scale? Should I even be “keeping score”? I will feel obligated to him or her, and I hate that feeling more than almost anything else in the world. Maybe the answer isn’t to not be obligated to someone, but to not feel said obligation, whether it actually exists or not.

I heard once in a radio advertisement for Lexus (a brand of car in the United States), “The ultimate expression of power is control.” And the more I delve into my own weirdness (food, driving, alcohol, talking on the phone), the more I come to realize that it’s really about control. That is to say, I don’t feel like I have any. I don’t really know when this started becoming, you know, an issue, but it was probably sometime in high school, if not before. Seeing as I’m well on my way to age 30, I can say that having “control issues” is more trouble than it’s worth more often than not.

Okay, so now that I’ve rambled about food, driving, and having a thing about not talking on the phone, it turns out that that‘s what this essay is really about: control, and my lack thereof. Telling myself I can only control my own actions and no one else’s only helps so much since it means I start to obsess and obsess. One way I control something is to avoid it completely. I drive as little as is feasibly possible. I won’t talk on the phone for more than a couple of minutes at a time only once twice or three times per week. I don’t drink alcohol, take any medications for anything other than their intended purpose, or do any illegal and/or nefarious drugs. And, in that last set of “things I don’t do”, (*super extra unpopular opinion time!*) I actually honestly look down upon people who do do them.

I don’t go to bars; I have no desire to mingle and meet people over cocktails and other drinks. I think that alcohol as a “social lubricant” is self-medicating the symptoms, not the cause. The cause—that is, the problem—is that people feel awkward and unable to speak plainly with each other… and sometimes we’re not even sure that’s what we want (the “thrill of the chase” and all that nonsense). The symptom is needing to “loosen up” in order to chat up the pretty lady or cute guy (or whatever kind of person floats your boat) sitting at the other end of the counter. If you need a “social lubricant” like alcohol to talk to me, then I doubt I want to hear what you have to say anyway. I understand that people drink for a variety of reasons, including be able to forget what shitty lives they’ve had. And yes, I realize many people actually have had shitty lives, but let me be as honest as plain as I can be here.

I don’t care why anyone drinks. I don’t care what kind it is. Alcohol is alcohol, and it is a social evil. I have never seen it do any good in any situation and have witnessed and experienced it do irreparable damage in many. The psychological wounds I retain from one man who was under the influence of alcohol one night during my senior year in college will be with me until the day I die. I have trust issues. I don’t like anyone touching me. I need to be in control.

I’m working on it, but it’s a slow, painful, expensive process. I’ve rambled enough for one essay, I think, and I still have no answers. I still love food just as much as I hate it. I’ll still avoid preparing it and will still happily eat it if someone else prepares it for me. I’ll still forget the last time I had something to eat and then scarf down a whole package of goldfish crackers and three Hershey’s chocolate bars right before I crash for the night. It’s about control, and fighting the power it has over me when I can recognize its debilitating effects on me.