Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2017-07-26

Overcoming Stereotypes and Busting Out My Own Style

When I was eleven years old, I remember vividly the relief of exiting the school bus while girls viciously taunted me. This time the impetus was not my fat, my usual crime. It was having the audacity to wear a half ponytail with several different colored fuzzy ponytail holders on it—and the fuzzy ponytail holders did not match. I was in middle school and my greatest longing in the world was to fit in and go unnoticed. On that excruciating bus ride, filled with shame and regret for my bold choice, I learned that I better not try to have fun with my style. Folks who have been bullied on a bus know how endless the ride can feel, and how painful it is to endure taunting, staring straight ahead pretending it doesn’t bother you.

Fitting in when you’re already wearing adult sizes in sixth grade is basically impossible, especially in the early nineties. Plus size fashion is limited today, but before online shopping and Torrid in the mall, we had nothing but boring career wear to work with. The idea of looking like the typical American pre-teen girl, with her Guess jeans, hypercolor tee shirts and high top name brand shoes was my dream but I neither had the funds or access to make that dream happen.

As I absorbed the other lies I was taught about being a fat woman—that I was not sexually attractive, I better not wear anything revealing and I should try not to draw attention to myself—I lost any desire to discover my own style and perform my gender. Performing gender is a way of showing your internal gender identity externally—usually through clothes, accessories, and maybe make-up.

When I got to college and started the coming out process, I let the same kind of limiting beliefs affect how I presented myself. Due to femmephobia and anti-butch sentiment in my collegiate LGBT community, I learned that having a strong expression of masculine or feminine gender was not acceptable and it was better to lean towards an a-gender or hippy outdoorsy look. I thought that in order to get a girlfriend and be attractive I should be as androgynous as possible. This was kind of a relief because shopping in the men’s department at Old Navy made it marginally easier to find clothes that fit me (this is before Old Navy carried plus size women’s clothes).

I never actually pulled off androgyny, my inherent Femme presentation busted through no matter how many times I heard the term “Lipstick Lesbian” thrown around in a derisive way.

When I moved to Philadelphia for law school I fell into what I like to call the “right” crowd. These friends were supportive, believed I was a babe in a fat body and wildly applauded all of the new things I was doing to express my style and my gender. I began slow, in cute dresses, wearing sleeveless tops, showing cleavage.

Going sleeveless was a revolution for me. I had always believed that stereotype that a fat person I shouldn’t show off my arms, I have no idea how that rule came to be. Arm fat isn’t dangerous, it’s just a benign part of your body. It took a lot of work to get comfortable going out without sleeves on, but having that “right crowd” was really helpful to develop my confidence.

As I began performing on stage first as a drag king and then as a dual drag king/Femme queen I began really pushing the gender envelope. Leaning into different gender presentations I began to figure out what was expressing who I was and what I felt an inherent aversion to.

Far beyond fitting into the standard American womanhood, whatever that is, my actual gender expression is a sort of exaggerated femininity. Like Dolly Parton and Miss Piggy, I feel the most myself in bright make-up, big hair and sexy clothes.

Many queer women (and people) cannot relate to the standards of beauty and femininity that society promotes. Queer folks come in all shapes, sizes and gender presentations and the standards of beauty are not representative of actual human diversity.

Legendary storyteller Shonda Rhimes is partnering with Dove to shift the power of media representation from Hollywood into the hands of real women. Using an all female crew, Dove is helping open up the conversation about the effects of gender stereotypes. Meet Kylee!

Kylee Howell’s story is the second film from Dove Real Beauty Productions and empowers others to find their real beauty. It is a powerful message of non-conformity, self-assurance and shedding the narrow definitions of beauty imposed on herself and other women in her community. It also has a really sweet message from her mom.

I love this video—Kylee is a dapper stylish barber who had to unlearn gender stereotypes to become herself.

Quentin Crisp said, “Style is being yourself on purpose.” I really believe that you have to let go of everyone else’s expectations of you and fitting into stereotypes in order to truly discover your own style. This is so difficult in a culture that commodifies insecurity and prizes fitting in. Thank goodness for the internet and the ability to see so many gorgeous people out there working their own looks, their own gender and their own idea of how to be a woman/man/limitless gender they want.

If you have been struggling to overcome stereotypes and let your unique beauty shine, I highly recommend figuring out who the “right” group is for you. When you’re feeling good, write down who your body positive, supportive, style encouraging friends are. Who in your life believes in an expansive definition of beauty? Write it down and put that list someplace you can see it next time you need encouragement, or some folks to go out with wearing your first sleeveless top (or whatever your equivalent of a sleeveless top may be).

When I walk into the room doing my style and not stereotypes, I’m writing the conversation instead of landing in a narrative laid out by stereotypes. I am showing people I am bold, I take risks, and I am confident. I know now that fuzzy ponytail holder thing I was rocking in sixth grade was a stylish risk and it was fiercely nonconforming.

Photo by Jes Baker.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

2016-04-08

Finding Balance and Going Home to the Redwoods

I’ve been in crunch-mode the past three weeks. First there was “drop everything and get the house ready for Dara’s family to visit” which included hosting an overnight guest in our narrow living room on an air bed (we moved everything from the “staging area” into what will eventually be our office/guest room).

Then there was spending lots of time with Dara’s family, which was lovely and we love them. We also hosted our first Seder dinner and it was approximately 500 times more work than we planned for even though we knew going into it that it would be a lot of work.

Then it was crunch time to finish my tea blends and get them out to the folks who ordered in my first pre-sale. Dara said, “I have never seen you work so hard.” Seriously, pulling 14-18 hour days blending, packaging, writing labels, designing labels, printing, dealing with printer issues, buying last minute supplies I ran out of, packaging, going to the post office, etc…

lesbianteabasketTHE FIRST EDITION OF THE LESBIAN TEA BASKET IN REAL LIFE! I’m loving doing these in batches because I can constantly adjust the composition and the aesthetic. It’s like an art project meets tea and I’m really loving it. Everyone who ordered their tea should be receiving it this week!

So I haven’t been blogging like I want to be and I am now circling back to “balance.” I find that creating balance for me involves a lot of constant trial and error.

I picture my life as a two lane highway through gorgeous countryside/forest/oceanside (those are my favorite roads). Being on the pavement is “balance.” That’s feeling like I’m getting things done, going in forward motion and taking care of myself in the ways I need–mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

everyayisawindingroadEveryday is a winding road.

Life happens and I’m constantly course correcting back and forth across the pavement until I sync up with it again. And then the road starts curving or somehow I veer off the road and then I am doing it again, course correcting until I get back on the pavement.

Life is inevitable forward motion and inevitable curves. I’m just always working to make sure that the road is pretty, mostly enjoyable to drive and that I make sure to appreciate the view. I’m not always on the pavement.

macyinthewoodsMacy’s first time in the redwoods. She found them too prickly to walk in.

After three weeks of crunch time, not even seeing the pavement, we took a trip to the Bay Area on Friday. It wasn’t optional, otherwise I would have put it off again to try to stay here and get centered. Dara had work meetings and I really needed to get stuff from my mom’s house. We paid movers to send stuff down in February, but mom forgot a couple of tubs of important to me photos and I wanted to harvest some mint*.

It was a whirlwind trip, we were back by Sunday night. We stayed with my dear friend Leo, who lives in the redwoods on the mountains along the coast on the Peninsula. As soon as we got on the seriously winding road up her mountain I felt immediately at peace. It was an energy that felt super familiar to me and very soothing.

leoscaribinercupLeo has had that coffee cup since I’ve known her. It is superior to all other travel mugs because it has a caribiner clip for a handle. Let me know if you find them for sale anywhere!

Pretty soon I realized that we were in the woods that housed a lot of outdoor memories for me. My first summer camp is 10 minutes away from Leo. The campgrounds my Girl Scout troop would frequent is right next door to that camp. I spent a lot of time up in those redwoods as a kid.

In California most kids who went to camp only went one week per summer, not like on the East Coast where lots of my friends (of higher economic access than I had) went for the whole summer. What a dream that would have been! Luckily I got hooked up in Girl Scouts and my troop from 7th grade through 12th grade was super outdoor focused so I got to go weekend camping a few times a year as well as summer camp sessions.

gstroop1994This photo is over 20 years old and Leo lives 10 minutes from this hotbed of Girl Scout outdoor skills competition activity.

I was not spiritual as a child and though I now know I was sensitive to energy I was not conscious of it. But as a fat, working class weirdo girl who moved a lot and didn’t have a ton of consistency or experiences of unconditional love, shit was hard for me.

I am so grateful to the amount of outdoor experiences my mom enabled me to have because there was something so freeing for me to be in the woods. I would go to camp and feel more okay about being a weirdo, I would feel loved and held in ways I couldn’t articulate then but were vital to my survival. It’s like somehow in the outdoors, with less people and less societal pressure, I felt free to be me long before I could find it in myself to feel free to be fat and weird and queer and confident–no matter what my surroundings.

bevinleowoodsThis outdoor grill is outside of Leo’s house and I learned how to cook out on one of these when I was a young person at camp.

campmailCamp mail from Spunky I found while going through a box at my mom’s.

Now that I’m spiritual and developing my abilities and sensitivities, I can go into these places that were so vital to me and understand a bit better. I have often wondered how I survived my childhood. Because I survived I now feel a calling to make the world more survivable for other people.

This weekend was incredible to realize, “Oh, hey, the energy of these woods helped me survive.”

It was a true homecoming for me. It was a feeling of safety and regeneration I couldn’t have identified as a child, and I really appreciate all the work I’ve done on myself so that I can be present and be in wonder at how amazing it is to stand among redwoods.

surfingleoLeo surfs now.

Leo lives in this extraordinary upstairs apartment with skylights that look up into a canopy of redwoods. She’s a good friend of mine and her apartment is also basically a giant altar full of great energy. I went up to the Bay Area thinking I was “not getting done” what I needed to get done, but I found in it balance and recentering I so deeply needed.

meandmomSome of the photos at my mom’s place included this gem we recreated. I was about 6 years old–that was 31 years ago!

We have to go back up there soon, there’s still more to get from mom’s house (she’s downsizing so now I get tomato cages, a bunch of additional herbs and pots, and a garden table), and there’s still more hikes and adventures to have in those redwoods with Leo!

leointheredwoodsLeo got a special Lesbian Tea Basket with a redwood tree ribbon.

*We moved into the house when I was 13. I moved 13 times by the time I was 13. The mint was the first thing I planted and it has been acting like a weed at her house ever since. It pops up everywhere and I cannot wait to cultivate it on my tiny land here in Los Angeles. It’s kind of the one literal thing with roots that I have if that makes sense, and now that I’m starting my own tea business I know there is some deep magic in that specific mint plant and I can’t wait to use it!

duartesleodarabevinWith Leo at Duarte’s. You have to stop if you’re ever near Half Moon Bay and have the “half and half” soup.

2012-05-14

Begin Again

One of my favorite concepts in meditation is the idea of it as an opportunity to practice beginning again. It’s a concept brought to me from a book I have been slowly creeping my way through, Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation: A 28-Day Program* by Sharon Salzberg. It was only ten bucks and came with a guided meditation cd and basically sets out why meditation is great and a gentle, 28 day program for becoming one of those daily meditating people you hear about and want what they have.

But, for me, like with all things, this meditation book has taken me way more than 28 days to get through and that’s okay. Sharon says in one of the very first meditations that as you get lost in thought you get to begin again. Come back to the breath. It’s very gentle. The practice of being gentle with yourself with something as simple as a thought coming into your head during meditation, when the idea is not to think, is a radical notion for someone raised in our culture of harsh judgment and perfectionism. Especially for me, where I relied on overachieving and appearing as perfect as possible as a survival mechanism through a difficult childhood and adolescence. Gentleness with yourself is a radical act. So is the idea that you can “begin again” even after you’ve done something wrong.

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When I was a fat depressed, often suicidal, teenage closeted queer I never thought I would be a New York plus size party girl making out with Zach Morris and gay AC Slater but maybe this was always my destiny. I wish I could tell early 90s awkward Bevin that it gets better. And also that her crushes on boys that looked like Zach Morris and AC Slater were just gaydar.

So, you see, dear readers, I am at yet another begin again crossroads. That law firm job I got in January that I was so stoked about? Totally bad fit. I won’t get into the specifics, but after about a month of thinking it was going well, it just wasn’t. My talents are manifold and were not a good fit for that environment. And I was miserable and working really hard. Certainly not making enough money to be worth the amount of stress I felt, though I believe that even one of those $150,000 a year associate jobs isn’t worth that kind of stress on your body and life. And so, after three and a half months, I am going my own way again. As a Capricorn overachiever I can be very committed to things and get mired into it even if I am not enjoying it, so to have it only be a three and a half month detour is significantly shorter than I otherwise would have stuck it out.

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Me and much of the cast of Bayside the Un-Musical at Rebel Cupcake. There’s one weekend left in their run (May 16-19th at the Kraine Theater in the Lower East Side), I saw the show and it was ridiculous and a MUST SEE for any fan of Saved By The Bell.

It was a shock when it happened, however the relief and peace I have felt since it was decided I wouldn’t be working at the firm anymore told me this was the right path. Decision making is a self-correcting process, I believe that even when you make a choice there is guidance about that. If you make the wrong choice, there will be a gentle (and then not so gentle) nudge away from it until you get on the path you’re meant to be on. Sort of like when I was engaged to someone who I know 4.5 years later was a terrible fit but at the time was undeterred and had no perspective. That was a self-correcting process. And, even though it was devastating at the time, I feel great about the life I have now.

The last 4.5 years have held a crazy amount of change for me. My life is radically different but so much more than I could have imagined. My Saturn Return was bananas–end of engagement, laid off from a job of 5 years, a terrible living situation necessitating a move while being on unemployment–and things keep on changing and upheavals keep happening. I sold my beloved Prius in April because I knew financially it was the right choice–good thing because then I lost my job and selling it has given me SO much flexibility.

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And today, I have a lot of possibilities and opportunities. I have been working on a new memoir, shelving the more difficult and emotionally fraught memoir for later, and it’s flying out of my hands and into a shitty first draft. (All hail the working through perfectionism enough to be okay starting with a shitty first draft!) I am feeling more creative than I have in months. I’m happy. It’s been two weeks and part time work and per diem jobs are sort of popping up. Enough to pay the bills.

I won a reader’s choice nightlife award from Go Magazine, the largest circulating free lesbian magazine in the world, as Best Emcee (and thanks to all of my readers who voted!). Rebel Cupcake won for Most Eclectic Crowd.

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The awards were really heavy. I felt like the Adele of the Lesbian Nightlife Awards. Also my Grandmother thinks I look like Adele since she went blonde and I don’t know whether it is because we’re both fat and wear big eyelashes but I’ll take it as a compliment.

Rebel Cupcake, a nightlife party celebrating all bodies and flamboyance, just turned two years old! At the two year anniversary one of my heroes, Barbara Carrellas, did a sex magic fire ritual and the demo bottom turned over and she made a cake out of foam on the bottom’s naked torso with two candles in it and the whole club sang Happy Birthday to Rebel Cupcake while the cake burned. That was an incredible moment.

I wrote a new workshop and debuted it at Columbia University for their Radical C.U.N.T.S. club about embodiment and learning to get into our bodies. (Called Get Me Embodied, like the series of embodiment posts I am continuing to write for the blog.) It was such a wonderful experience and afterwards I just thought “This is what I need to be doing.”

All of this happening literally on the heels of my last day of 9 to 5 work I am taking to be a sign that my artistic life is on the right path. It is terrifying trusting the universe and not knowing how I’ll have retirement or health insurance, but I am also very, very happy. And I know, somehow, I will figure it out. And I know there is power in letting myself begin again.

*I link to Amazon because I get a tiny referral fee for anything folks purchase from clicking through to Amazon from my blog but I suggest buying it wherever you can, it is a great read.

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