Ridiculous Body Standards, or Ridiculous Criticism?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this one story I keep seeing pop up on social media – about this underwear model who’s maintained a “six pack” (but, okay, it’s not really a six pack, is it, guys?) while pregnant.

How it’s encouraging yet more unattainable body standards for women, at a time when they’re pregnant, for God’s sake!

Sarah Stage Pregnant

Let’s leave it alone.

Her doctor said the baby is healthy (she says) and she’s obviously having the pregnancy she wants to have.

Look, I haven’t studied feminism in any sense of the word, aside from attending the New Orthodox Church of Beyonce every week, but I do consider myself a feminist. That is, a woman who is happy to be able to make her own choices and encourage other women to do the same without fear of judgement.

I, personally, am looking forward to the day when my boobs and ass are huge in order to compensate for the little alien monster growing in my womb. I will accept stretch marks and pregnancy acne and swollen feet, lips, and fingers, and I will give in to my pregnancy cravings and sit back and rub my big, fat stomach with pleasure, knowing that I’m doing the one thing men can’t do, the thing my mother did four times, the thing every mother has done since the beginning of time, and I will be happy knowing that, sorry honey, I had a connection with my child long before it ever breathed its first airy breath.

But that’s just me.

Pregnancy is not the same for every woman, and nobody said you had to get fat, or that you had to look forward to getting fat.

Except, you cannot have a “six pack.” Because you’re not a real woman if you have to look hot all the time.

Mean Girls

Give me a break, you guys.

And take a hint from Sarah Stage’s own Instagram (surely a regram, sorry original poster):

A Real Woman

Girlfriend was a size 00 before pregnancy, and she’s probably like a 4, maybe even only a 2, now. (She has gained 20 pounds, which is healthy.)

But the baby is healthy, and she’s having the pregnancy she wants.

(Plus, I think she’s probably a little rounder than the pictures show. 1. They’re selfies, and we all look our best or our skinniest in selfies and 2. She’s got her butt pushed way back, and that makes your body look slimmer in photos.)

As Amy Poehler says, that’s good for her. Not for me. Not for most of us, probably. But it doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

 

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Berlin

The Worst Person to Write About Travel on a Budget Writes a Budget Travel Article, or: My Quest to Write “48 Hours in Berlin On a Budget”

Look, I’m not going to tell you where to get the best currywurst or döner kebab, because these people already have the best thing those foods have to offer is convenience, not culinary excellence.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m a snob. I’m a regular ol’ bon vivant. I hate drinking wine from anything other than a nice wine glass (although the opposite is true for beer, which should only be poured into a glass if it’s from the tap, otherwise, the bottle is fine, thank you very much), and I prefer to eat at white tablecloth establishments, but the *fun* part about being a grown-ass woman is that you only get what you can afford, and when you’re a freelance writer, you can’t afford shit.

But I’m not going to live off kebab.

So rejoice, ladies (and guys, whatever) of snobbery and meager bank accounts! I am your champion! I will find you the best cheap eats in the best cheap city in Europe. I! AM! YOUR! GUINEA PIG! (But don’t call me a pig, you guys.)

This is all what I thought before I went to Berlin. But sitting in my New York apartment on my third day back from my short little vacation, I realize I have failed you. The one good meal I had was over 100 euros. (I totally couldn’t afford it but the wine was great and they kept it pouring (I told them to keep it pouring) and I wanted my white tablecloth experience and a nice date with my man, dammit.)

So I have no advice for eating cheap. I’m not a food writer. Just use Yelp. (Or just put it all on your credit card, like this travel expert advises. KIDDING.)

Getting There

Let me preface this with two important points – two important facts about moi. One: I do not like itineraries. I don’t really plan for trips.* I like to just go with the flow, see where the day takes me. Relax. And two: I’ve been to Berlin before, for just a short trip during the European Championships (like a few hours) and stayed with a friend (read about it here). So my recollection of it led me to believe I was much more familiar with it than I actually was.

Lesson learned: Don’t think you can go to Berlin and just wing it. You will get hungry and think you’re heading to the city center (and you’ll head to the Gendarmenmarkt) but there will be nothing around (in your price range). A wasteland (for your price range).

You’d think there’d be beer and sausage available every five steps in Berlin. False. Berlin ≠ Prague.

So, my advice, from having spent more time there: stay in Mitte. I know, it’s so uncool. (Or cool. Depending on your school of cool.) It’s no Kreuzberg (right, hipsters?). But it’s easier to stumble upon stuff there than it is in, say, Neukölln, the only other neighborhood I took the time to wander. (And don’t tell me stuff about the Schillerkiez, because there’s like, one restaurant there.)

Oh – but if you are in Neukölln (and you should totally go just to do the following), go to a little grocery store, get a bottle of cheap, delicious beer, and take it to Tempelhofer Park, which used to be an airport. Today, it is a vast field of green where people go to relax and play. It is so Berlin, you guys. (I think I might coin that phrase, but say it in German: Das ist so Berlin. Cute, right?! I think it’ll catch on.)

Tempelhofer Park

Beer + Park = Heaven

Hotels

I stayed at two different hotels in Mitte over two days: The Circus Hotel, and Hotel Amano, and they were both lovely and accommodating. I would certainly stay in either again (but I would choose The Circus if I had to). The Circus is modern and sleek, the rooms relatively inexpensive (equal in cost to my white tablecloth dining experience), and the clientele young and hip. The breakfast buffet is great, the bar has a great aesthetic, and there’s even a little reading nook inside with lots of cool things to pick from, as well as a lovely terrace outside that would be great to sit in when it’s warm. (On that note, Amano has a rooftop bar that is worth visiting in the warmer months that overlooks the TV tower and the neighboring streets. It’s covered in string lights and vines and would be a lovely place to get tipsy in Berlin.)

I would totally stay at The Circus and hang out and eat by myself and not feel like people were judging me.

The Circus also has a hostel right across the street that seems even cooler than the hotel (but I’m over that shared-room life so I enjoyed my private bathroom). Both the hotel and the hostel, it’s worth mentioning, are full of beautiful 20-somethings.

Restaurant Advice (Not Recommendations)

Plan in advance. And bring cash. Of the restaurants that do accept credit cards, most only take chip cards. And don’t use TripAdvisor to find restaurants. Yelp is ok though.

Entertainment

Go to a soccer game (but call it a football match if you’re an American and want to get pretentious with it). This is a great way to experience one aspect of German culture on the cheap. I would recommend Hertha Berlin, as that’s the only Bundesliga game I’ve been to, and it was a delight. Also, I look really good in blue. (It brings out my eyes.)

Hertha Berlin

The supporters’ section at the Hertha Berlin game moves in unison

DON’T: BRING A NICE CAMERA – THEY’LL BE PISSED AND TREAT YOU LIKE SOME KIND OF CRIMINAL (ANOTHER LESSON LEARNED).
DO: GET SOME CHEAP, DELICIOUS BEER AND A ROSTBRAT AND SIT IN AWE OF THE FAN SECTION AS THEY JUMP IN UNISON (MORE THAN IN UNISON: THE FAN SECTION IS AN ENTITY) WHILE SINGING ABOUT THEIR BELOVED HERTHA BSC (HAIR-TUH, NOT HER-THA). TICKETS GO FOR ABOUT 20 EUROS (JUST MAKE SURE YOU’RE NOT IN THE SUPPORTER’S SECTION).

Sincere Advice

Find a good ‘hood to plot yourself in, research some cool spots beforehand just to have in your back pocket, and ask for recommendations from people who look like they know the scene (do the young kids still use the word “scene”?). Don’t try to do all of Berlin at once. You’ll get overwhelmed and hangry, and someone will have to take you home early for a nap.

Oh! Also, get a Berlin WelcomeCard: it will save you money on public transport and museums.

*Except, now I try to find restaurants, because I get hangry like a little toddler and end up making a big mistake with food choices because FOOD IS THERE NOW LET’S EAT IT. So I try to have a few restaurants in mind now for the neighborhood where I’m staying.

New York City

I hate New York

I’m kind of out of the travel-writing mode, seeing as how I’m not traveling now, nor have I in about two years. But you’d think that, living in New York, I could still make some witty observations on the culture here, right?

I hate New York. I mean, I don’t hate it, because I like that Insomnia Cookie lives here and I appreciate that a nice man on a bicycle will bring me sushi within 30 minutes of ordering it, which I can do pretty much anytime with my handy-dandy Seamless app, and I like that I can get any kind of food or drink I could think of here. Basically, I like New York’s food options.* But the city itself… meh.

First of all, New York is dirty. It is disgusting. The poles to hold on to in the subway cars are always slimy. Like they’ve been coated in petroleum jelly. Explain that to me. And people seem to have no qualms about this. Hand on the pole, hand in your mouth, hand on your food, hand on the pole, on your cell phone, on your child’s face, on the pole. It’s super gross. Plus, it just stinks generally, wherever you go.

You can see the grease.

You can see the grease.

People say New Yorkers are rude. After being here for a year, I think I can fairly say that that is not true. I am on the side of most New Yorkers when I say tourists are rude. Not only rude, but in the way. Even if New Yorkers were rude, you try living here and getting to work in one of the biggest tourist destinations in America while some oblivious tourist tries to take a picture of Times Square with his iPhone.

At the same time, why do we allow ourselves to live in a place that makes us so hateful to people, so hateful in fact that the rumor going around about New Yorkers for the past forever is that they’re rude? I mean, what’s the excuse? (I’m not talking about born-and-raised New Yorkers. Stay where you want to, damn it. You’re allowed to believe that New York is the greatest city in the world, because it’s where you’re from.) There are people who believe that Oologah, Oklahoma is the best small town ever and that it’s completely acceptable to swim in its lake. So we’re all allowed our delusions.

But if you’re an implant, probably from the Midwest or the South (hey, neighbor) and you complain about living in New York and how it makes you callous and impatient, I have only this to say: you do it to yourself.

And why? New York is not the greatest city in the world. It is not the greatest city in America. Nothing compares, for sure: New York is New York and that’s all you have to say. But, come on. Do you really need to work in midtown Manhattan? Couldn’t you do your job, and have a better quality of life, somewhere else?

I just don’t understand the draw. Me, I never planned on staying. At 14 I fantasized about living here, not knowing anything about what it’s like to live here and expecting, foolishly, to work in a giant publishing house and wear expensive suits (though in 14-year-old Lauren’s head, they weren’t expensive, they were just pretty) and wear equally pretty/expensive shoes all over the streets of Manhattan, nary a bunion nor blister in sight, and so I thought I’d try to go for it.

That didn’t happen, which is fine, because I realized I really hate heels and I can’t deal with the “energy” here. Why the constant hurry?

I ask, but I think I know why. It’s because everyone’s in a hurry, and you have to be too. It’s like going to a crowded bar and yelling to talk to your friends because it’s so loud. You hate loud bars. But now you’re yelling in a bar, so you’re the asshole you hate.

Or like going to an airport and thinking about how much you hate airports because everyone tries to line up before the boarding call even though you all have assigned seats but then you remember that baggage space is limited so you start to line up so you don’t have to check your bag at the gate even though it’s actually really convenient to check your bag at the gate because you get it back at the gate and don’t have to deal with pulling it through the aisles and hitting all the assholes who are already sitting (who, by the way, look at you like you’re their biggest annoyance because you’re boarding the plane after they’ve gotten comfortable because they got in the boarding call line first like a jerk) or lifting it above your head to put it in storage while people crowd you and stare at you and you worry about dropping it on someone.

It’s like that: living in New York is like complaining about all of the situations you hate, like political apathy and ignorance and impatience and laziness, and then participating in all of those things because sometimes it’s just all you can do to stay sane, but mostly, comfortable.

*And I didn’t even mention Shake Shack, but I also love it for Shake Shack.