Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Day 3: Self Worth Week: Christine Heppermann

Hey! Hello!

I LOOOOVE your outfit. Really compliments your smile.

Today how about we all say hello to the author of the social commentary poetry book, POISONED APPLES: POEMS FOR YOU, MY PRETTY. I love this book to pieces. And Christine was sweet enough to donate a copy to my school! Soon pictures will be uploaded with where all the donated books have wormed their way into. And they're a lot of placed right now.


It’s the Thought that Counts
Christine Heppermann

Socks and underwear: when you’re a kid, those are the absolute worst presents to receive, right? You tear off the wrapping, open the box expecting some cool toy, and what do you find? A six-pack of Fruit of the Looms. Gee, thanks, Mom and Dad.

Normally that would have been my reaction, but in fifth grade, believe it or not, my best friend and I put underwear at the top of our Christmas lists. Specifically, we wanted training bras. Not that we had anything to fill them with other than cotton balls and Kleenex. (And socks! We should have asked for those, too.). But like the characters in one of our favorite books, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, we had big aspirations. Double-D aspirations, to be exact.

Santa didn’t disappoint me. My body did. I wore my new training bra every day, hoping my chest would get the hint. I watched my friend grow into and then out of her gift, while I remained an unwilling  member of, in the words of a novelty t-shirt sold at Spencer’s Gifts, The Itty Bitty Titty Club.

Now, thirty-five years later, at a safe distance from that painful desperation, I can look back and see the humor in it. I even wrote a poem about training bras for Poisoned Apples. The poem is called “Sweet Nothings”— an actual line of Maidenform bras—and this is how it ends: “How stupid that all I have to do/ is grow two squishy lumps and suddenly/ I’m man’s best friend.” Because, objectively, it is stupid, isn’t it? It’s ridiculous that the size of two glands matters so much in our cultural perception of female attractiveness. It’s ridiculous that I had so much going for me in middle school and high school—I could run fast; I got good grades, especially in English; I won awards for creative writing—and yet, because of my flat chest, I felt defective. No matter how much I accomplished, I still managed to feel like I owed the world an apology, when in reality it was probably the other way around.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if The World could approach everyone who has ever felt judged for his or her physical appearance—in other words, all of us—and, head bowed, mumble, “Um, yeah. Really sorry about that?”

The stand-up comedian Tig Notaro has received a lot of respect and attention recently, with a comedy special on HBO, “Boyish Girl Interrupted,” and two recent documentary films about her life, “Tig” on Netflix and Showtimes’ “Knock, Knock, It’s Tig Notaro.” In 2012, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. When she started performing again, she joked that her small boobs must have gotten fed up with her making fun of them over the years in her act, and decided, hey, we’re out of here. After the mastectomy, she opted not to have reconstructive surgery, so now her chest is completely flat. Is she embarrassed? Ashamed? Nope. In fact, in the middle of her HBO special, she removes her shirt and continues to perform, topless. By exposing her scars, she intends to defuse their stigma. Or, as she said to Conan O’Brien on his show, “It’s our bodies. It’s no big deal.” And her audience seems to agree. Many told her later that, after the initial shock, they got used to how she looked and relaxed. She was just Tig, a person telling them funny stories, making them laugh.

I deeply admire Tig Notaro’s courage and self-acceptance. I wish I could send some of it back to eleven-year-old me, so that maybe she would revise her Christmas list. So that when she pulls that rectangular package out from under the tree, it’s something wonderful, something she truly needs. Like a great book.

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