There’s A Difference Between A Catcall And A Compliment

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When women walk down the street, no matter what they’re wearing, they are always ready to be catcalled. You might think I’m being dramatic, but I promise you I’m not.

Every day as I walk down the street, I stare straight ahead. It doesn’t matter if it’s a brand new place or my block at home — I always know it’s possible that a guy will decide to comment on my body. I regularly walk around with my middle finger at the ready and “go to hell” on the tip of my tongue. I try hard to stand up for myself and yell back, but I also have to think first and foremost about my safety.

One of the biggest arguments that men (and sometimes women) like to make about catcalling is that women should take it as a compliment. They say, “it means they think you’re hot,” or they try to explain that “they don’t mean it to be intimidating, they just want you to know that you look good.”

But here’s the thing: I’ve been complimented and I’ve been catcalled and they are NOT the same thing.

Let me explain.

Walking from the subway to my last office, I would walk by a lot of men who were hanging out on the street. A lot of them were construction workers, delivery-people, and drivers. I’m not trying to generalize blue collar workers because I have definitely been catcalled by white collar workers as well, but because they were the ones standing on the street more often, they were the ones who harassed me most.

I became so used to the stares of these men that I was always prepared to be catcalled. I heard everything from the normal “hey sexy” and kissy noises, to “mmm show me a smile baby” and “damn, girl.” I didn’t get any particularly creepy catcalls there, but keep in mind that I heard most of these at 9:00 in the morning.

So you might be thinking, “So what, they were just telling you that you were sexy.” But that’s not the case. Those men were taking advantage of the street space they hold to make me feel uncomfortable. At this point in time, all men know that catcalling makes women feel uncomfortable, if not unsafe. So men catcall women entirely to get a rise out of them.

And here’s the difference between that and a compliment: One day on my way to work, I stopped to cross the street. While I was waiting for the light to change at the crosswalk, a man approached me and said, “Excuse me, I just wanted to let you know that your hair looks really nice in the sun right now.”

That is a compliment. And you know how I responded? I didn’t flip him off, I didn’t yell “f*ck you” at him, and I didn’t tell him to go to hell. Instead, I said, “Oh, thank you,” and I smiled at him. I didn’t walk away feeling degraded and off-put; I walked to work slightly happier.

So, men, if you want to see a smile, don’t shout “show me a smile,” say something that might actually make someone smile. And don’t scream “hey sexy, nice hair,” mention in a non-threatening way that my hair looks nice in the sun.

I’m sick of people trying to convince me that catcalls and compliments are the same thing. I’ve experienced both, and I’m here to tell them that they’re wrong.

Epic Things

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As I said in my life update, I recently started a new job as a Junior Writer at Epic Things. I’ve been totally loving it — great coworkers, young work environment, wonderful office space — and I wanted to share some of my articles with you, the people who have supported me since the very beginning.

A lot of the articles I write are stupid stories about trending celebrity news, exploding poop, or sexy women. Some of them, though, have been really great to write. Those are the ones I’m going to share with you. You’re obviously more than welcome to read the rest of the things I’ve written, I just won’t be posting the links to them here.

  1. Netflix “She Rules” Video Is Exactly What We’ve Been Waiting For

  2. Watch This ‘Shark Dancer’ Risk Her Life To Help Injured Sharks

  3. When Celebrities Read ‘Mean Tweets’ Of Themselves On ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live,’ America Rejoices

  4. Michelle Obama Goes On ‘The Late Show’ And Proves She’s Just Like Us

  5. Beach Created By Bombs Is So Gorgeous That Your Mind Will Explode

  6. The 15 Best Celebrity Reactions To The First Presidential Debate

  7. Katy Perry Uses Her Body To Get People To Vote

  8. Joe Biden Will Cameo On Tonight’s Episode Of ‘Law & Order: SVU’

Life Update: Fall 2016

For all the people who follow my blog in order to catch up on my life (and not just for my snarky social commentary), I want to update you on my life.

A lot of big things have happened since I came back from Lauren’s wedding in Hawaii, which I think is the last time I did one of these “life update” things. I know I said I would write more about the wedding, but I didn’t, because life got in the way. Although, I did write a tiny bit about my experience as her Maid of Honor, which you can read here.

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On August 18th, my boyfriend Matt and I adopted a dog. We’d been thinking about it for a while, but we found a listing for an adorable one-year-old dog online, and later that day she was ours. She is a Tibetan Terrier mix and is partially hypo-allergenic (which Matt needed). Her previous owners received her as a gift (even though they didn’t want a dog), so they kept her for a while, and then surrendered her at the shelter. They had named her Bela, which we changed to Bella (short for Bellatrix).

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When we adopted her, she had kennel cough, which is the dog equivalent of the common cold. What that meant, though, was that she was in isolation in the shelter. We brought her home that night, bought food and a bed, and started taking care of her. Within two weeks, she’d been to the groomer, multiple pet stores, and two different vets. I have legitimately spent more money on this dog’s medical bills than my own.

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She’s been quite a handful, but we really love having her. To read more about how she changed my relationship with Matt in the first month of having her, you can read the article I wrote for Unwritten.

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So Bella is big change number one. As some of you probably know, last summer I was working as a marketing assistant in the higher education department of Oxford University Press. After about six months there, I knew it really wasn’t the right fit for me. I started actively applying for jobs in January. I went on a few interviews, but nothing panned out. I grew increasingly more and more frustrated and desperate.

After applying to more than 60 jobs, I was finally offered a position as a junior writer at a website called Epic Things. I accepted the job, and started on September 14th. Epic Things is a small website under the parent company, Little Things. Little Things is primarily a website with uplifting videos, recipes, parenting tips, DIY projects, and pet things.

Epic Things is kind of like Little Things’ teen brother. We write a lot about poop, explosions, car crashes, celebs, and other “epic” stories. I’ve written a lot so far (almost 100 articles) and I’m really loving it. You can check out everything I’ve written here (please don’t judge).

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A few days into starting my position at Epic Things, I got an email from another job I had applied to. A week or so later I had a freelance blogger position for a website called The Hoth. It’s a little hard to explain what I do, but basically I’m a ghost writer for blogs. So far I’ve written about guns (yikes), Pokemon Go, trucking invoice factoring companies, and cerebral palsy in relation to medical malpractice.

So on top of all the new things going on in my life, I’m also trying to eat healthier, work out more, and be more on top of housework (but these are things I’m always trying to do better at). Since my last post, I also turned 23 and have been trying to find time to volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign (I signed up months ago and still haven’t gotten a chance to go).

Anyways, I think that’s everything. I’ll be writing more soon and trying to post some of my Epic Things articles (that I’m actually proud of) and Unwritten articles (if I ever find time to write them). Stay tuned for more! Love you all.

Dear Coach Craig: A Letter From A Grateful Gymnast

Dear Coach Craig,

Since I’ve been watching the Rio Olympics religiously this summer, I’ve been thinking a lot about my gymnastics career. It was a career that gymnasts would call unsuccessful, but that outsiders would call victorious. Sure, I won the Oregon state competition, but I was a 15-year-old level 7. From a gymnastics perspective, I wasn’t a great gymnast. I usually didn’t even really feel like a good gymnast. All I know is that without you, Craig Bayer, I wouldn’t have been a gymnast at all.

So I have something I need to say to you, something that I’ve been thinking for years, but didn’t know how to articulate: Thank you. Thank you for being an incredible coach, an intelligent educator, and a fantastic mentor. You coached me when I was “uncoachable.” While other coaches wrote me off as too old, too scared, and too boring, you saw potential in me.

You don’t know this, but I wrote one of my college essays about you. The prompt was “tell us about someone who has influenced you in a significant way.” Here is what I wrote:

“You aren’t trying! Stop thinking about it, just do it!” My coach yelled from the floor. A tear threatened to spill out of my eye as I bit my lip and swung down to the mat. I landed with a cloud of fine chalk rising from the ground around my feet. I turned to face him, to prove to him that I was strong, that I could do this, but as I met his eyes a disobedient drop ran down my cheek. “What did he mean, ‘stop thinking’?” I thought angrily; this was not a concept I understood. To me, thinking is everything; I am organized and analytical — not thinking is never an option. Gymnastics is not an intellectual sport. That isn’t to say that people involved in it are not smart, but the sport itself is not about strategy or reasoning; it is based on power, precision, fearlessness, strength, trust, and more than anything, the ability to suspend thinking — to just do it.

Throughout the years, I’ve had my fair share of coaches. Whether it was moving across the country or moving between levels, new coaches always came with new territory. As with all people, sometimes I got along with them, sometimes I didn’t. Most of my coaches didn’t generally value my need to study a skill before doing it or to scrutinize every step. Stuck in my own head, I tried without succeeding to do what came effortlessly to the other girls. While some of my coaches gave up on me, or assumed I “wasn’t trying”, there is one standout in my mind: Craig. While Craig may not have produced any Olympians, and though he was never given the head coach position by the gym owner, Craig was the best teacher. He understood that different people learn in different ways, and that success is measured by the individual and what they expect of themselves. More than anything, Craig believed in everyone.

Every day for a year, my friend would get up on the bar, confident and ready. As soon as she was ready to go, with Craig spotting her, she would freeze, overcome with fear; he would slowly let her to the ground, trying to convince her she could do it. 365 days and countless attempts later, she finally did the skill. Craig had the ability to push people to be their best without making them feel inferior, and everyone knew they could trust him. Though Craig brought me to win the state championship, I knew it wouldn’t have mattered if I had won, or gotten very last place — he would have been proud no matter what. When Craig left in the summer of 2009, to go on to bigger and better things, I didn’t know whether I wanted to keep doing gymnastics or not. But Craig had always taught me to keep going, so that’s what I did. Whenever other coaches yelled at me, or told me I wasn’t good enough, I knew that it didn’t matter — all that mattered was my ability to push through and not to lose hope. Most of all, Craig taught me that a good teacher is able to accept that people learn differently, and not to give up on them in spite of that.

A few days ago, on the night of the women’s gymnastics qualifying round in Rio, I posted a photo collage on Instagram of me at the 2009 Oregon State competition. Within minutes the photo had comments from a bunch of former teammates; they read: “OMG I miss coach Craig!!”; “Oh Craig!!”; “I was going to say I miss Craig. But looks like we’ve got that comment covered”; and “Craig…… What a guy.” From those responses, I know that I wasn’t the only one you had a profound impact on; you changed us all.

I don’t know where you are now, nor how to contact you, but I’m hoping that through the power of the internet, this will somehow make it to you.

To the coach who believed in everyone, called little girls “shrimpy,” and made bird calls at every meet, thank you. You are the reason I loved gymnastics and the reason I cherish those gym memories today.

— A Grateful Gymnast

 

Learning To Cope: 33 Ways We Find Comfort

Check out my newest article for Under The Labels!

Under The Labels

By: Ileana Paules-Bronet

When dealing with mental health problems, people find comfort in a variety of things. From eating specific foods to cuddling an old teddy bear to getting a hug from a certain person, we all get through our mental health issues in different ways. Below, people who struggle with their own mental health issues share what they find comfort in when they are struggling with their mental health.

  1. Hugging a pillow, stuffed animal, or other soft object.
  2. Yoga
  3. Holding ice in my hand
  4. I live near a river, it’s nothing particularly scenic but it’s usually pretty quiet. When I feel my depression take over and I feel numb, I lace up my running shoes and jog along the river when it’s dark. It makes me feel my breathing, feel my legs sting, feel the cold air on my face. It gets all the frustration out and I can…

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Anxiety Is Broader Than Just “Social Anxiety”

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Think about the word anxiety – what do you picture? Someone afraid to talk to others, too shy to speak up in public? When many people hear “anxiety,” they translate that to mean “social anxiety.” While social anxiety is a very prevalent form of anxiety, anxiety itself is is much broader. As people have begun attempting to destigmatize mental health issues, it has become clear to me that many individuals mistake general anxiety for social anxiety. As someone who suffers from anxiety that is actually eased by social interaction, I wanted to explore the definitions of different types of anxiety to amplify awareness.

To read the rest of the article, click here!

20 Life Lessons You Only Learn In College

I’ve been missing college recently, which is what prompted me to submit this article to Unwritten.

Now that I’ve settled into post-grad life (I mean, kind of…), I came up with a list of things I actually learned in college during my time there. This list isn’t entirely complete, and probably never will be, but college was one hell of a learning experience. The lessons I learned in those four years will carry on with my for the rest of my life, and here are 20 of them…

Not Drunk Enough: 25 Thoughts You’ve Definitely Had At The Bar

One more repost from Unwritten!

It’s Friday and you and your girls are planning on having a casual night out: happy hour drinks, dinner, and maybe a quick stop in a bar before going home to spend time with your bae, Netflix. But before you know it, you’re four drinks in and your friend is dragging you (willingly, let’s be honest) to some club with a name like “Infinity” or “Secrets” or “Chandelier.”

An Open Letter To My Little Brother Before He Enters College

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If I told my brother the same things I was told before going into college, people would probably think I was giving him strange advice.

The first pre-college “gift” I received was a rape whistle (it was from my little brother). While it was a practical gift, I guess, it was also weird – it essentially told me that the first thing I should know about college was that it was a dangerous place for me to be. For the record, I never once used that rape whistle (or the variety of other anti-rape products I received during my years in college). I didn’t even take it out of the package. I went to a small liberal arts college and I never really felt unsafe. While I’m not by any means claiming that my college was perfectly safe (as the many sexual assault victims at my school could tell you), I myself never feared for my safety.

Thinking about it now, I may have never even opened the rape whistle, but I also didn’t get rid of it. Why? Because it seemed like something I could at some point need. It’s still sitting in my living room in my apartment in New York City, untouched, in one of the drawers of my coffee table. But if I had given my brother a rape whistle last Christmas, as I considered doing, it would probably also remain in the package – but it would probably also sit in his desk at home, or the back of some closet – he wouldn’t bring it with him to college and always know exactly where it was, despite not using it. He would probably forget about it. And that would be fine.

When my best friend, a guy, started college, his dad sent him a box of condoms. Again, a practical gift, but the message my friend received at the start of his college career was that college would be the time to have sex. We essentially received the exact opposite messages – I learned that I should be vigilant about unwanted sexual advances and he learned that society expected him to have sex. More basically put, men should seek sex, while women should fear it.

So I want to change the message. My brother, almost eighteen years old and a high school senior, is getting ready to embark on the “best four years of his life” (I would definitely say that description of college is up for debate). But as a feminist, a college graduate, and most importantly his sister, I have some advice of my own for my little bro.

Hey Buddy,

I can’t wait for you to go to college (hopefully on the east coast *cough cough* so we can be closer together). You’re going to have so much fun, learn so much, make so many friends, and become even more yourself. I truly can’t wait to see the person you become throughout your college years. But before you go, I want to give you some advice:

  1. Be yourself. When I got to college, I wanted to reinvent myself – I thought I could make myself into someone who was completely different than the person I was in high school (aka cooler, friends with more “popular” people, invited to the best parties, etc.) – that didn’t happen, and I’m so glad it didn’t. Just be you; don’t worry too much about what everyone else thinks.
  2. Be someone people can count on. Stick up for what you believe in, stand up for your friends, and stay strong.
  3. All that peer pressure stuff. Don’t give in to peer pressure and don’t pressure anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. Whether it’s drinking, drugs, or anything sexual, don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable with (and don’t make anyone else feel uncomfortable).
  4. Listen to your friends. If your friends tell you something is wrong, listen to them. Don’t discount them. Especially your female friends – if they talk to you about being catcalled, or someone making them uncomfortable, or anyone taking advantage of them – listen. Believe them. Be there for them.
  5. Don’t rape. Not that I believe you ever would, but for the number of times I was told how to not get raped, I think it’s fair that I tell you once how not to rape: If someone says no (or does not say yes) to your sexual advances, stop.
  6. Don’t let your friends rape or be raped. If you see a friend taking advantage of someone else or being taken advantage of by someone else, step in. Don’t be a bystander. Do something – it’s always better to have a friend be mad at you for a day for “cock-blocking” than to have someone be traumatized for life by a sexual assault.
  7. Be the feminist I know you are. Don’t shy away from the term “feminist” because of the negative stigma that is still associated with it. Think about all the strong women you know – me, Mom, your teachers, your camp coworkers – and remember that we are only this strong because of other women and men who aren’t afraid to call themselves feminists.

Love you always,

Your big sister

Insta Art

My creative endeavors recently have taken a turn; I’ve been spending a lot of time drawing and doodling (and posting it all on Instagram). If you like what you see, check out my Instagram! @ipaulesbronet

I’ve drawn everything from bridal gowns to pumpkin pie, and I’m always looking for new ideas. Let me know if you have any brilliant ideas (or want me to make something just for you) and I’d be happy to doodle it.

What It’s Like To Find Your People

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In the summer of 2012, I fell blissfully in love. It was the first time I had ever been so overwhelmingly happy that I had to share it with the world. I felt like sunlight radiated from my pores. It was the only thing I could talk about, the only thing I could think about. 

It was my first (and only) year as a counselor at SEP. I wasn’t in love with an individual, I was in love with a feeling. I was in love with the group of people who gave me that feeling. And like any first love, I didn’t realize what I had until it was almost over. 

Standing on a porch that was drowning in early morning sunlight, I felt something new in the pit of my stomach (and not just the pancakes my friend had made). Like I was a character in a magical realism novel, I began to feel a fire within my body – in the space where my ribs meet, a few inches above my belly button, I felt a warmth that spread through my body to my fingertips and beyond. It was a feeling so fulfilling that I have searched for it everyday since. It has become my goal to find happiness that infects my body the way it did that August morning. 

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Six weeks earlier, I filled a suitcase with summer clothes, towels and toiletries, and other essentials. Just minutes from my house, I was ready to go on the adventure of a lifetime. I thought I knew what to expect – accepting people, a fun time, a learning experience – I had no idea I would find my people.

Up to that point, I thought I already found my people – friends who knew me and understood me, teammates who cheered me on, and family who always had my back. But you can’t know what it’s like to find your people until you’ve truly found them. So in addition to gaining the things I expected to at camp that summer, I finally found my people. And they were nothing like what I expected; they ranged from a frat bro with an extensive shoe collection to a heavily-pierced camp newbie to a pair of sisters who had lived all over the world. They were people who initially intimidated me, people who were interesting and cool and intensely intelligent. But the way I just described those few people doesn’t do them justice; they were so much more than one description. Because the frat bro? He is also an incredible artist, a fiercely loyal friend, and a ridiculously funny storyteller with a talent for funny faces. And the heavily-pierced newbie? She is one of the most adaptable, supportive people I have ever met, who gave us all sentimental necklaces after only a week of knowing us. And the sisters? They are reliable and dependable and always willing to stand up for a friend. They are amazingly independent and perfectly unique and they taught me that love for a sibling can be the strongest kind. These people I just described are only 4 of the 13 people I fell in love with that summer. Some of the others became irreplaceable pillars of confidence in my life. One gave me the strength to push for what is right, no matter the consequences. Another taught me to love my body in all of its uniqueness. One showed me that redheads always have the most fun. And they all taught me to believe in myself, to fight for myself, and to love myself. 

This may all seem overly-emotional and corny, it may feel repetitive, or it may seem out of the blue. But there is method to my madness. Two nights ago, I learned that this summer, SEP will not take place. And while this shouldn’t (and logistically doesn’t) affect me, my heart broke. I thought about all the campers, counselors, and other staff members who, with one email, just lost the chance to find their people. SEP fosters friendships, relationships, and people-finding.

But if I know the children of SEP, the passionate, talented, and caring young adults I’ve come to know over the years, this won’t be the end. Camp will come back, stronger than ever, with people who have a renewed zest for connection. The SEP legacy is forever and I have no doubt that this is not the end. And to all my SEP babies, my junior counselors who are now leaders and my campers who are college-bound superheroes: don’t worry, you’ll find your people. You already have.

Never forget, “someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers, and me.”

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