Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter. It's so simple a truth that it shouldn't need to be said out loud, over and over again, but... 

*gestures broadly at the nation* 

I urge you to listen to Black voices today and every day. Since this is a blog about writing and books, I will give you a list of some of my favorite fiction by Black authors. 

This is adult epic fantasy at its finest. Jemisin asks the question, "What if gods became enslaved?" and then populated that world with a diverse cast of characters, including the only truly matriarchal society I've seen set on the page. She's also the only author to win a Hugo for every book in a series. 

2. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige 

If you wanted to know what would happen if Dorothy turned evil in her adult years and then someone who isn't a boring goody-two-shoes gets whisked off to Oz . . . then this is the book for you. 

3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
A heartbreaking mother-daughter relationship gives way to a sweep-you-off-your-feet teen romance with complex characters and fascinating, difficult choices. 

4. Dear Martin by Nic Stone 

I hesitated to add this book to the list, since it's being recommended all over the place, and it's likely to be sold out at the link above. I also know a lot of people are rightfully recommending lots of books on the very heavy topics of police brutality, educational discrimination, and the harsh realities of racism in America. I wanted to tell you all about books by Black authors that aren't necessarily about Being Black in America Right Now. 

But Nic Stone's work is so heartrending and accessible that I don't think it's right to skip it. If you can't handle the heavy right now, put this one on your list for later. The other books on this list are about other topics, and tell stories of Black artists and Black joy. 

5. Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashante Wilson

Have you ever wished you could read Shakespeare with a hip-hop sensibility to the prose and that the story featured magic and demigods and a lot of violence? Sure you have. This book is it. This book feels like if Tahereh Mafi and George RR Martin teamed up to tell a gay love story. 

6. Kindred by Octavia Butler 

Okay, so this is another heavy book. But Octavia Butler is one of the greatest voices in science fiction and she paved the way for countless other authors who came after her. This book is beautiful and horrifying, and the link above will take you to the graphic novel adaptation, illustrated by John Jennings, another Black artist who deserves to get paid for his astounding work. 



And every day. 


Monday, May 25, 2020

The Difference Between Plotting and Pantsing (for me)

I started my writing as a pantser. "I want to be surprised by the story!" I told myself (and anyone who would even pretend to listen). 

"I don't know how to outline" would have been a much more accurate statement. 

Last week, I talked about The Office's season two finale, Casino Night, and how the writers went for the long arc, not the gasp-inducing drama/cliffhanger that was easy and obvious. 

As a pantser, I often went for the gasp, the easy drama. I recently revisited a story I had pantsed the heck out of and realized it had three different climaxes, and not in a good way. It was a mess. There was no growth, because the characters were just literally all over the place. 

I took the bones of that story and I applied an outline, focused on one key conflict and let the smaller conflicts and tensions find their way to the story more naturally. Now, this book isn't done, it still needs revisions, but it's a lot more cohesive. 

In going for the easy drama, I had wrecked the story. It was exciting, sure, but that's about all it had going on. As I wrote, I would feel like maybe it was time to have something exciting happen and so I'd drop in a twist or a bomb or whatever, making the reader want to turn the next page. 

Early readers of that story all agreed that they wanted to know what would happen next, but that was about all they could say about the book that was positive. It was exciting, but the more they thought about it, the less sense it made. The characters didn't stick with them or make them laugh or make them feel anything other than "Ooooooohh!" at the end of a chapter. 

And that's not enough. 

Not for me, anyway. 

I'm not sorry that I pantsed my way through my first few novels (my early-early novels? OOF. Such a melodramatic MESS.), but I do know that I need to be willing to either apply an outline or start with one for the story to be any good. Ripping this book apart and putting it back together took a lot more time (it's on draft #6 right now, and nowhere near ready) than it would have if I had drafted with an outline, or at least a semblance of an outline, from the beginning. 

That's the difference, for me. 

Pantsing is fun, discovering the story as I go, but it takes three or four drafts for me to realize that there are huge, gaping problems with the story, and the characters don't have any room to grow or breathe or feel real to the reader. 

But plotting gives me the structure I need to make sure the story actually progresses, makes sense, and builds on itself. 

Monday, May 18, 2020

Not Going for the Easy Drama

I've been listening to the Office Ladies podcast, and if you're any level fan of The Office, you should listen to it. It's Jenna Fischer (who played Pam) and Angela Kinsey (who played Angela) discussing a bunch of behind-the-scenes details about the making of the show.

What's particularly interesting about it is that they actually cover a lot of the writing of the show, despite both being actors and not writers.

The episode this last week was covering Casino Night, the season two season finale, the episode where Jim confesses his love for Pam.

If you didn't watch the show, there's kind of a lot of moving parts leading up to this point. To sum it up:

Michael is the manager of the office and he has a huge crush on Jan, his boss. They've made out, and it would violate company policy for them to date, but in this episode we see that Jan was starting her self-destructive streak and was planning to hook up with Michael. Too bad Michael has another date at this Casino Night event.

Jim and Pam work together in the office and are totally in love, but Pam is engaged to this other guy, Roy (seriously, listen to this podcast - Jenna has some amazing insight into Pam's character and motivations and choices regarding Roy in particular).

Near the end of the episode, Jim runs into Jan in the parking lot and we find out that Jim is transferring to another office (the subtext is that it's too painful for him to watch Pam marry Roy).

But here's the thing: Jim has been flirting with Pam all night, but it's clear that Jim wants it to be real, and it can't be, because of Roy. At the same time, Jan came here to hook up with Michael, but it can't happen because he's got someone else and also Jan doesn't want to lose her job.

So Jim and Jan are in the parking lot.
They're both lonely.
They're both sad.
They're both frustrated and fed up with their circumstances.
And there's this underlying tension to the scene, and it's all shot as if it's a secret, and they're all alone ...

And on the podcast, the actors said there was a lot of chatter at the time that people were worried in this moment that Jan and Jim were going to hook up.

And you know what?

I could see it.

A lesser show would have done it. They would have sensed the tension in that moment and taken the easy shot and had Jim hook up with Jan. It would have been so dramatic! Jim - Classic Nice Guy Jim - hooked up with his boss's boss! Pam has been cast aside in favor of a bigger catch! Michael missed his shot!

If you know how season 3 opens up, and the events of the early part of that season, you know it easily could have been fed by the drama of Jan secretly hooking up with Jim. (Jim transfers to the other office, Michael's office gets closed, and Jim's new boss is given the job of managing both offices, but quits immediately - Jim could have been given that promotion, putting the question of "Is it because they hooked up?" in everyone's mind)

But the writers for The Office knew they wanted to play the long game. They knew where the show was going, that it wasn't really just a workplace drama. Ultimately, that show was about relationships and specifically Pam and Jim's relationship. It goes sideways in season 8 when they lose sight of that relationship as the heart of the show, but the heart comes back in season 9 when they focus on the tension in that relationship again.

The lesson I took from this was to not always go for the most dramatic possible outcome. Jim and Jan hooking up would have been shocking, but it made a kind of sense in the moment. It would solve their loneliness and it would eliminate the entire painful conversation between Jim and Pam that happens five seconds later, and it definitely would have eliminated the kiss that happens two minutes after that.

And maybe Jim and Pam could have recovered from it, but it would have been a lot more soapy than it needed to be.

And maybe they wouldn't have recovered.

But that heartbreak? Oh, that heartbreak. That moment where Jim confesses his love, and Pam shoots him down, and he just says, "Don't..." with tears lining his eyes.


Without that moment, the season finale would have been a gasp-worthy cliffhanger.

With that crushing, heartbreaking moment, the audience fell in love with the show.

And then two minutes later, Jim puts himself on the line again, kisses Pam, and the camera fades to black.

And that.
Is your cliffhanger.

Jim hooking up with Jan would have been a gasp moment.

Instead, 8 million people all across America howled at their television sets, "NOOOOOOO! HOW CAN THEY LEAVE IT THERE???!???!!!"

Instead of taking the easy drama, the gasp-inducing moment, the writers took the harder route. They beat Jim up, they made the audience cry with him, and then they took a chance with a much bigger, much more frustrating cliffhanger.

And that's how you become one of the best-written shows in American history.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Rory Gilmore: A Character Study

Rory Gilmore is one of the most beloved (up until five days ago, that is) characters on television. She's the epitome of Little Miss Perfect in most people's eyes, and the debates about her love life have raged constantly for the last sixteen years since her show debuted.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life changed a lot of that public sentiment. People were furious that she hadn't conquered the entire world by age 32, that she didn't have her life "together", and the "I Hate Rory Gilmore" thinkpieces have been churned out at an alarming rate.

(Honestly? Lots of us don't have our lives together by 32. Especially on TV. TV is full of 30-somethings trying to get their lives together.)

All those people, though? They weren't paying attention.

Rory Gilmore was always awful. She's the character we should hate to love (I'll admit it - I root for her a lot. I also root for her mother, who is also awful, but in different - albeit related - ways).

Let's go through the list, shall we?

Rory Gilmore gets into a prestigious private school that her mother cannot afford. She does not qualify for a scholarship, and even at sixteen in a household where ends had to be in constant danger of not meeting, she didn't think once about how to pay for Chilton. Her mother grovels and gets the grandparents to pay for school. Fine. I've got no problem with people accepting help, especially when it is for something as important as an education.

But then? Rory decides she doesn't want to go to the prep school (for which she surely put in a lengthy application, did interviews for, paid a hefty application fee, etc) because a boy talked to her.

A boy that just moved to town talked to her. They aren't dating. They aren't in love. She doesn't even know his last name. But she wants to throw away this thing she's obviously been working towards for a long time. (Oh, and btw, she lives in a town the size of a postage stamp - school is NOT the only way to talk to a boy)

That's all in the FIRST EPISODE. So our dear, perfect Rory has displayed a shocking amount of immaturity, selfishness, and misplaced priorities all in the first episode.

But, she's pretty and she's smart, and she's sixteen and we assume she's still learning how to human, so all is forgiven.

Over the course of the next seven years she will:

- Cheat on her boyfriend emotionally
- Cheat on her boyfriend for real
- Do some typical teenager stuff that no one ever seems to think is normal because Rory is special (ditch school and go to NYC, yes?)
- Have sex with her married ex-boyfriend. Repeatedly.
- When that marriage ends, and that guy decides to be with Rory, she will lead him on and treat him badly and ignore him
- Hook up with a guy who made it clear he does not want to be her boyfriend, leading another guy on in the process
- Try really hard to cheat on her long-term boyfriend
- Turn down a marriage proposal, but expect the boyfriend to hang around anyway

That's just her love life. The show's creators have long complained that everyone is so emotionally invested in Rory's love life, so maybe it would be more fair to focus on her scholastic and career performance, yes? Okay, so over the course of seven seasons, this is Rory's scholastic and work record:

- She gets into the private school, starts to fail immediately, but gets to stay because she is given a boatload of extra chances and privileges that everyone claims are impossible and no one is ever given

- She writes for the school paper and does a good job of it, so far as we can tell (Yay, a good thing!)

- She runs for student government, even though she has total disdain for it

- She gets into Ivy League schools (after her grandfather pulled strings to get her an interview and hinted at bribing the admissions committee, after her headmaster pulled strings to get her a special meeting with an alumnus, and after her grandparents agree to give her the money to pay for all this)

- She writes for the paper and does a mediocre job of it (her pieces don't get picked up, she almost doesn't make it into the freshman group of writers, her pieces get cut or panned, etc)

- She starts failing her classes and has to drop at least one during her freshman year

- During her three college summers,  she doesn't do real internships or work-study or part-time freelance writing. Instead, she galavants around Europe with her grandmother, plans a bunch of parties, and then sits around and mopes that she isn't in Asia with her boyfriend (he has a Real Job and she's pissed about it)

- She gets an internship (after her boyfriend's daddy pulled some strings) at a local paper and spends her time making coffee and setting out notepads, rather than writing or reporting or learning anything genuinely useful in her chosen field

- When she is told that she didn't do well in her internship, she quit school, quit writing, committed a felony, ran away from home, and committed herself to being a very dedicated underage drinker

- She gets back into school somehow, gets back on the paper somehow, and then is given the editor job because of Plot Reasons (she's unqualified, she doesn't have proper seniority, and everyone sort of murmurs that it makes sense because they're sick of thinking about it)

- She does save the paper one night, but that's actually her boyfriend's hard work and know-how (probably picked up at an internship that his father helped him get, now that I think of it) that she takes credit for

- She turns down a good job because she thinks she's too good for it

- She skips grad school applications because she doesn't think she needs it

- She writes for an online "zine" (because this is 2007 and we were still using the word "zine") about how everyone else is rich and privileged and then she is given a job as an on-the-road reporter for a senator (who turns out to be Barack Obama, but that's not something the show's creators could have predicted)

So, in her professional life, she's handed a ton of extra privileges, favors, and advantages and yet she quits and gives up and squanders every opportunity she's given. She is offended when someone has the audacity to call her less-than-perfect and doesn't drop her dream job at her feet.

New Rory Gilmore, in the Netflix revival, is exactly like Old Rory Gilmore.

New Rory isn't job-hunting. She's waiting for her dream job to drop into her lap.

New Rory isn't in a relationship. She's galavanting around and content to be a weekday mistress (flying back and forth on his dime, most likely) (if not, then she's living off the trust fund her grandparents had mature on her 25th birthday)

New Rory isn't any different than Old Rory. This is what makes good TV - we see her potential, and we want her to live up to it. We connect with something in her: her pop culture obsession, her dreams, her "plucky spirit and can-do attitude". We want that to blossom into something more. We want her to see what she has - a family that loves her and will support her no matter what, a man who knows what she needs and will push her to get there, friends who allow her to be human, and a talent for writing something she's passionate about - and be grateful for those things. Be grateful and then turn them into something more.

We want character growth.

And this is where people were disappointed in New Rory. She didn't grow as much as we wanted her to. But here's the thing: If all that growth happened off-screen, during the intervening years, then we wouldn't have a chance to watch it. We would be watching boring old married people settled into their lives. That's a different show altogether.

I argue that we finally see Rory make changes. The final four words (which weren't really surprising, right? We didn't need all the spoiler warnings, did we?) have forced her to be more pragmatic, and we watched that happen all along the way.

She's still a terrible journalist (The Atlantic did a fantastic rundown on this), but everyone has admitted that she's a talented writer. She needs to be grateful for what she's got and take it and run with it.

Friday, December 18, 2015

On Star Wars and Killing Your Darlings

(I haven't seen episode VII so I cannot spoil it for you; this is about the first two trilogies. Minor spoilers, I guess, but the statute of limitations is up on those, so… too bad.)

Like most people in the developed world, we've been preparing ourselves for a new Star Wars movie. We've been watching the first six all week long, ready to see the seventh on Friday morning. While watching them, I thought specifically about George Lucas killing his darlings and what I can learn from his example. 

We own the bluray edition. This means the versions of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi are not the versions I grew up with, but are the digitally enhanced versions with new "cool" CGI scenes inserted in. 

Since I first saw the new version of Episode IV, the scene I hated the most is the scene where Jabba visits Tatooine to threaten Han. Jabba's just walking around (squirming around???), looking all non-threatening and insignificant. Han steps on his tail. 

Let me repeat that so you really think about it: 

Han Solo, a lowly human with no allies in the immediate vicinity, steps on Jabba's tail and Jabba, the supposedly terrifying and cold-hearted gangster, is surprised and makes a stupid tongue-hanging-out-in-shock-and-pain face. In one move, Han is mocking Jabba and Jabba lets him do so. Jabba's guards don't do anything about it. 

The scene is an eyesore; even late-90s technology didn't help much and it's obvious that Harrison Ford is superimposed against the digital Jabba. Jabba acts against character, and the idea of a menacing monster is undermined, changing the way we would think of him in episode VI. The conversation is stilted, the wide shots make Jabba look like a child's toy, and the overall impact is a negative one. 

Had that scene been in the original movie (especially if it had been done with 1970s special effects), it very well could have ruined the movie altogether. A campy  space opera is one thing; a campy space opera with inconsistent characters and terrible special effects is another.

George Lucas obviously loves that scene. It was cut from the original version of the film, but was one of only a handful added back in, and the only one (as far as I can remember) to be added in that actually had any plot-related substance to it. As soon as it was possible to do so, he added that scene right back in. 

And it was a mistake. 

Without that scene, Lucas had to resort to Hitchcockian methods to introduce to the legend who is Jabba the Hut for two movies. The first time we see him, he is truly a terrifying monster. Sure, he looks like a fat blob, but that's all the more reason to fear him. He wields all that power and strikes fear into the heart of our great, beloved Han Solo without ever getting up off his couch. 

With the added scene, our first impression of Jabba is a silly turd-like worm-man. 

The movie was better without that scene, despite how much Lucas obviously loved it and wanted it to be there. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that cutting that scene was a significant reason Star Wars was the hit that it was back in 1977. 

Sometimes, you have kill your darlings. You have to take out the scene you love. Maybe it doesn't fit thematically, or it puts your characters in a slightly different light. Maybe it's unnecessary, or maybe the special effects just look really stupid and amateurish (sorry… I can't think of a book-equivalent for that one). 

Lucas got to add his darling back in, because he's George FRAKKING Lucas and can do whatever he wants, but even he felt the heat for putting that scene in the new version of the movie. And while there's an argument to be made that the backlash was just from a bunch of over-protective needs who didn't want their precious movie to change at all, I think it goes much deeper than that, and even the angriest of nerds knows it. 

So kill your darlings. Kill them dead and don't look back. Don't be George Lucas. Except for the part where he created an unforgettable story and world full of characters we love. Do that part. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Writing contests, baking cookies, and taking advice

How do you make cookies?

I want you to really think about it. How do you make cookies? You might follow a recipe, or you might not. If you're an avid baker, your mind might be dancing through a dozen different options, trying to decide what type of cookies to make first. 

We might try to say there are some basic ground rules when making cookies. You know, the rules that are always followed. If we did, what might those basic rules be? 

Well, for starters, you need butter and sugar. 

Unless you're making vegan cookies. 


Then you for sure need flour, right? 

Oh... Unless you're making gluten free cookies, or flourless cookies, or no bake cookies… Right. No-bake cookies exist, so we can't even say that baking is a requirement. 

Sugar? Well… yeah. I'll give you sugar (or at least a sweetener of some kind, according to your dietary choices). And the cookie should be small enough to supposedly eat all at once. Shareable cookies are their own thing, and are really a variation on the original… 

You know what. I lied. There are absolutely no basic ground rules for making cookies. Do whatever you want, call it a cookie. All it needs to be is delicious, according to someone. 

What does this have to do with writing contests and advice? That should be pretty obvious. 

Cookie = your story
Cookie rules = writing advice

There are absolutely no rules that apply to everyone, everywhere. All you have to do is tell a good story, a story that is enjoyable to someone, somewhere. 

Now, is it possible (and arguably a very good idea!) to go looking for advice? Yes. Especially when you are just starting, or if you want to try something new, or are feeling stuck. Just as a recipe can guide you, so can writing advice. Just as a Pinterest board full of beautiful cookies can jump start your baking engine, so too can a well-written book or even an article about writing. 

There are rules that apply to many stories. Many cookies are baked with butter, flour, and sugar as the main ingredients. They are delicious.

There are rules that I will apply to all of my own stories, because that's how I function. My cookies almost always have chocolate and never have lemon in them. 

There are rules that will apply to one story and not another and neither one is worse off for it. Chocolate chip cookies are not inherently "better" than thin mints, and those are not inherently "better" than white chocolate raspberry cookies. They are different and they require a different recipe. 

So when you are entering writing contests, or soliciting feedback from a critique partner, remember your recipe. Remember that those offering advice might like different cookies than you do, and they might not have any idea what a white chocolate raspberry cookie is even supposed to taste like. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Why is it always about "women and girls"?

A family member told me on Facebook to "stop playing the victim" and "leave the pity party" when I said the media is too critical of women's bodies. He said "Why is it always about women and girls? Boys feel the pressure too."

For the record- it is not "always" women and girls. Men and boys feel pressure too. But I absolutely will not shut up about the pressure women and girls face because it is enormous. 

I blocked him and moved on and honestly thought that was the end of it. 

Turns out it's not. 

Hours later, I'm still fuming. Why is it always about "women and girls" when we talk about body image? Do you really want to know why? I'll tell you why. 

Because I was 11 the first time I lied about my weight. 

Because when I lied about my weight, I could tell by the other girls' reactions that the fake number I had given was still too high. These 11-year-old girls were well aware of what an "acceptable" weight was. 

Because I was twelve when I started skipping meals until I passed out. 

Because I was taught that every calorie had to be earned. "You ate it, now negate it" was bouncing around in my head every time I ate or exercised. 

Because I grew up watching my mother yo-yo diet. Her advice to me was always, "It's better to never gain weight than to try to lose it."

Because I have friends who have genuinely done celebrity "cleanses"- drinking that cayenne pepper and lemon water mix for days at a time. 

Because, up until two years ago, I had a mental list of all the things I hated about my body. It was 51 items long. 

Because I know a woman who says she has "hideous earlobes". She wants to have surgery to change her earlobes. EAR. EFFING. LOBES.

Because a friend posted on Facebook a summary of all the miles she ran one month (hundreds) along with a picture and every single comment on that post  was about how she looked. 

Because when a friend's daughter was called "fat" by her peers, the mother's friends all jumped in to emphatically say "YOU ARE NOT FAT!!!" as if "fat" was the absolute worst thing she could be and THANK GOD she wasn't. 

Because when I posted a picture of my baby bump more than one woman used it as a chance to insult her own looks.  ("I don't even look that good and I'm not pregnant" or similar) 

Because when the pregnancy made me so sick that I didn't gain any weight until my third trimester, people congratulated me

Because a friend scolded me for being too harsh on myself and then immediately turned around and complimented another woman for losing a lot of weight and "getting so skinny all of a sudden!" 

Because I own Spanx and my husband has never considered such a thing. 

Because even before I owned Spanx, I owned control top pantyhose and slimming jeans and yoga pants. 

Because a house guest saw my wedding photo hanging on the wall and said to my husband, "Boy. She pulled a real bait n switch on you, eh? That baby weight sticks around."

Because I know a woman who wants to get a "feather lift" — which is a kind of facelift that doesn't look like you've had a facelift because you can't age but you can't look like you're trying not to age. 

Because Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, a professional athlete at the top of her sport, was criticized for having TOO SMALL of a butt. 

Because female athletes are consistently criticized for having too small of breasts. 

Because Sarah Palin was photographed in booty shorts for a running magazine and you know not one person has ever thought of asking President Obama to pose shirtless. (Yes, the paparazzi photographed him shirtless, which is disgusting in its own way)

Because I know a woman who won't wear sandals, here in Phoenix where is it over 100 degrees for more than 100 days each year, because she says her feet are too ugly. 

Because actresses proudly declare that they wear multiple pairs of Spanx under ther evening gowns. 

Because when Kate Hudson had a baby, she bragged about spending the entire day on a stationary bike (while her baby was...?) so she could get back to her prebaby weight quickly. And I was impressed. 

Because Heidi Klum is expected to walk a runway in her underwear only a few weeks after giving birth and then people have the nerve to complain that the costume she wore blocked her lower abdomen so we couldn't really see what was happening down there. 

Because when I talk to other women about exercise, many of them refuse to do it because they don't want visible muscles. 

Because my 6-year-old, who can't read, saw a tabloid with Kim Kardashian on the cover and said "She has a really big butt" 

Because when you visit plasticsurgery.org, 47 procedures are aimed at women. Five are aimed at men. 

Because 92% of cosmetic surgery procedures are performed on women. 

Because 85% of people with eating disorders are female, and 95% of those report that they started their unhealthy habits before age 20. 

Because more than half of teenaged girls in America use unhealthy methods to keep their weight low (skipping meals, purging, etc). 

Because 40% of 10-year-old girls think they are fat. By the time those girls are fifteen, that number doubles. 

Because Heidi Klum saved her son from drowning and the media commented on her breast that was momentarily exposed. 

Because beauty pageants are still very much a thing. 

Because Victoria's Secret sells padded DD size bras. Because DD sized breasts aren't big enough. 

Because every spring, I see hundreds of articles about getting ready to wear a bathing suit, how to buy a flattering bathing suit, and how to cover up your unflattering bathing suit. Every single one of them is about women in bathing suits.

Because I know more than five women who have not worn a bathing suit in the last decade because they're too embarrassed to do so. 

Because I've stood in my closet and cried because I couldn't find anything to wear. I "needed" something that covered my breasts, minimized my tummy, flattered my hips, slimmed my thighs, emphasized my butt, and somehow made it look like I wasn't trying to do any of those things. 

Because when I was in high school, the boys created a list of features of "the perfect girl". Kristen's feet. Tara's hands. Kelly's hair. Katy's hair color. The list was two columns on the front of a 8.5X11 page and another column and a half on the back. That's approximately 100 items on their list. Breast shape. Breast size. Calves. Teeth. Lips. Nose. Fingernails.  And we were all flattered to be included. 

Because it's a small, personal problem and it's a huge, global problem. 

That's why.

That's why it's always "women and girls" when we talk about body image.