Heather L. Barmore
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    Change In Action at Babble Voices


    Bikini Madness

    "It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else's eyes." ~Sally Field

    Do you watch Girls? If so, do you remember the episode where the girls of Girls head to the North Fork for some R&R and Hannah spends the entire day in that green bikini? I have watched that episode from start to finish 19 times and it was around the 11th viewing when my friend Ali posted to Facebook: “I cannot stop thinking of Hannah’s green bikini” and I popped up out of my constant recline (what? Whenever I’m home I lose all ability to sit up straight) and said “YES” which deserved all caps because I realized that I had to watch that episode over and over not because of the writing or the storyline or empathy on the progression/regression of friendship as an adult but because homegirl wore a green bikini for an entire episode. Never mind my questions on comfort and chafing but a woman who is not a size two rocked that bikini all over Long Island and I wanted to give her a high five through my TV screen.

    Obviously, I’ve seen a woman in a bikini before. I’ve even seen a larger woman in a bikini before and you know what my thought is? Get it, girl. Will I be putting my ample ass into a bikini? NO. Because AMPLE. I tell myself that I shouldn’t be in a two piece bathing suit. I don’t have the body for it. I can do yoga every day for the rest of my life and while I will always be able to bend over and place two palms on the floor I will never be lithe and graceful. I look at photos of myself or take a peek in a full-length mirror and say that perhaps I should do all a favor and stay away from anything that shows my mid-section. My body is very apple shaped, everything goes straight to my stomach; no one needs to see all of that.  So, when Ali mentioned Lena Dunham in a green bikini my natural response was this: I AM BUYING ONE.

    And then I had an outer body moment where I was like, um, what? Who said that? And then I add exclamation points and went directly to the Forever 21 website and PURCHASED A BIKINI. And then it arrived and I was still like, this is not happening but we know F21’s return policy, or lack thereof, so I found myself the not-so-proud owner of the bombshell top in neon coral and the retro glam bottoms in black. And then I put that sucker in my bag and brought it to Miami because why waste a perfectly good bathing suit even when you are going to a place known for it’s supremely beautiful people. I don’t know what they put in the water there but no one’s thighs touch in Miami and all the men have muscles and a six pack. As I said; exactly as advertised.

    When you are a woman of plus size the idea of putting your body in a bikini is less than appealing. I had to take a klonopin before putting on my bathing suit because what would the others think. I, a woman who normally doesn’t give a damn as to the opinions of others suddenly found myself reverting to my 11 year old self. The 11 year old who deemed herself fat so she swam in a giant t-shirt. Always with the t-shirts in the pool and on the beach. People ask if I ever wore a two piece as a child and I honestly have no idea because every photo is of me in a giant tee but no pants. That’s how I spent my summers. Then there is the natural comparison to one’s stunning and hot friends. Somewhere, my traveling partner Jumana is reading this and she’s going to be embarrassed that I referred to her as hot but let’s all be real here: She’s like a size 2 and I am like a size 2X and there would be no way on God’s green earth that I would be wearing a bikini next to her.

    I’m sure you’re now wondering what I did with that bikini and all of my pent up fear and anxiety and the body issues that I thought I had long gotten over:

    I wore a bikini. That’s what I did.


    SPOILER ALERT: I survived the ordeal. Though it wasn’t the profound, liberating experience with other women admiring me from afar and giving me a thumb’s up while I strutted my stuff on the beach. I was a woman in a bathing suit on a beach with other women and men in their bathing suits on the beach and we were all trying to forget our daily lives and remember what the sun feels like. I had read and heard about all of these other plus size women - including dear friends - who put on a bikini and have this grand epiphany about their own body image and women and the human experience and so, I thought I’d put on a bikini and discover the meaning of life. Instead I discovered sun burns and that it’s far easier to go to the bathroom when wearing two separate pieces as opposed to a one piece.  I’ve had Tuesday afternoon’s more exciting than wearing a bikini. I wore it, it looked cute, I took it off, the end. And then I purchased another one.

    TL; DR I am fat, I wore a bikini. I went about my day. How mundane this story is of a plus size woman wearing a bikini is possibly the greatest discovery of all.


    The end of a long, cold, lonely winter

    "We hit the sunny beaches where we occupy ourselves keeping the sun off our skin, the saltwater off our bodies, and the sand out of our belongings." ~Erma Bombeck

    This past weekend I turned into one of those obnoxious jackasses who I have spent all winter hating. You know the kind; the ones who post over 900 photos of ocean and palm trees and SUNLIGHT as if to say, "Look at me! I'm warm! You're not! BOOM!" Because hey, y'all, I went to Miami.

    I don’t know if you recall and/or had personal experience with the Polar Vortex but there were moments this winter when it was 27 degrees outside and I’d be walking around Albany in a t-shirt and flip flops because remember when it was -8? Yeah, the high-20's is what we started to refer to as a 'warm front'. When I landed in Miami on Thursday and saw that great big, bright, round ball in the sky I had an "once was lost, but now I'm found. Was blind but now I see" moment. Do you know what feels good after seven months of winter? Humidity. There was a brief moment where I stared out over the Atlantic and made mental note of what a body of water looks like when it's not frozen. 

    It’s been a long winter on many fronts and without getting into detail or a lengthy cliche-filled, vague post on the sadness of the last six months; I'll simply put all of that energy into making a real attempt at looking forward. One morning I made the mistake of rehashing a particularly difficult evening in the past. I contemplated the what-if's and the utter loss I felt and in the middle of my walk down memory lane I started to tear up which turned into suppressing my sobs between sips of a mimosa. This was about when I realized that my constant woulda, coulda, shoulda-ing is completely unhealthy and solves very little. And then I gave myself a pat on the back for my self-awareness about the situation and what really makes me happy. And then I was like, dude, 30 years old. What is up! Then I got a second mimosa and pulled myself together because there is no crying while beaching.


    So, Miami. It’s exactly as advertised. Like, you know that there will be bright lights and scantily clad women (and men) and then you leave thinking that you could totally become a gynecologist. By day I sat and spent time reflecting and wrote (more on that later) more than I had in the last two years. By night I allowed myself to be distracted by the glitz enough to propel me to that state of euphoria. Miami is the place to run to when you want to leave everything behind.


    It was perfection. Needed. Appreciated. Embraced with a warm hug and a nuzzle. Soon to be turned into an annual event with one of the best travel partners a woman could ask for. A travel partner who, after 25 years of friendship, still knows how to make me laugh myself into a fit of hiccups.

    Before I say this next part just know that this entire trip was paid for by me as evidenced by the look on my face when I took a gander at my checking account yesterday afternoon. Like, oh, I'm going to have to get a second job and there's absolutely nothing wrong with subsisting on Ramen and Bud Light for the next three weeks. We stayed at The Surfcomber, a Kimpton property located on Collins Avenue. It was everything you could want in a hotel during a vacation - and more - including staff who learned our names because there we were, always together, always with the drinks by the pool. I am known for doing a lot of complaining on Twitter but I did have to send out a tweet of love to Kimpton because good service should be recognized. As should the free, daily wine hour.

    I’d write more but I'll stop here for now because a) It's supposed to snow tonight so I just want to stare at some of these photos and remember how wonderful Friday was and b) I'm too busy experiencing my very first sunburn. Which, for the uninitiated, yes, black people get sunburned as well. I'm far too interested in singing THIS ARM IS ON FIRE! to anyone who will listen. 

    Anyway, onward because spring? I’m coming for ya.


    In the Darkness (Part II)

    “...throw roses into the abyss and say: 'here is my thanks to the monster who didn't succeed in swallowing me alive.” - Friedrich Nietzsche

    As a blogger/writer/storyteller/human being, I have a tendency to share my expeiriences for the simple reason of ensuring that no one feels as alone as I have felt in the past. Lonliness is a dreadful thing, isn't it? In the throes of my own depresseion, I feel as if I am wandering around and no one gives a damn. I am not attempting to martyr myself here but to portray and almost excuse my need to push those that do actually care as far away from me as possible. My mind plays tricks on me to say that no one wants me around, I am alone, their - my friends - attempts to reach out are not real. Nothing feels real.

    Anyway, where did we leave off? Ah yes, trying to explain myself and a disorder that consumes me, my every thought, my very being. People used to say that I seemed different, that's because I am different and nowhere near like myself. Sometimes I wish for a physical ailment. Isn't that horrible? I'd rather be diabetic or have cancer or perhaps a broken bone. Something that others can handle far better than a broken brain. Mental illness is seldom understood. The lack of understanding is accompanied by confusion directed at those who suffer. 

    "Why can't you just relax?"

    "Why can't you just be happy?"

    "Why can't you just focus on the good in your life?" 

    Why can't you just fuck off, is what I'd like to reply with but, of course, I do not. 

    Their assumptions of my simply being able to snap out of my "funk" only serves to exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and self-loathing over my brokenness. I have to wonder if others - it's always those elusive others - think that I enjoy being like this? Do you think I find glee in having my entire body and mind seize with fear because of anxiety over a new situation (however minor it might be). I take no enjoyment in the sixk days where I stare at the wall, physically unable to extracate myself from my bed. Or when I am able to move from my bed to my bathroom. I sit on my toilet, staring at the shower and begin to cry. 

    There is no enjoyment in driving across an overpass thinking that if my car were to go over, would it really matter? 

    I am not forced to explain myself nor my ailments to anyone but I have grown weary of the looks and the not so subtle responses to a 'sick' day when I look perfectly fine. I am sick, I want to scream at the top of my lungs, EVERYTHING HURTS. 

    Here is where I wish I could leave you with some nice anecdote on understanding and feelings all wrapped up neatly with a bow. There is an OK part of this which is acceptance of myself, this illness and the hypomania and depression that sweeps through from time to time. The truth is that being OK is relative and conditional upon good days or weeks and those that are bad. To read what I have put out about myself and mental illness over the past several days both frightens and relieves me. I can acknowledge how another reads my words and is taken aback by my cavalier attitude towards depression and ever wanting to end my own life. I can assure you that this is not a place where I am right now but to see such things on a screen even causes my insides to tumble. I feel fine right now and wonder how I could ever think such horrible thing about myself. How is it possible to ever believe that I am not loved, wanted and cared about? It's because mental illness is such a cruel thing. It will lead you to believe that you are not good enough so, you are forced to question the point of going forward with a life you have worked so hard to build. At least worked hard to build in those moments of clarity. 

    Now that I have put myself out there, I will bask in the normalcy of this day and rejoice in the mundane. I don't know what tomorrow will bring or the next month I can only put one foot in front of the other.

    (I suppose this is the tidy ending)

    "I'm OK", I say to myself. "I'm OK." I have to be. I must tell myself that as the alternative is far too much to bear and for this moment in my life, I want to smile and say that I'm doing well. Because right now I am.



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