what i: seven black dresses

This whole topic is so utterly ridiculous when put into perspective, but it's been on my mind a lot this last week. I sat down to look at all of the photos we took at our dear friends' wedding this past weekend in Mendocino, but I just keep coming back to this shot. My suitcase being filled with two types of things: outrageously clowny accent pieces/garments and seven black dresses.

This is where I'm at now, over a year after writing about being inspired by my own closet to get into shape. Dragging a suitcase stuffed with "options" to a super fun weekend away with old friends (not a single pant to be found in that bag, by the way), but none of the options were fun. David officiated the wedding on a beach, and I so wanted to match the flossiness of my children and my husband, and all the super-talented and lovely friends at the wedding with us. But out of seven inappropriate-for-the-setting black dresses there was only one dress that actually fit. So that's what I wore.

I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I can get to feeling really great about myself when I get dolled up. I can feel like I am the best looking lady in the room sometimes. This might be my massive ego's fault, but it happens. I forget about the numbers on our scale, remember the times I've been called pretty in the past, and head on out to strut my stuff. But then the photos. They SHOCK me. SHOCK ME.

Middle age has hit me like a brick. This is not news, you hear this sort of thing all the time. I have learned to love myself and others so much more than when I was younger, it feels so surreal to not have the appearance that corresponds with all of that. Having a baby at 40 years old was hard on my body (but does make me feel younger in my heart, that's for sure). Things are giving out here and there due to my massive sugar addiction, which now ebbs and flows but has been just terrible over the last five years. Sitting in front of the computer writing instead of taking an hour to work out has probably been a bad choice in the long run. I need a long run!

The real sign for me that I am not wearing this weight well is the photos. I haven't seen a candid shot of myself that didn't make me cringe in so, so long. This is the huge red flag for me. 

I'm influenced by two worlds. The burlesque world is so accepting of any body type (although I am not so sure it is immune to ageism, we shall see). It doesn't matter your size. In fact, it might actually WOW the crowd more to see a larger lady dance. Burlesque (and all the costumes and full makeup) has been a giant gift to me in that regard. Backstage at shows I actually find myself wishing I was bigger! I'm a little bit middle-of-the-road compared to the ladies I frequently perform with. Some of my burlesque friends are much larger than me, but they don't carry weight in their face like I do, the thing that bothers me the most.

Then there is the push-back from uber-gorgeous and fit San Francisco. Almost none of our friends are built like me. I have gotten really good at blocking out the thoughts that go through my head when I am "amongst the thin", but it is hard. Keeping my chin(s) up for Stella is always of utmost importance, although I have faltered on occasion. I try to always stress that I am trying to eat better for my health, not my weight, when it comes up.

I dunno. I am so tired of years and years of beating myself up. I have only two options. Full acceptance, or change. It feels so hypocritical to not get on the full acceptance wagon. I dance with ladies who are just SO DAMN BEAUTIFUL it doesn't matter what their size is. Really. REALLY I feel that way. But I'm not those ladies. Even all of this body-loving burlesque hasn't exorcized society's demons. I feel guilty about that. I don't have those sorts of feelings about anyone's body but my own, but I am definitely a hypocrite. 

If not acceptance, than change. What will be the silver bullet to get healthier again? Is it writing this essay? Is it the feeling I get when I remember trying on seven black dresses in a panic last weekend? I always thought my 40's would be better than my 30's, but in this area they are not. It literally feels like running out of time now. I am tired of chasing this. I need to step up or just let it go.

Vanity. I can't bring myself to share the photo that was the straw that broke this camel's back right now, which is sad, because it's me and Stella at the wedding, having a ball. Maybe someday it'll be a "before" photo. 

Enough about me. Hahahahahahahahahaha, this blog is all about me. Thank you for listening, and have a wonderful weekend. Oh, don't forget to enter the latest GIVEAWAY. It's not just donut pans direct from the manufacturer, I'll also be sending the winner a small assortment of the donut ideas we've made so far! xoxo


  1. First, even my skinniest friends think they look fat in candid photos. Everyone is their own worst critic and enemy. I doubt the cringe factor would diminish even if you were thinner. You'd probably just find something new to hate about the pictures, like extra skin or bone-y hips. You can be healthy at all sort of weights and body sizes (I mean, obviously there is a limit to this, but you get the idea).

    Second, it's not about "acceptance OR change" it's about acceptance AND change. If you can't accept yourself the way you are now you won't likely be able to after a change either. So post the offending image already, embrace some serious self-love and then get healthy, not skinny.

    Whew, rant over.

    I have days where I obsess over being too curvy, especially when none of my clothes fit. So then I get naked and look in the mirror, and damn do I look (and feel) better naked. Admire, embrace and enjoy your curves, there's plenty of skinny women wishing they had your body instead of their's, I promise.

    1. Consider me served, Emily. I hear you on all counts. Naked is definitely better on me as well. Still not posting that photo, though. I appreciate your comment very much. Acceptance AND change doesn''t normally occur to me, but sounds about right.

  2. Hi, I read your blog, but never comment. So much I could say about this-- from personal experience. First, I think you're beautiful. I know that doesn't probably help at all, because YOU have to feel that way; but every time you write about middle-age, etc. I get really confused, because to me, you look great. Anyway, with that said, the approach that is working for me (a 33 year-old Oakland mommy of two who is overweight and out-of-shape) is to focus on healthy habits; I've given up the scale and am focusing how I feel instead. I recently started training for a 5k. I'm using the couch to 5k program and go to the Y three times a week to "train." I signed up for a 5k and am focusing on that goal, and then the others I hope to run after that. My eating is getting better because I can feel the difference when I run. If you're anything like me, the hard part about not being my ideal weight is that I'm the one who has done this; and I feel like a failure. I've only been working out for a few weeks, but I already feel so much more confident and better about myself, because I am actually doing something, and taking control of my destiny...Forgive my rant...I got into a flow:) Maybe focusing on exercising and making an appointment daily, or a few times a week, to be good to yourself, will be the spark that helps lots of things fall in place? In any case, I enjoy the blog and love looking at pics of your apartment. Good Luck! --MJ:)

    1. Hey there, Mjaay. First, just let me say thank you for reading my blog. People are coming out of the woodwork lately and it is so nice to know that there are people other than friends and relatives reading. Also, I just spent some time reading through the first few pages of your blog. I know you're not working on it right now, but I saw a lot of issues I think about regarding education, the timing of when to send my son to kindergarten, etc. and I would love to hear where you are at now, if you ever start writing again let me know.

      I am super-selective about photos I put up of myself, which is why no one can tell that I'm super short and roundish. Again, it's the vanity. Thank you for the compliment nonetheless. :) I think you are exactly right about making exercise a priority, and I actually downloaded a couch to 5K app on my phone last week, but my husband is never home in time for me to run. BUT, I have been thinking about exactly what you mentioned. Replacing an hour on the computer or cleaning or whatever the heck I do when I'm not playing with my son with an hour of exercise. I actually OWN a silver bullet, too. I have this amazing inclined step aerobic contraption and DVD and weights, and five years ago I used it regularly and was as fit as I could possibly expect to be. It's a cognitive change, switching one unhealthy habit out for a good one. I am pretty sure I can wrap my head around that. Years ago I bit the bullet and joined Weight Watchers (to great results until second child was born), telling myself that the $16.95 a month was what I would spend on sweets in three days, so why not spend it on something good for me. This computer-time-for-exercise trade off rings the same to me. Here's hoping.

      Finally, I hear you about your feelings that you've "done" this to yourself. When I was your age I kept feeling that I still had time to KEEP doing it to myself, but now as I approach 43 it's about health and about running out of time to feel vibrant. Surreal and urgent. Thank you again for taking the time to leave some great advice for me. :)

  3. i could have written your post, packed that suitcase and rolled eyes at that photo. as mom of a young daughter i get it on that level too. as woman who also started motherhood at 40 i CONCUR. midlife, big middle and not wanting to be in that middle place of acceptance or change. i have waited or the RIGHT time for years and looked at cookbooks wondering if they held the magic secret. i've explored and implored myself for the last 8 years, with only recent small change. obviously nothing i can say in terms of loving yourself *as is* will matter... we've got a whole lifetime of society's expectations to overcome. i CAN say that the more i learn about sugar, the more i understand what a serious and mind altering addiction it can be. but more on that later... I was inspired to respond. i love your posts. for tonight... please be nice to my friend, Tiffanie. xxx

    1. We are definitely on the same page, my new friend. It's all so subconscious and convoluted. I can see deep beauty in literally almost any woman, my eye actually searches it out in every face, always registering the assets and not the faults, except in myself. I know I will never be 100% happy even if I do tighten this situation up over here, but I could DEFINITELY learn to live with a very imperfect body that fits into my clothes again. Thank you for your compassionate reply, and, I KNOW! Even I am starting to be scared straight about sugar. I am positive from what I have read that it has done a number on the elastin and collagen in my skin, let alone what it's done to everything else. I've gone from all-sugar breakfasts with my coffee last year to something sweet probably three days a week, which is a huge move for me. Too little too late for the skin, unfortunately. Thanks again, Nicky. xoxoxo

  4. I'm another who likely hasn't commented before (or not in a long time), but this post got me. In about a month I'll be turning 48, and I've just got to say that I think the 40s are some kind of second adolescence. It just feels like an awkward age to me. How I feel on the inside doesn't match my outside, and I'm neither young nor old, and what I used to do doesn't really fit any more and I'm not sure what I want to be. Other women in their 40s have said it's the same for them. Dressing is a minefield. I'm constantly asking, "Is this age-appropriate?" My body seems to be constantly shifting, and I'm not sure what looks good on it anymore. An image of the kind of older lady I want to be is emerging, but it's a process.

    I will say this about body image stuff: Yes to acceptance AND change. Last summer I finally accepted that I wasn't going to exercise on my own and that I need to exercise, so I joined a gym. Best thing ever for me. I needed the structure and, frankly, needed the accountability that comes from shelling out money. I felt and saw results within weeks. While the seeing was nice, it is how different I feel that really gets me to keep going. That said, I'm coming to accept that my youthful body is no more, and it's not coming back. There are some things I need to accept. As someone who got a lot of strokes from meeting our current cultural norms of attractiveness, I'm realizing how much of my own sense of self-worth was based on that. Total and utter crap--and I know it!--but that stuff's deep-seated. Going to the gym and feeling better is helping with acceptance not because I look better, but because I feel better about myself as a person when I'm taking care of myself. Smart and mature people look after their own health. I want to be smart and mature. The slightly flatter belly is just a perk.

    Wishing you luck on your own middle passage. I hear it's better on the other side. :-0

    1. Hi Rita,

      I read your comment and was saying "yes", "yes", "yes" to everything you said. What a way to put it, a "second adolescence". Absolutely! I feel just as vulnerable, and confused that that would even happen at that point in my life. The burlesque/retro influence I've had compounds that "is this age-appropriate thing for me", so I totally get that, too. I am always worried about that, and when I enter back into architecture client work I am REALLY going to have to do an overhaul. Looking forward to the older woman I want to be is sort of where my aim is headed, but I am surrounded with SO MUCH YOUTH here in my world between the younger parents, the children, and the burlesque scene. It's hard to assert my age in these surroundings. I joke with friends about seeing a life coach to help me age more gracefully.

      I think it's pretty clear that I cannot wait anymore for fitness to just happen for me. Everyone has said it, and I totally know it. The accountability is good, but I've been paying for WW for the last three years and not used it much at all, even though I know it would work if I could put my mind to it. I am ready to do a quantifiable switch-out, though. I'm trading computer time for exercise time. I am 100% sure that will get it going.

      I really agree with your perspective on all of this. It is the smartest decision one can make, to look after one's health. Powerful way to put it. Thank you so much for commenting, it had an impact on me. xoxo

    2. Thanks, Tiffanie. And I would add, the gym thing is what worked for me, but I know it wouldn't work for everyone. I got unstuck when I started thinking about why I do and don't do things that I know are good for me. I realized that I wasn't exercising on my own because I need social support. And I need it to be fun. The gym isn't fun so much, but I try to do other physical things that are fun. A constant learning/balancing act for me. Wishing you well. (Oh, and one thing I do that sounds weird/creepy but isn't: I've started looking at older women. When I see one who seems like the kind I want to be, I take a few minutes to really see her--what she's wearing, what she's saying, how she moves. Helping me in all kinds of ways--one is that I'm realizing that awesome women come in all shapes, sizes and degrees of wrinkle.)

  5. i think you're so courageous to openly write about something so personal. body image, self worth, esteem...whatevs you call it, when out there makes us vulnerable. i lift my hat to you, mama! i wish i was as brave. but, my DH's family reads my blog and i think they'll judge me. you see, i've become "the fat girl" in our family. after two babes, a tumour and surgeries, i finally feel like i should get myself into shape. but, but, i just can't find my groove. none of my clothes fit me the way expect them to and i always feel frumpy next to my three gorgeous men.

    i'm almost 34. i've had a gym membership for almost a year and in the spring i was going regularly, but then summer came and well... blargh. i lost my groove. now, i'm sick of the self loathing and am ready to join the fun there again. it works for me, cuz i made a friend in the zumba class, so we workout together and hold each other accountable. it's hard tho... i lost weight and now i'm packing it back on. sigh.

    my self worth, just rita above mentioned, is wrapped in my appearance as well. and it is such BS. i actually don't care about the number on my scale, but care more about how i FEEL. i wanna feel good and happy in my skin. i don't even care about my stretchmarks anymore, i just hope to one day go dress shopping without feeling like crying.

    all the best tiffanie.
    i think you're gorgeous. i think you're creative and artistic, brave and intelligent and HAWT! i realize my opinion doens't matter, cuz it's about you doll. xo

    1. Thank you, Lola. It took me most of the day to share the post on facebook, where many of my friends see the posts. I didn't want anyone to think this was one more pity party about my stupid vanity issues. I didn't even share it with my burlesque community. Not sure what they would think of all this body negativity.

      Isn't it sad. I often feel like the ugly duckling of our little clan. We have to get over this! Feeling good. Feeling good. That is what it's about, lady. You are right. SO many years of this. When I was in fantastic athletic shape five years ago, it came out of the blue when I thought there was no hope, which gives me hope that I can do it again. I know you are hooping, too, along with your zumba class. That is awesome. We are in a tough spot where my husband commutes so far for work that it just isn't right to ask him to go out to a class in the evening. One of the downsides of being so far away from family.

      Thank you for understanding me Lola, and for the sweet words. You are also a beautiful lady (who photographs VERY well!), so, here's to us getting our shit together on the inside, and then on the outside, if needed. xoxoxo

  6. Tiffanie! Girl, you are hot! You get to do burlesque! But I know what you mean about mid life stuff. Egads. My main thing about getting older in the flamenco world is trying to keep up with the youngin's, which is nearly impossible with two kids. So, I have to be the mistress of my own reality. What has helped me on the physical front is making the commitment to be the kind of mommy that my kids can look up to. That has helped me in other ways as well....(crazy mama bear defending her kids kind of thing). You know I've been active with flamenco.

    But when I hit 40, by body changed even more. My husband and I went "paleo". We gave up grains, breads, pastas. That has been an amazing difference for me. I do indulge from time to time on an irresistable cake or whatever... although I do notice a difference. I get bloated when I indulge. Look up the Whole 30 or Primal Blueprint and you can see a little more. Basically, it's eating real food. No processed shit at all. It's hard in that I'm always in the kitchen making from scratch... barefoot no less.... too bad I'm not pregnant as well. Another thing is working out with stuff that gives you more bang for the buck... no endless hours doing cardio. Short intense workouts either sprints, body weight exercises, heavy weights.

    i say dump weight watchers. you'll go crazy counting this and that. focus on eating real food. go for a walk up all those dang hills!

    besitos guapa!

    1. Rinita! I am always thinking about what a better example I could be for Stella if I was more active, for sure. Great motivation. I have no car at my disposal usually and walk miles every day taking Stella to and from school (uphills, for sure!) and running errands. BUT, that is just not enough anymore.

      I have been really interested in paleo. I can't keep processed foods here on a regular basis, except breads and tortillas, because I will eat them up. So I also make most things from scratch AT HOME, but I am not always good at the bakery, etc. Paleo sounds easy in many ways and really hard in the giving up wine and beer department! I will Google the things you suggested, have definitely been curious about what Paleo is. I'm not sure I could do it long term, I love to bake (and my donuts, of course), but I will see about giving it a shot. I will take your ideas into consideration....had never occurred to me to stop WW! Lady, if I had the time without kids around to spend "endless hours doing cardio" I would actually be thrilled! Weight, yes. My favorite workout that worked so well for me in the past was full of weight work.

      Thanks for all the new and good advice, Rina. It must be SO wonderful to dance for a living, for all parts of you. I am so happy for you that you have made a life with flamenco. Besos! xoxo

  7. Tiffanie, It is so brave, to put yourself out there and write about body image issues. However, these kinds of deep reflections like your post are the kinds of conversations we need to be having, rather than the "fat chat" that makes up a lot of female communication. I am always interested in hearing how aging is going for folks I respect, and how desire for a healthy body image coincides with mothering. I have to warn you, I have threatened many times to sneak into people's house and steal their scales! If we hang out more, you'll be hearing a lot of the acceptance side of things. I fully believe that radical body acceptance is the only way for sanity. I also rely heavily on exercise to put me in touch with my body and how it works. I think this is the natural course of things -- to move our bodies, eat when we're hungry, and do a shit-ton of spiritual work to accept our bodies and love on them.

    1. As always, beautifully put, Rhea. I want to hang out, first of all! Let's do that. When we do, you can explain how to get to radical body acceptance (or point me in the direction of the initial writing you've done on it....leave a link here even), because I actually do not know how to even conceive of that. Because that would mean, to me, putting blinders on to the rest of the world, and that seems like a huge challenge! But again, I need to learn more about what radical body acceptance means.

      Exercise. EXERCISE!!! This dialogue we are all having here has laid it all out for me. There is no way to feel better without it. Haven't started yet (besides my daily two mile race walking to school and back and then again), but it is coming.

      Thank you so much for commenting! xoxo

    2. Tiffanie, Thanks for your interest -- here's my original post on Radical Body Acceptance: http://thirtythreadbaremercies.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/radical-body-acceptance/ Then, if you click on the tag Operation Rad Bod at the top of the post, you'll get all the follow-up posts on the topic. Enjoy! And yes, let's hang out soon. Email me!

    3. I am going to read that right away, and I will email you soon, would LOVE to get together! xoxo


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