Tag Archives: Tinder Buttons

Meaningful Meaningless Sex

peralta-sexSometimes I get shit from people for having what they consider “meaningless sex,” as if it’s pure debauchery and you get nothing lasting from it. “It’s just so meaningless. Hedonistic,” said self-righteous friend #1. You can probably hear my exaggerated eyes rolling wherever you are in the world. And that’s simply not true. Just because something isn’t romantic doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value. Wow, so many negatives there.
Here’s the deal: meaning doesn’t have to be mutually derived. As long as it is consensual and entered into in the spirit that everyone’s there to have a safe and fun time, then hell yeah. I’m a firm believer in Meaningful Meaningless Sex.

silenceI’ve had liberating-ask-for-what-I-want sex. The kind where you walk in the room, and you know what you want, and you look someone in the eye, and you say I want it like this. The “I want to see all your tattoos, and let’s drink some tequila” kind of sex.

I’ve had let’s lie around and cuddle, and then we’ll do some crazy stuff, and then we’ll meditate sex. I left feeling centered, reminded that sex is such a human act, and found myself affirmed in my own humanity in the process.

transformerI’ve had I just need someone to make me feel pretty sex. Several rounds of just for the hell of it sex, because sometimes the meaning is simply physical satisfaction and a damn good time. I’ve had do it for the story sex. I’ve had let’s see if I like this sex.

And you know how much of it I regret? None. Not a night of BDSM, not a lazy afternoon in the sheets, not a well-that-didn’t-go-as-expected.

Because I learned from it. I got better at asking what I want. Hell, I learned what I want. I learned what lines I’ll draw from the start. I figured what I don’t like and got more comfortable saying stop. I’ve learned to catch myself when I’m looking for affirmation from others and instead seek it through myself.

Those things mean a lot to me. And maybe that’s not how you find meaning, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find mine that way.

Is it great to have emotional, eye-contact-y, feelingsy sex with someone? Hell yeah! That’s awesome. But that awesomeness doesn’t invalidate the positive experiences I can have through sex witsexy-trainhout all the feelingsy romance.

We get to make our own meaning.

And you know what? That is fucking awesome. Literally.

P.S. Got a question for Tinder Buttons? Ask away. My love life, your love life, whatever. The comments section is open, and I’m an open book. Well, blog.

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“I don’t think you think deep thoughts.”

watch-yourself“I don’t think you think deep thoughts.”

I remember I was chopping something. I remember freezing as the words washed over me.

Why weren’t the next words out of my mouth “get the fuck out of my house”? Or a simple and elegant “no”?

I looked down, went back to chopping. Clean slice after clean slice. There’s a comfort in moving, especially when your mind has whirled to a stop.

I offered no stunning retort, no rebuke, no wrath. Nothing that was merited. How embarrassing. I am embarrassed at myself in retrospect.

I, I who love words so much, was speechless. Who says that to someone? Someone with whom they’re supposedly friends?

mansplainingI chopped and chopped said that I was currently thinking about the various waves of feminism and wondering about intersectional feminism’s relationship to the third wave. He was confused by the word “intersectional.” I explained. I listened to some bullshit about feminism and inequality which revolved around inequality being bad and very little being said of substance. I listened to him talk, because he wanted to talk, not because he had anything to say worth hearing in that moment. A bit of the underinformed man-splaining to which all women are routinely subjected as a price for existing.

Chop. Chop. Chop.

I remember my heart falling. This was never going to be a real friendship. I was both adored and belittled. At the root of both lies comparison, comparisons that say you are both greater and lesser than other people. It is having expectations thrust upon you, expectations for which you never asked.

gina-dont-keep-talkingIt is tiring being a woman. You talk too much, too little, think too much, too little. There is no just right. “Just right” is the great lie told in children’s stories. Goldilocks is a fairy tale not because of anthropomorphic bears, but because of the idea that a woman could choose something that would be just right. Women can’t get something just right. I’m surprised a man didn’t appear in the cottage and go “NO! You’re sitting in that chair improperly. How can you judge its merits with your feminine ass?”

I police my words as if they might run away. Sentences could turn against me.

I stopped writing. What if the words were wrong? What if the thoughts were wrong? Was Tinder Buttons just a sea of shallow thoughts into which I pull other people?

im-backWell fuck that. My thoughts of varying depths and I are back. And you’re cordially invited to wade in with me.

My Thighs are Applauding (Shamu, Chub Rub, and our Secret Bodily Shames)

“When I said cute dress, I didn’t think you’d wear leggings underneath,” he said, resting his hand on my knee as we sat having drinks by the fire at a rooftop bar. Given I didn’t know quite how fancy the date was, I had asked if I should go with a cute dress or jeans. He’d suggested the dress, and realizing that if we walked anywhere my thighs would be rubbed raw, I stuck a pair of leggings on underneath. I feigned some excuse about how it was cold, but in actuality, I was trying not to blush that they were necessary to keep my curvy self rash-free.

I wasn’t bothered by his personal preference that I didn’t have them on (while I do take suggestions on occasion, no one gets to say what I wear but me), but the fact that I too would have preferred otherwise and couldn’t figure out how to make that happen.

it burnsThis chafing issue has plagued me for much of my life. I vividly remember getting splashed at the whale show at Sea World. My parents shepherded one drenched and exhausted little girl to the car. Yet as I walked back to the entrance, my legs burned. They felt like they were on fire, my soaked jean shorts suddenly grating my chubby thighs. I found myself hobbling, legs splayed, walking with a weird figure 8 motion as I tried to keep my legs apart, tugging my new black and rainbow t-shirt with a panda on it as far down as possible in a vain attempt to stop the pain.

That was the beginning.

take off pansIn the fifteen years since then, I’ve nearly stopped wearing dresses, skirts, and shorts, and on the rare occasion I don one of these non-pants articles, I typically only do so with a protective layer of leggings underneath.

I hated the rubbing feeling, the red rash on my inner thighs, spoiling my walks places, making even a short errand uncomfortable. And the sound! That slight smack-pull-smack-pull as my thighs rubbed against each other made me cringe. I was convinced everyone could hear my chatty thighs which inevitably screamed “LISTEN TO HER FAT THIGHS. SHE’S SO FAT THEY’RE CLAPPING THAT SHE CAN EVEN WALK.”

These days, the sound doesn’t bother me (they’re applauding my awesomeness!), but the burning that accompanies the sound does. It’s hard to have a night out dancing with your friends or strolling around town when you’re walking like you’re sheltering a herd of puppies beneath your thighs.

And then, low and behold, I saw that episode of The Office in which Andy contends with nipple chafing as he runs. WHAT. Chafing happened to people! Or at least, to Andy “Nard Dog” Bernard. I felt less alone, at least in that “oh, well, if it can happen to someone on tv, maybe I’m not being individually punished by the chub gods with my freaky thighs” kind of way.

I heard a rumor deodorant would help, but it was a shortlived solution, and there’s only so many times a day a girl can sneak off to apply antiperspirant to her thighs without beginning to loathe the smell of cucumber Dove.

oh my godA few years, many thigh-hole riddled pairs of leggings, and way too many sticks of deodorant later, I happened upon an article on chub rub. And not just any article-an article with actual preventative measures and garments! It was a revelation unto me!

And by “a few years later,” I mean last week.

So I’ve ordered a few different products! I used one today, wearing that same dress I’d worn with leggings on my date. It wasn’t the best choice given the nearly freezing weather when I got in the car, but I spent all day thrilled that I could walk around in a dress comfortably AND see my knees at the same time. Hello knees! You are beautiful, you dimply lumpy bumpy bendy things!

So what’s the moral of this? It’s simple. I felt so alone about something so normal. Something that was in the realm of my control, and I didn’t even know it. Why the hell don’t we talk about these things? Why did it take me 25 years and American sitcoms and the internet to realize my thighs weren’t outliers but were perfectly a-ok, and simply victims of friction? We all have bodies. We don’t have to be alone in the struggles bodies inevitably bring.

I’m challenging myself to talk more openly with people about the challenges of embodiment. Oily hair, sweaty thighs, that weird chin hair that sneaks up on you every few months…brace yourselves my friends. I want to know your tips and secrets!  I want to share your mucus-y, rashy, painful woes!

After all, as the newly half-score old great piece of cinema that is Highschool Musical reminds us, “we’re all in this together.”

Sanity (the burden gets lighter)

No one looks good covered in their own blood. The imagined streams of a positive and O negative poured freely in my mind’s eye. Arteries burst under the pressure of knife blades, of gardening tools, of particularly sharp sticks. And the blood was on my hands.

I spent a year completely convinced my destiny was to be a serial killer. I was simply delaying the inevitable. The thought of stabbing people burst unprovoked into my mind in the middle of television programs, walking down the street, in the shower. I didn’t want to stab anyone. I don’t want to harm anyone. Ever. Well, maybe not any more than one might with a barbed witticism. That is about the fullest extent of acceptable violence in my book. Yet bloody images of knives, gardening implements, and even protractors popped into my mind’s eye, again and again and again.

I pictured the bodies of loved ones on the floor, smeared in blood. I wondered if different blood types smelled different. I wondered how high blood would shoot from an artery as opposed to a vein. I wondered how long I’d be able to avoid knowing that. My mind twisted in loops, unable to think about other things from fear that my thoughts were in fact my destiny.

I started hitting myself in the face, totally unbidden. My hands would move before my mind could even recognize what was happening. I would be sitting quietly, anxiously dwelling over some email I hadn’t sent, some small failure, my current state of loserdom, and POW right in the kisser. Sometimes it was a punch. Sometimes it was a slap. I started to worry I’d give myself a black eye. My mind felt disconnected from my body. I felt trapped in a body that I couldn’t control.

I began to speak to myself, sentences that had no relation to what I had previously been thinking. They startled me. While completely innocuous in content, that I found myself blurting out sentences about cats or saying “I don’t like that” to myself randomly was almost as disconcerting as my violent actions towards myself. I’ve always loved talking, especially public speaking. That I had lost control of what I had to say scared me. My mind and my mouth were at bay. How long until I lost control entirely?

I was scared. I felt like there was some barrier in my mind that was just barely keeping some terrifying, violent me at bay. I couldn’t even keep myself from violence against myself; how long would it be before I started hurting others?

i kept pretendingI hid. Unemployed, terrified, I spent the days hiding from most of the world, unloading the dishwasher in my parents’ house, baking bread while blasting Kanye and Jhene Aiko, playing video games with my best friend, and building endless Lego towers with my little sister. These things distracted me enough to keep me going, but I still couldn’t get out from under the shadow of fear. In some ways it’s been good for me. I hadn’t gotten to spend this long with my family in a long time, and they needed someone to run carpool and fill the crockpot with magical mac and cheese. While I’ve utterly destroyed my savings, it’s been a wonderful opportunity to spend time with my siblings, who are the lights of my life, even when I’m feeling not so shiny myself.

I managed to find a number of other welcome brief respites during this period. I went to the largest pageant in the world for female impersonators (often called “drag queens”) where I performed as a backup dancer whilst dressed as a Disney princess. I learned how to glue rhinestones to things, which I adored because the thousands of tiny sparkly things kept my mind and hands so preoccupied. It is hard to kill someone with a rhinestone. I took trips to see friends during which I found a welcome distraction from my own mind, only to find myself lying in the dark of guest rooms or curled up on living room couches just feeling glad that somehow my love for these people wasn’t letting me give into these violent thoughts and shove whatever nearest sharp thing that was available into their fleshy bodies.

i was scared
I wanted it to just be a minor blip. Something that would go away. But that wasn’t it.

Nothing, no matter how fascinating or cheerful could mitigate or allay the thought that I was losing my mind. I could only stand to be around anyone for so long. One of the manifestations of my OCD is an extreme perfectionism. I don’t like anyone to perceive my weakness or see me as somehow flawed. All of this I counted as decidedly flawed. For all my pride, I’d rather appear the indulgent bum mooching off her parents than the out of her mind potential murderer. I cried constantly. In the shower as I tried to wash off the stain of bloody thoughts, my hair tangled into tree roots before my eyes, trapping me in tulgey woods of my own design as I sat on the cold tile floor, wracked with sobs.

I slept as much as possible, my favorite refuge from reality. I read the same book about a charming Jewish family in the early 20th century over and over and over again. I couldn’t manage an interest in any other book. The library, which had always been my sanctuary, became a hell, an endless sea of books I wished I could get my brain to read. I listened to the same albums and watched the same tv shows over and over. I sat very still and stared at walls. I felt incapable of productivity. Any attempt I made to write, to job hunt, to do anything, ended with me in a full blown panic attack, feeling like a waking nightmare. I was unable to move, unable to calm down, unable to escape. There was no waking up. There was only waiting. My heart pounded as I struggled to breathe. A heaviness overcame my body refusing to let me move. I felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. Everywhere I turned I felt I ran into a wall, and every offer of help anyone made made me all the more frustrated for my inability to successfully accomplish what they wanted of me, be it a job application or a hangout session or a phone call.

I wasn’t ok, and I didn’t know how to tell people exactly how not ok I was. Or rather, I didn’t want to tell anyone how not okay I was. I was scared. I was embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to think I was crazy or dangerous, even as I considered myself crazy and dangerous. I didn’t want to scare anyone away any more than I already had by being a ball of mopey tears and general incompetence.

mental illnessThanks to a handy article online, I finally started to realize that most people aren’t anxious about everything all the time. It felt like a revelation. I’ve spent my entire life overwhelmed by things like kindergarten picnics with teddy bears (would my teddy bear get lost? What if I spilled juice on my teddy’s dress? What if my teddy got mad? What happens when teddies get angry? What if another kid took my teddy bear?) and missed questions on middle school social studies tests (early humans wove clothing out of plant fibers, -2 points). Failed social moments, rules broken, and people disappointed overwhelm and haunt me all too frequently. Most people don’t head to the grocery store, make a wrong turn, and become so overwhelmed by their own failure that they just drive home. Most people don’t beat their heads against walls when they do something naughty and get punished, which at one point was two-year-old me’s modus opperandi.

Slowly I started talking to people in my life about anxiety and depression. Some were helpful. Others were not. When someone tells you they think they’re dealing with a psychological issue, that isn’t license to spout the wonders yoga has done for your anxiety and maybe if they just tried that and then kept busy they’d be fine. It doesn’t mean that sharing about that one time you felt sad and you journaled it out so maybe they should do that is relevant or helpful. That’s like telling someone with two broken arms to play the violin. It doesn’t work. In spite of these sweet people’s good intentions, it was infuriating, and more than that, saddening to have people list things I should do and yet somehow could not. All it did was make me feel more like a failure that I couldn’t just kick this on my own somehow, especially since people who were close to me seemed convinced I should be able to do so. I’d always been a pull yourself up by the bootstraps and just get it done kind of gal, looking down on people who couldn’t seem to just pick themselves up and move on when life got them down. And now here I was, stuck, no bootstraps in sight. It was humbling and mortifying all at once.

aloneBut so many people rose to the occasion. I didn’t need to be told it was going to be okay; my brain couldn’t begin to process the idea of being ok, let alone accept it. To the many people who offered countless reassurances, who listened to me bemoan how I couldn’t stop crying or how I couldn’t seem to manage to get my life together, who just let me sit and be, who let me cancel plans because the thought of leaving the house made me too stressed to move, thank you. So often all I needed was someone to sit with me. To feel less alone in body, because in my mind I remained utterly alone, a crazed island unto myself.

My mother finally insisted I seek professional help. At that point, I was so overcome by social anxiety that I couldn’t even dial the phone myself. I would stare on it for hours on end, knowing help was at the other end, but afraid to admit the things I would have to in order to get help. She pressed the buttons and shoved the phone into my hands. And then there was the wait. Finally, four months after requesting an appointment, I got in to see a psychiatrist.

When she started asking me if I ever have thoughts about violence that don’t feel like me, I hesitantly said yes. When she said “that’s OCD,” I stared at her in shock. Then she asked the most important question: “do you want to hurt anyone?” I immediately replied “of course not!” What she said next changed everything. She said “then you won’t. That’s all there is to it.”

It felt like Christmas. No, better than Christmas. It was Valentine’s Day and every birthday party and confetti and the smell of really good frosting and the feel of holding a puppy and the view of the ocean from a sand dune in Maine and your favorite song coming on the radio and a sweater fresh out of the dryer all rolled into one.  I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been so happy in my entire life. My psychiatrist explained that my brain fixates on something I don’t want to happen ever. It’s like a hiccup in my mind. It just goes a little out of control, contrary to my desires, contrary to my actual self. These are called “ego dystonic thoughts.” I’m not dangerous. I’m not crazy. I’m just obsessive compulsive. It turns out people with what’s called harm OCD frequently have these thoughts because in fact we have such a strong moral compass that the idea of violating it plagues us. I’m not evil. I’m just extra super moral.

I sat in the car after that first appointment and wept. I was okay. I am okay. And from there on out, there was the possibility of getting better. I am not a failure. I am not lacking in some way. My brain is just wired differently, and I’m slowly but surely learning to navigate that and strengthen more positive, helpful neural pathways, and to dismiss the thoughts that don’t align with who I am.

What does align with who I am is that I can’t live my life without sharing this any longer. People need to know this can happen. I seemed really happy. I seemed highly functional. Part of my diagnosis involves my extreme perfectionism. I don’t like anyone knowing something is wrong with me. My OCD kept me from getting help for my OCD for far too long as I kept up a facade. It was easier to appear a between jobs mooch than sick out of my mind. We don’t know what lies under the surface of people’s exteriors. But we can offer opportunities for people to open up and make vulnerability feel ok.

Be with people. Be willing to hear. Be willing to speak. Forge real connections with people who will hold your hand even when you don’t understand what’s going on, even when you’re terrified, and for whom you would gladly do the same. These people will ground you, they will hold you, they will wait with you until you can begin to rescue yourself. We can’t save each other. We can’t fix each other. It robs us of our own agency and of the power that so often helps remedy the sense of helplessness mental illness causes.

constant fixingAnd honestly, I’ll never be “fixed.” “Fixed” suggests an end point. There’s not one. This is a part of my life, the same way I have a freckle between my fingers and a retainer for my crooked teeth. It’s a continuous stream of good days and bad days, of hard moments and easy ones, though at the moment, I’m fortunate that I’ve got techniques and medication to help keep the bad days at bay. I’m so lucky. I’m so happy.

And through all this, we can be together. We can listen for the little signals. We can avoid judgment passed off as advice and instead relish the power of presence, creating safe spaces for honesty. We can end the idea of “crazy” and switch to “different,” to “atypical,” and to “struggling.” We can stop alienating people who already find their own minds alienating them.

We can make it safe not only to be our genuine selves but to learn to love who we are, mental illness and treatments and symptoms and all. My OCD is a part of me. There’s a lot about it that’s hard, but it’s made me who I am. I love it for that. As I piece out what is illness driven, what is my genuine self, and what is a combination thereof, I increasingly find myself grateful for this experience.

If you know anyone this might help please feel free to pass this on. The more people read articles about mental illness, the more there’s a chance someone will realize that dissonance in their mind is atypical, but not at all abnormal. There’s more of a chance people will find hope and help.

If you’re just looking for someone to talk to about mental illness, if you have any questions at all, PLEASE do not hesitate to contact me. After so much time hiding all of this and resisting the urge to share, feeling embarrassed by what I’ve for too long considered to be a year and a half of failure, I am happy to speak to anyone about any of this.

I want to live in a world where mental health is something we can talk about openly, where it isn’t looked down upon or viewed as a failure or shortcoming. I firmly believe the only way to make that world happen is to act as if it’s already here. To that end, I promised myself that I would be open about my diagnosis, though it’s admittedly taken me a while to find the courage and the words. I’d rather look like a self-involved loon for this and hope that it helps one person than keep this to myself any longer. Or, in the words of J.D.:

I'm a dreamer

Be a dreamer. Use your words in pursuit of a better world. In words there is power. There is freedom. There is hope. Be unafraid to share your fear. The burden gets lighter. I promise.

Love and light,

AGP

Inconceivable! (Gratitude, the In Between Place, the Future of Tinder Buttons, and a Whole Lot of Princess Bride References)

inconceivableWhen I started Tinder Buttons, I would have told you that the idea of it having a meaningful impact was totally inconceivable.

Apparently that word does not mean what I think it means. Apparently that my words can help people is within the realm of possibility. To those of you who have written me and told me that you found comfort, that this articulated things that you couldn’t find words for, that you feel inspired or challenged or the better in some small way for reading: thank you. I am eternally grateful for your confidence in me, and for your taking the time to share your own words and your own stories.you keep using that word

Beyond my loyal cohort of readers, a number of gentlemen I’ve met on Tinder follow Tinder Buttons. It’s been interesting having some of my most vulnerable and ridiculous moments exposed for all to see, but especially to those to whom I typically try to show my best self. But what I’m realizing is that perhaps my best self is the vulnerable me. If someone can look at me, broken and bruised, utterly bizarre, brutally earnest me and still want to hold my hand while we sip coffee or teach me to meditate or wander an art gallery, then I’ve done pretty well for myself. I’ve done something right. (Don’t worry, I won’t let it go to my head.)

Several of the Tinder fellows have absolutely floored, reaching out with words of support, concern, and compassion in light of my last post. I had one generous fellow describe me as a warrior tonight and tell me he would gladly be my knight. Between that, a number of generous comments, and few absolutely heart-touching conversations with people in light of The In Between Place, I realized this:

it's not that badPeople want to fight my demons with me. Not for me, but with me. Being together, even if it’s only in spirit, even if most of our communion comes through the simple vehicle of words on a screen, makes it all not that bad. I don’t have to contend with the R.O.U.S.s alone. The Cliffs of Despair may hover ahead, but I have hands to help pull me up, and people to do the same for as well. Every fight we engage in means we’re one step closer to fulfilling our dreams, to our six-fingered-man. We’ll survive together, and we’ll reach our as-happy-as-we-can-make-it ever afters together.

Even in those darkest hours, when the bed seems most empty, when the shower walls seem to close in around us, when the tears or the anger have no end in sight, when the shrieking eels draw nigh, we are not alone. And the more we look into each other’s eyes and remind each other that we are and will gladly continue to be each other’s champions, the more stories like this will find outlets, and the more people will feel comfortable putting into words the moments they find most difficult.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for your outpouring of love. For your stories. For your time.

Is this a kissing bookIt turns out this isn’t just a kissing story. It’s not a story of dating, or of romance, though those are certainly parts of the plot. It’s a story of so much more.

You’ve shown me that there’s a place in this great wide internet for Tinder Buttons, and it’s got some important work to do. Who would’ve thought a silly little blog about app based dating could take on such a role? Not I. But some of you did. So here’s to you!

Let's do this.
Let’s do this.

To those of you who’ve asked for more and urged me to keep writing, you’re on. To the Fire Swamp we go, my friends, and onwards like never before.

As you wish.

When a photo in a leopard print dress changes everything (Tinder meets self-esteem meets Mister Rogers)

He had asked for one body shot and two face shots, “nothing R rated” in his terms. I sent my favorite photo of me goofing off in a leopard print dress that hugs all my curves. I found myself surprised at how nervous I became. This man was ripped, handsome, with a collection of tattoos that made me all but drool and the kind of shoulders that make you want to climb a man like a tree. Would he hate the photo? Would he hate my body? Would all of our conversation be for naught once he saw me?

The response was immediate and unhesitating: “YOU’RE PERFECT. 🙂 We’re so on for tonight!”

He quickly followed up with a “Not to sound shallow or anything. I had just been worried you were too skinny for me.”

I was immediately overcome with shock. WHAT. There were men out there to whom my body wasn’t a concession but rather something to be wholly delighted in? Who were drawn to my body just as I was to theirs? I knew I loved my body, but out there there are other people who do, too! I get to be perfect to someone other than myself!

It was one of the most liberating text message exchanges I’ve ever had, but it called into question a lot of things I believed about myself and my self-esteem. I love my body. I adore the swell of my hips and the curve of my waist, my absolute mane of hair that makes me crazy but that falls like a water fall. I love the freckle on my left shoulder that peeks out of tops and my super high arches in my feet that let me dance like a maniac.  I like me. But I don’t ever expect other people to. I constantly anticipate a battle to justify my self-acceptance.

And if that’s the case, am I really accepting myself? Am I truly loving myself?

Fred Rogers, who is essentially the patron saint of my family to the point that my mother periodically still weeps that he lives among us no longer, tells us that love is an active noun like struggle.

From The World According to Mister Rogers by the ever incredible Fred Rogers

I firmly believe that this doesn’t just apply to loving others but to ourselves and our bodies as well. It’s just as much a struggle to love ourselves the way we are in a moment. Self-esteem isn’t a state of perfect caring. Yes, we can want more for ourselves. We can want stronger, faster bodies while still loving who we are in this moment. And there are moments when we don’t feel so great, when no outfit looks right, when our hair won’t quite stay, when we stand before the mirror questioning ourselves. Those are the moments when I end up with outfits strewn about my room, my third eyeliner attempt still crooked, with no shoe sufficiently sexy and comfortable to merit being worn out for a night of dancing, and I just want to sob. And that moment MATTERS. It is every bit as perfect and normal and beautiful as the days when I walk out the door feeling absolutely fierce and fabulous, if not more so, because it’s a moment in which I have a chance not to love myself in spite of my seeming inadequacies but rather to love myself through them.

We have to let ourselves struggle in these moments. That’s when growth happens. That’s when real love happens. When we know we’re not perfect, but we fight through the self-doubt and choose to love ourselves as we are in that moment, that’s when we’re making progress with our self-esteem. The struggle is where the love happens.

Self-esteem is a constant and continual process, not a pinnacle of achievement. It’s a journey not a prize to be won. It’s okay to have setbacks. It’s okay to keep learning. It’s okay to be surprised at that moment that someone says we’re perfect, so long as we take that surprise and we learn from it.

There’s no such thing as a perfect body. There are only bodies which are perfect to us as individuals, who each have distinctive preferences. We have to leave room for others to accept us and adore us, including our embodiment. And we have to leave room for ourselves to figure these things out and be okay with those moments that surprise and challenge us. We owe ourselves the patience to work through the hard moments, through the revelations, through the days when nothing looks right.

What surprises me is that this revelation came via Tinder. This wouldn’t have happened without me contending with an app that in many senses reduces people to a single image on which you can swipe left or right and make snap judgments based on that photo of whether or not you deem someone worthy to communicate with you. I’m finding myself constantly challenged by this. My family keeps telling me that Tinder can’t be empowering.

I’m going to go ahead and beg to differ on this one.

I’m going to let Tinder keep pushing my buttons, and I’m going to keep pushing back.