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My Ongoing Struggle With Body Positivity

(Content Warning: Childhood Abuse) 

A side-by-side comparison of me being underweight during the height of my abuse and now. 

My journey with body positivity does not start as most stories do and I am not ignorant to the fact that I was privileged in that aspect. In a Latin-American household it is not uncommon to hear words like “skinny” and “fatty” being thrown around as pet names. In Spanish these names are merely terms of endearment and yet they hold such a sinister influence on the evolution of my struggle with accepting my own body. Growing up, instead of having parents and family members offering their “tried and true” diet tips while pinching my baby fat I was praised for always keeping a slim frame. I saw the way my sister suffered through the constant nitpicking at her weight and the things she ate while I was never in fear of having a bag of chips or a cupcake snatched from my fingers. I didn’t need to hide my food like she did. I was conditioned to believe I was doing something right and she was doing something wrong.

I vividly remember hearing a group of middle school classmates at lunch time whispering about how unfair it was that I was so skinny and my impulsive response to justify that I had tried to gain weight but no matter how much or what I ate I just always “looked like a skeleton.” I pretended to feel embarassed about my abnormally low weight, but in retrospect I admittedly revelled in the attention my jutting collarbones and visible ribcage brought. My heart skipped a beat whenever another girl wished her arms and stomach were as thin as mine and I would tell her that she wasn’t fat and that she was beautiful. Even now I look back at my supposed good intentions in these interactions only to realize how I never equated being larger as beautiful. “You aren’t fat! You are beautiful!” is a phrase at which I now find myself rolling my eyes.

Despite all the positive attention I received for my figure, I was not spared from the typical bullying past most bo-po stories hold in common. I was constantly teased at school for my curly hair, thick glasses, large forehead, and big ears. I spent hours crying in front of the mirror hating all the things that made me me, but one thing those bullies couldn’t touch was my weight and I held onto that like precious gold. My relationship with food was a strange one as I never feared food as a child because of the possibility of getting fat. My metabolism was so fast I could have eaten anything I liked, however I was absolutely disgusted by food. Just the thought of having food in my mouth churned my stomach and I pushed away every plate of food placed in front of me. I believe this might have stemmed from an adverse experience regarding food that I generalized and simultaneously repressed so I don’t consider this as a relevent factor in my body acceptance story.

My journey takes a dark turn the moment my mother met a man on an online chat group and he came to live with us. My reluctance to go into the details of this story still remains a struggle for me that I one day hope to address, but this post is not one of them. Nevertheless, I am fully aware of the impact this ten year long abuse had on my self-worth and awareness of my own body. This is where society’s constant message of thin equals beautiful and sexually attractive aimed at even children like myself came into play. Simply put, I convinced myself I was chosen to live a life of misery because of my weight. I was at fault for everything that was happening to me because my figure had enticed my abuser. Instead of intentionally trying to tarnish my figure by eating as much as I could to make him find me repulsive I chose to make sure that I kept his attention on me in fear that if he moved on from me he would target my younger sister. It wouldn’t be until years after the abuse that the cloud of self-blaming thought processes would disperse and I accepted the fact that none of it was my fault. That I was only eight years old when it all started and there was nothing I did to “entice” this evil person. He was just that: an evil evil monster.

After escaping that toxic household, I found myself sharing an apartment with five other girls for my third year of college and my weight related obsession heightened to a new level. There I was, finally the sole master of my own body for the first time in what felt like forever and this new and strange feeling threw me in for a loop. During the abuse, I manipulated people and my surroundings to protect myself as best as I could. I felt like I had to control everything in order to keep myself from falling apart and losing my sense of self. After the abuse, that sense of control was gone and in it’s place a void was filled by obsessive thoughts about my weight. My body started to fill out into a “normal” (what even is normal, really?) size for a woman my age not experiencing extreme levels of anxiety as I had been, but my brain took that as me losing control of myself. I would stand in front of the bathroom mirror I shared with a roommate and pinch every inch of my body in digust while she assured me I was not fat. I hated myself every time I ate anything “unhealthy” and found myself logging into pro-eating disorder webpages only to in turn feel guilty about that and be left in a crying mess. My ideas about what a sexual relationship with a person should be was distorted and I found myself involved with a person who decided his attention toward me was only warranted whenever he needed entertainment. I was perfectly fine with that because any positive attention was good attention and this was one I had chosen this time. 

To this day, I still struggle just as much as I did back in college. It’s been four years since I moved out from that apartment and ended whatever relationship I had with that person. I would love to say that things got better, but I would be lying if I said that I now accept my body just the way it is every single day. I would give anything to say that I don’t constantly have intrusive, guilt-ridden thoughts about what I have eaten or how much I haven’t worked out. That I love the size of my thighs and the thickness of my arms. Scrolling through body positivity hashtags on Instagram and reading all the stories of overcoming self-hating thoughts leave me feeling guilty for not being anywhere near that point even when I know these people on the internet don’t always feel so comfortable in their own skin.

I have put off talking about my weight issues for a long time. Every time I get close to sharing my experiences I revert back to the mislead idea that I don’t have it as bad as other people and that people will think I am just writing about this to make others feel sorry for me. I read somewhere this is a common trait in individuals who have experienced abuse but I cannot help but think that way. Still, I force myself to talk about this because if there is at least one person that can relate to my story and know they are not alone I feel like it is worth any backlash I fear might come about posting this blog.

 I know my journey is not finished. I have a long ways to go and I am working on getting there. Every day is a struggle and I am so grateful to have a husband that allows me to share my intrusive thoughts with him and works to discredit them with me. This is only the first part of my posts regarding body acceptance. I look forward to diving into my own experience with body positivity in lolita and my thoughts on the “bo-po” movement on social media. 
Thanks for reading!

♡ 

International Lolita Day Summer 2017: Twilight Carnivale

In complete honesty, I have never been quite fond of carnivals or the circus. My childhood saw the evolution of a somewhat irrational fear of clowns so my first thoughts of this summer’s International Lolita Day theme “Twilight Carnivale” did not initially illicit the warm fuzzy feelings I usually get when thinking about frilly meet ups and tasty tea time. I couldn’t help but laugh at my own silly reaction (I doubt there has ever been a scary clown print. Come on, Izzy!) and seconds later I was filled with excitement and eagerness to get a coordinate together for the event. It wouldn’t be until the very night before that I would settle for a chocolate-themed outfit centered around Angelic Pretty’s Wonder Party JSK.

My coordinate for ILD summer 2017 featuring AP’s Wonder Party JSK. 

The ticketed event was hosted by the Central Florida Lolita Society featuring Truly Darling Boutique at The Event Factory in Tampa, Florida. Every guest was presented with a small gift bag, raffle/carnival games tickets, and an adorable plush hamster key chain before entering. To say that the venue felt like stepping into a fantastical land would be an understatement. Soft twinkling lights adorned decorative trees while a castle backdrop provided a gorgeous setting for pictures within the main tea party room.

 

Located in the main space, as well, was the sales booth showcasing second-hand lolita items provided by special guest vendor, Wunderwelt. VIP ticket holders were allowed into the venue twenty minutes early for first picks of the shop, but there were still plenty of items to peruse through once it opened to general ticket holders. Soon, the sales booth was teeming with impressively dressed lolitas trying to squish their petticoats past each other for a look at the frills.  I managed to snatch exactly what I was hoping to find: a nice princess-sleeved blouse. One can never have enough blouses to fluff up a wardrobe.

As a lover of all things tea related, I am always in the mood for a good old-fashioned cup of tea accompanied by finger sandwiches and scones. However, I did not complain when I saw the unconventional yet deliciously inviting food that was being served. In accordance to the theme, carnival style fare such as mini hot-dogs and burgers, mac n’ cheese, popcorn, peanuts, and cotton candy made me feel like a kid trying every treat at a midway fair. Thankfully for the traditionalist part in me, pots of tea were all the same in attendance at each table.

Set up just outside the main room were carnival-style games where guests could win extra tickets for the raffle held just after tea. Attendees were given three carnival tickets at the start of the event which could be traded for a try at the games. “Popcorn bucket beer pong”, as many of us jokingly called it, was one where guests had three tries to get a ping-pong ball in the correct popcorn bucket containing an extra raffle ticket. Another game tested guest’s luck by having them choose the floating rubber duck with a specific number written on the bottom. My my favorite game, however, was “pin the bow on the gator mascot”. A very talented community member painted our Central Florida Lolita Society alligator-with-a-bow mascot and guests were asked to spin and blindly pin the bow on the gator. Certainly a fun sight, but my lack of coordination and clumsiness would have probably left me on the floor after a few spins. The raffle prizes were plentiful and ranged from cute stationary to OTKs, hair bows, brand novelty items, and even bags and dresses. A coordinate contest was also held and three lovely participants won their own set of gift for their spectacular outfits.

Definitely one of the more exciting aspects of the event came from the newest addition to Truly Darling’s original prints. My disdain for carnivals and circuses melted immediately when I saw how adorable their new Tiny Cat Circus print is. The series is very reminiscent of ring leader jackets with pretty gold trimming on the bodice and adorable circus cats adorning the skirt. The large bow on the side of the dress caught my attention as it brought such elegance to the dresses. Truly Darling had both the OP and JSK along with an enchantingly quirky moon-faced bag up for reserve at the event.  The series is available for reserve on their website from June 3rd to June 24th. I will link their shop down below.

The three hour ILD event flew by and I didn’t want to say goodbye to my frilly friends. In the midst of negative attention that had recently befallen our community, I openly invited this time to catch up with friends and appreciate all the hard work done by so many members of our comm. There will always be moments of turmoil and drama, but at the end of it all we always seem to come back to what matters the most: friends doing what makes them happy and sharing that happiness with each other. It would be naive to think that everything will always be rainbows and lollipops, but I am ever grateful to have met and continue to meet so many great people through this shared hobby. I know how much trust means to so many members of our group and although I joined a mere two-and-a-half years ago, I have enjoyed my time spent with my fellow lolitas and wish to see this community continue to flourish.

 

Group photo courtesy of Michael Stanley.

Truly Darling Boutique Storenvy

Truly Darling Boutique Facebook

The Event Factory website

 

 

Valentine’s Tea hosted by Truly Darling

 

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Valentine’s coordinate with Wonder Party JSK in brown by Angelic Pretty

There is something soothing about the sound of spoons softly clinking against the inside of a tea cup or the delicate smell of hot tea floating through the air. As I stepped into the lovely gift shop at the entrance of The Empress Tea Room in Tampa, Florida, I let those familiar sounds and smells quell my ever present anxiety. A few of my fellow lolitas had already arrived and I couldn’t help but marvel at everyone’s adorable outfits before noticing the buzz of multiple conversations coming from the dining area. It was a full house and I was excited to get my hands on some tea and finger sandwiches.

Upon sitting at our table, each lolita in attendance was gifted a box of chocolates, a card featuring Truly Darling’s new print “Aurora Valentine”, and a Truly Darling unicorn necklace. This was my first time at The Empress Tea Room although the local comm has been hosting meet ups there for approximately 9 years. The entire staff was absolutely delightful and attended to our every need, making sure our tea pots and tummies were satisfyingly full. Pomegranate mimosa awaited those of us twenty-one and over as a special treat courtesy of The Empress Tea Room (have I already mentioned they are so nice??). My favorite part of the tea experience was definitely the delectable scones with fresh Devonshire cream and the large chocolate covered strawberry.

Truly Darling’s collaborating designers and hostesses of our meet-up stirred an obvious buzz of excitement with their three new series. Featured above is the OP version of Aurora Valentine with its celestial gradient shades, delicate lace lined sleeves, and depictions of adorable cherubs as the border print. The elegant gold trim on the collar and detailed cuffs called out to me and I held back the urge to grab the entire dress form by the waist and run off with it. Thankfully, I suppressed all criminal intent to make away with the dress and returned to admiring the unmissable effort put into the details of this classical print.

Anyone close to me can agree that I have a weakness for cute pastel things and this particular weakness is why Truly Darling’s new Sweet Animal Cafe print had me squealing in delight the moment I laid my eyes on it. Modeled by Truly Darling’s very own co-designer, Rosie Darling, these pictures showcase the OP version of Sweet Animal Cafe in all its adorable pastel glory. The bow in the picture above is an Angelic Pretty bow placed upon the dress’ matching head piece. I was informed that the head piece was not complete yet but would be in time for the print’s release. The dress features sweet animal shaped desserts such as puppy doughnuts and kitty macarons. If that doesn’t scream “ultimate sweet lolita wonderland” then I don’t know what does!

Lastly, the duo unveiled a both lovely and unexpected surprise. For the lifestyle lolitas out there or for anyone who wants to incorporate a cute aesthetic into their daily lives, Truly Darling will be selling sleepwear not devoid of elegance while keeping comfort in mind. Above are pictures of the light pink and lavender models of the sleepwear series appropriately named Sweet Dreamers. The sheer fabric of both nighties was so soft and both the square and heart versions of the matching bags were made of a plush material that made me want to never stop touching them.

As a cherry on top for the event, the hostesses had an array of lucky packs available for sale. I got the accessories pack and received a pair of ultra sweet mint/pink/white OTKs, a much needed mint hair bow that I do not doubt I will be using very soon, a beautiful pastel pink rosette with lace detailing, and a fuzzy pink heart clip I will shamelessly add to my arsenal of cute accessories. Other lolitas who bought the larger lucky packs were surprised with JSKs of varying brands and accessories to match. I have also included a closer look at the gorgeous necklace that I cannot wait to pair with Crystal Dream Carnival!

I am quite sad to think that this might have been my last tea meet-up before my husband and I pack up and start our lives in Norway. I am happy, however, that I got to spend a wonderful afternoon enjoying the company of friends and delicious food served by The Empress Tea Room. If you wish to learn more about Truly Darling’s brand and other services I will include their social media links below!

Truly Darling Boutique facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/TrulyDarlingBoutique/

Truly Darling storenvy:

http://trulydarling.storenvy.com/

Thank you for reading!

A Celebration of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort

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My favorite Gryffindor-themed lolita coordinate featuring Royal Crown Tea Package JSK by Alice and the Pirates.

On an unusually cold and cloudy Florida day thousands upon thousands of Harry Potter fans crowded the magical streets of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort for the annual event, A Celebration of Harry Potter. I found myself amidst a throng of wide-eyed adults marveling at the amazingly detailed shops of Diagon Alley, their children at their sides frantically waving their interactive wands in simple patterns to activate the numerous “spells” located throughout the park. The chilly wind ruffled countless student robes that identified each guest to their respective Hogwarts house. Virtually everyone displayed their house colors proudly as scarves wrapped around their necks. If I had to choose between being alone at home watching Netflix and shoving my way through a giant crowd of people, I would normally gravitate toward binge watching Korean dramas online. However, that was not the case this day. On this day, I was home.

The stories of Harry Potter have been an obsession of mine for most of my life as it has been for many others who have been and continue to be enchanted by the tales of magic, friendship, and bravery at the hands of evil and prejudice. I was immediately enthralled by the otherworldly accounts of Harry, Ron, and Hermione and I spent most of my middle school lunches secretively reading about their adventures at the school’s library. At the time, my mother had been swept up in the controversy sparked by church groups that condemned Harry Potter as “books from the devil”. As the skeptic I have always been, I ignored her warnings of being “lured into hell by witchcraft” and they did not stop me from feeling a personal attachment to the kids in these stories. I proclaimed at that early age that I would have been sorted into Gryffindor, just like Harry, and I have remained a devoted fan ever since.

Although I have been to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort many times, this was my first time at this event and it was a day to remember. The celebration itself lasts three days with a variety of scheduled events including wand choreography, costume contests, and a Q&A session with actors from the movies. I only went Saturday and couldn’t do much. A word of advice for any interested in this celebration: get there early and get ready to wait in lines. A lot of lines. Nevertheless, I was more than happy with my experience.

 

Held within two of Universal Orlando Resort’s many sound stages, the Harry Potter Expo showcased a few interesting exhibits. For those who thought they knew all sevens books inside and out, there was an audio trivia contest where participants listened to excerpts from the books through headphones and identified which book the reading was from on a touch screen. Fans of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them were not forgotten as a line formed for a chance to wear a VR headset and wave your “wand” in order to help Newt catch some escaped creatures. My absolute favorite part of the Expo was the Harry Potter Mosaic. The attendant explained that guests were able to post their pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #harrypottercelebration and they would print in an almost mini-Poloroid format at their station. Within forty-five minutes, fans were able to pick their pictures up from the booth while copies of them were arranged in an extravagant mosaic slowly forming an image of Hogwarts castle.

 

As I made my way through the winding path of Diagon Alley, I stopped to ask a couple of guests about their most favorite aspect of A Celebration of Harry Potter. Almost everyone mentioned that they love gawking at the extensive details and oftentimes inventive cosplay worn by the very fans themselves. One yellow and black clad Hufflepuff perfectly described that he “felt like [he was] actually in the world of Harry Potter walking with students and professors…” I couldn’t hold back a smile watching the youngest of Harry Potter devotees tug at their parent’s sleeve and ask if that really was Hermione who just walked by in her fancy Yule Ball gown or hear them giggle at the sight of Professor Snape dressed as Neville’s grandmother.

 

I am shameless in admitting that I most look forward to food served at any event so it was no surprised that I was ecstatic to try every magical treat I could get my hands on. Generally on my visits to The Wizarding World I will drift toward the much loved Butterbeer poured at multiple locations through the two parks. Personal Opinion Alert: the frozen Butterbeer is ten times better than the regular liquid version. This time, however, I decided to expand my horizons and stopped by Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour and sank my spoon into Butterbeer flavored soft-serve. I was not disappointed with the delicious butterscotch-vanilla swirl ice cream and finished it in record time despite my husband’s incredulous stare. Among the numerous, and often oddly named (Fishy Green Ale??), drinks at The Wizarding World one can always find yummy Pumpkin Juice with it’s signature pumpkin shaped topper in snack carts or within Honeydukes. To my sweet-toothed readers planning on visiting this fantastic place please do not forget to make a stop at Honeydukes. Straight from the pages of J.K. Rowling’s otherworldly stories Honeydukes features treats you never thought you would be able to hold in your hands such as Fizzing Whizzbees, Exploding Bon-Bons, and Chocolate Frogs.

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Gilderoy Lockhart Chocolate Frog card that debuted for A Celebration of Harry Potter 2017

This is a must-see event for any Harry Potter fanatics such as myself. If you find yourself making your way to Orlando, Florida make sure to pack your wizard’s robes and dust off your magic wand and enjoy the overdose of magic you will find here.

Disclaimer: This is solely my personal review and all pictures were taken by me. I do not own any of the character or location names. All rights go to Warner Bros, J.K. Rowling, and Universal Orlando Resort.

Mental Health: Breaking the Stigma

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As I type out the title to my very first blog post my mind begins to do what it does best. Just the words “mental health” send my thoughts into a frenzy and my poor brain tries to keep up with the countless sensory inputs it is receiving from the rest of my body.  Are you seriously going to make your first post about mental health? I can feel my heart’s pace quicken. People are going to get scared away and never want to read your posts again. I notice myself biting my lower lip, a nervous habit, and my palms get sweaty to the point that rubbing them continuously against my pajama shorts seems futile.

This internal dialogue is not uncommon. It happens every minute of every day. There are two voices and they have names. One is very shy yet persistent. She is always looming in the background of my consciousness, ready to point out flaws and fears. The other is vastly more outgoing. She is optimistic about the world and uses reasoning as her main weapon. This is an ongoing and invisible battle. At this moment, while my fingers glide over the keyboard, the latter is winning. If our story can inspire even one person then it will be worth it.

 I have received plenty of diagnoses from an array of mental health professionals. At first, it was social phobia and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Then it was Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), PTSD, and a dissociation spectrum disorder. After that I got slapped with GAD, PTSD, and Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID. Formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder). As a college graduate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, I knew exactly what each of these diagnoses meant. As much as I had studied the symptoms of each I was not prepared for them to be attached to me. I guess there was a part of me that knew there was something more lying beneath the surface of typical everyday worries, but I was not ready to hear it.

Fast-forward two years after intensive weekly therapy. I feel like there is still much work to be done while simultaneously rethinking the validity of those diagnoses. The thing about therapy is that it really does get worse before it gets better. Diving into past experiences broke down walls that were built a long time ago and the burst of emotions that followed were difficult to process. I began experiencing  depersonalization, the feeling of being detached from one’s body, at an increasing frequency. The flashbacks got worse and the panic attacks were constant. The shy voice in my head got louder and angrier.

(Enter Japanese fashion)

It sounds so silly. The thought that Japanese street fashion brought a ray of hope in the darkness of my mental health seems almost ridiculous. How can a cute dress with its bell-shaped skirt and images of cakes and teacups push back thoughts of self-loathing? How can a collection of plastic hair clips arranged carefully on a pastel wig help quiet a nagging voice that threatens to remind me of all the painful memories bubbling somewhere in my consciousness? How can posting a picture of delicate finger sandwiches and pastries on Instagram dull the stinging edge of social anxiety? Many of us in the j-fashion community find ourselves pondering these questions without an answer. Finding those answers may be a journey and I am OK with that.

These past two years have seen desperation and darkness and they have seen self-love and self-care. The ebb and flow of opposing emotions is one with which many are familiar. In a society where mental health issues are demonized, I will not let my story become a deep pit that keeps me from doing what I love. I will not let my past be a thing of shame. Transparency is the key word. As I continue with this blog I hope to share my story. I hope to share the good days and the bad ones. I hope to incorporate j-fashion as a means to cope into my posts with plenty of event reviews and coordinate posts. Happy things will come of this blog and in the process I hope to break down the stigmatization of mental health within the world of j-fashion and maybe even beyond the community.

Stay strong and remember things can get better.