Photo by Moon Reflections Photography


By Leah Vernon

 “The reason why your aunt can’t get a job is because she’s fat,” Mom said matter-of-factly to my younger sister and me. I was 13 years old. And, I remember thinking, That’s not the reason why. It’s just a bad economy.

Although Mom wasn’t as big as my aunt, her weight was up and down. Mostly up. She had suffered from eating disorders for most of her life. To be honest, I never really recalled Mom eating “real food” like the stuff she fed us. She was a closet eater who binged on cakes and doughnuts in the privacy of her bedroom. The sheets would be riddled with crumbs and the aroma of sugary frosting lingered.

Mom showed us old photos of her younger, thinner self in the 70’s with her short shorts and crop top on, rocking a thick, black afro. She said proudly while pointing, “See. My thighs didn’t touch back then. When they touched, I knew that I was eating too much.”  Thin was good in our house. Great even. Fat was unacceptable.

And I was fat.


“See. My thighs didn’t touch back then.”


My thighs touched. My belly hung over my panties. My boobs jumped when I jumped. My double chin greeted you before I was able to. My arms squeezed into jackets that didn’t stretch.


At the age of 17, I decided to turn on my own fat body. To mistreat it like it was my worst enemy. To destroy it until there was nothing left. I was tired of boys only flirting with my thin friends, I was tired of stuffing myself into jeans that only made it partially up my thick thighs, and I was sick and tired of obsessing over how other people perceived my fat ass! Am I eating too fast? Should I get the salad instead? Should I just shut up? Who wants to hear what a fatty has to say?

Scouring the latest teen fashion magazines, I ripped out dozens of pages of unrealistic supermodels, thin white actresses and statuesque bombshells with straight teeth. I went on a rampage and started pasting them on my bedroom wall, the closet door, and around my dresser’s mirror. I wanted to see what I wasn’t, but what I could possibly be. Skinny and beautiful. Wanted and validated. Mom would be proud of me. But only if my thighs didn’t touch.

I went out and bought a pair of stylish jeans that were three sizes too small. When I got home, I placed them on a hanger and hung them on the window over my bed. Motivation. The person who could fit inside those jeans was better in some way. Outgoing. A fuckin’ boss.

I envisioned myself in those jeans every morning when I woke up before school, when I ate a handful of pretzels and drank a low-calorie drink for lunch, when I thought about having a slice of pizza, and right before I went to bed. My inability to focus and the migraines due to malnutrition didn’t matter. Nor had the churning and grinding of my empty stomach. Not even the silent late-night cry sessions due to gaining a half a pound the day prior meant anything.

After five months, I had lost 70 pounds. And how things changed. Everyone was sooooo happy. It was as if I had won some sick lottery. My teachers asked me how I did it. “It’s easy,” I lied. Guys started to notice me. Girls were jealous of me. I was living the life.

At home, when the cheers died and I was all alone, I was still fat. Inside. The scale said one thing, but my mind told me another.


“I was tired of stuffing myself into jeans that only made it partially up my thick thighs, and I was sick and tired of obsessing over how other people perceived my fat ass.”


Losing the weight was brutal. Maintaining it was different. My antics got wilder as I scrambled to stay thin. In the morning, I’d clear my bowels and bladder, strip, and hop on the scale butt naked. If the scale was even a pound heavier, my entire day would be ruined. If the scale was in the negative, the day would be amazing because I was closer to being more skinny. I was on the no-carb diet, so I peed on a stick twice a day (sometimes three if I got crazy) to see if I was in optimal ketosis — fat burning mode. I’d chew on no-sugar sticks of gum all day to curb my appetite. I’d go through packs and packs of gum. Mom bought them in bulk from Costco. She was trying to lose weight, too. I’d strip again, in the evening, and hop on the scale. Then I’d turn on the Style Network and watch models strutting down the runway in expensive clothes and cry.

Nothing ever lasts.

For spring break my freshman year of college, I purchased a cheap flight to my grandma’s house in the South. I finally arrived after a long journey and plopped down in a chair at the kitchen table.

“What’s wrong?” Noticing my frustration, she placed her palm on the small of my back.

I held back tears. I hadn’t eaten that day. “I’m just — I’m so hungry.”

She fried shrimp and baked biscuits. I ate it all. Every morsel. Felt sicker. I wasn’t used to the heaviness of food.

After that, I never stopped eating. I was finally tired of having migraines and crying in my pillow at night because I couldn’t lose any more weight, despite me starving myself and over-exercising. So, I gained the 70 pounds I’d lost, plus some. 

Over the last 10 years, I’ve lost some and gained more. On this body-awareness roller coaster, I’ve hated my body, mistreated it and allowed others to dictate how I felt about it. But I’ve also loved it, caressed it, celebrated it and adorned it. 

I’m at a point where I’m in complete awe of it. The way it breathes for me. Blinks for me. Allows me to type this very essay about it. I’m in love with myself and how it rolls and sways when I move. How it affects others so delightfully.

I’m happier in this fat body than I ever was trying to fit into those jeans that were three sizes too small. 

My thighs touch. My belly hangs over my panties. My boobs jump when I jump. My double chin greets you before I am able to. My arms squeeze into jackets that don’t stretch. 

And that is so very much acceptable.

Leah Vernon is the creator of the body-positive blog, Beauty and the Muse. Leah is a 20-something style blogger, plus model, writer, intersectional feminist and activist from Detroit. She was inspired to start blogging in 2013 because there wasn't enough "diverse" representation of real beauty in the media. Her goals are to continue to spread style and self-love to the underrepresented groups. And to spark a fashion revolution.



By Darlene Pham

My (recent) fiancé, Mark, and I have been together for a little over seven years. We successfully stayed together as high school sweethearts throughout college, and as we began our young professional lives, I found myself wanting to move on to the “next stage:” marriage. 

After two years of casually (maybe not so casually) bringing it up, the perfect time to propose presented itself. We had planned a trip to California and were in a good place in both of our lives to take that next step forward. Mark and I had finished our first years of work and medical school, respectively, and we both had finally achieved a good balance after a year and a half of acclimating to post-graduate life.

As I lamented the missed opportunity of a “perfect” proposal to a friend if Mark didn’t end up proposing, we joked about how I should just propose first. We even came up with extravagant and outrageous proposal ideas, and joked about how surprised Mark would be; but the more I thought about it, the more I said to myself, “Why not?” Why did I have to wait for my boyfriend to propose? Instead of me bugging him all the time to be proactive about it, I should just take the initiative. And so, I seriously started planning my proposal. Little did I know, Mark had also been planning at the same time. 


“Why did I have to wait for my boyfriend to propose?”


A few weeks later, in California’s Napa Valley, Mark and I proposed to each other on the same day. He ended up proposing first, right before I planned on proposing. We were at a winery and just finished the tour. Mark led me to the vineyard and asked me those four words. The proposal was intimate; it was just us two, no secret photographer or people watching. 

Shortly after, I surprised him with my own proposal. It tied into how we began dating. In high school, I had asked him to a school dance using pictures on CD covers that corresponded with songs I had picked for him. I chose a similar idea for my proposal and shared pictures I had taken in places that were important to us with signs that asked the question. We both proposed in our own ways and we both said “yes.” It was (and still is) such a thrill to be able to say we took that next step in our relationship, and I was over the moon.

However, ever since I planned my proposal, I have realized a lot of things about engagements. I’ve become aware that even modern engagements are still perceived in a way that is in an extremely outdated tradition and, frankly, sexist.

Ever since I told my close family and friends about my plan to propose, all I heard, with the exception of a couple of people, was, “Don’t you think he’ll really be mad?,” “No, you should let him do it” or “I would be mad if my girlfriend proposed to me.” Then after the engagement, people would come up to me and say, “I’m so glad he got to do it first” and “Good thing you didn’t ruin his proposal.” I even found out recently that my family members warned Mark that I was planning to propose. To add insult to injury, I found it out at dinner with both of our families through a casual, off-handed joke.


“I’ve become aware that even modern engagements are still perceived in a way that is in an extremely outdated tradition and, frankly, sexist.”


I wanted to be happy and celebrate our new engagement, but I found myself feeling hurt, disappointed, betrayed, angry… and mostly confused. Why would a man be angry that his partner, who happened to be a woman, proposed first? Why would asking Mark if he would marry me upset him or ruin his proposal? And why did so many people assume that he would even be angry? I kept wondering, did people view my decision to propose as so insignificant that it was perceived as nothing more than an annoyance to Mark? Clearly, my proposal wasn’t taken seriously if my own family members were comfortable joking that they were worried his proposal plans would be ruined, so they had to tell him. Someone even told me, “A woman who proposes first is seen as desperate." They even told him about my plan to propose so he could do it first. … What? WHAT? Cue the rage.

So, this is what I have to say: If you are in love, if you are in a committed relationship, IT DOES NOT MATTER who proposes. Furthermore, if someone makes that big decision to ask their partner to marry them, be happy for them! Keep your unwanted comments to yourself, regardless of your own preconceived notions about tradition or marriage. And especially, don’t ruin the surprise for either of them.

Everyone seemingly wanted to protect Mark’s feelings and his pride, but no one even considered about how much effort and thought I put into my proposal. This says to me, “Hey, you’re a woman, so your proposal isn’t as important or legitimate as a man’s.” It showed blatant disregard for my commitment and love for my significant other. 

To all women out there, if you want to ask your partner to marry you, GO FOR IT. Shut out all those people’s comments and don’t be afraid to make the decision to propose. And ladies, I assure you that no decent man would be angry if their partner took the courage to pour their feelings into four little, life-changing words. A proposal is asking the person you love to spend the rest of your lives together. It’s a symbol of trust, commitment and vulnerability — no gender roles or tradition necessary. 

Darlene Pham is a second year medical student living in Indianapolis.



By Mikole Levran

I was recently told by a new acquaintance that I’m a community builder: I pinpoint people’s strengths, then build on them, helping to mold them in a way that will better relationships among others; I create spaces where people can be their true selves and feel accepted by all.

 When they said this to me, I found myself confused. I had just met this person a week prior and already they were telling me something I have never heard before — but something I soon realized I have been doing all my life.

Different scenes from my past played in my head of community building — working at a summer camp, teaching group initiative classes, studying community development in college, living in cooperative housing, engaging with fellow students leaders on college campuses. A strong sense of community had always been integral to my life — I had grown up in the Jewish bubble of West Bloomfield, Michigan, with generally the same people my entire life. It all made sense, yet not once had I been called a “community builder” and definitely not by a stranger. 

On March 4, I had left one of my strongest communities: My home of 25 years. I said my goodbyes, driving down the roads I knew with my eyes closed, eating my favorite meals (more than once) and waving to my favorite tree on my front lawn. I found myself feeling pretty decent about my first big move, knowing I would someday be back to this little suburb of mine. 


“It all made sense, yet not once had I been called a ‘community builder’ and definitely not by a stranger. ”


I arrived to my new city of Baltimore later that day with my mom and car, still feeling good; my new job was going to start in a couple of days, but my housing situation was nonexistent, and the roads threateningly all seemed to be one-ways — It will all work out… eventually, I told myself.

I started my job with an open mind, ready to learn. As an outdoor and farm educator for an outdoor education campus and retreat center, I was excited to explore new woods, and a farm with greenhouses and a pasture of goats and chickens. I would teach the customary classes, add some personal flare to existing programs and create some new curricula.

The first event I facilitated happened in mid March: A coworker and I taught a pickling course to a corporate group. At first our guests had a hard time believing in the simplicity of fermentation, but as we explained the process, their faces lit up with excitement. Soon they were adding spices and garlic cloves, cutting their cucumbers into all sorts of shapes and even making extra jars for their family members, despite some personal vendettas against pickles. By the end of the night people walked away with a new skill, exclaiming how easy it was! For those few hours, we had created a community around pickles, and people were overjoyed.

That was my first time pickling cucumbers and the first of many classes I would teach at my new job. Not a bad start. I was astonished at how easy the process of pickling cabbage and cucumbers was and immediately began thinking about how I might experiment with other products.

After teaching that class, I was feeling good about my new job and my first big move. I felt welcomed by my new team members as we hung out with some adorable goats in the beautiful rolling hills of northern Maryland.

But still, some uneasiness lingered. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first, but soon, it hit me.


“For those few hours, we had created a community around pickles, and people were overjoyed.”


I was finally experiencing what many of my friends had been through when they first moved away from home post-college. But my nerves were not about the job — my work routine was actually the most comforting. For someone who “builds community,” it was the social aspect of moving that eventually brought me to tears. It was thinking about whether I could still fulfill that defining piece of me in a strange place among faces I didn’t recognize.

Did I even want to create community here? The question sounded a bit ridiculous because my usual answer is, “Of course!,” but for some reason, this time I was stumbling for those words.

You know when the saying “you only live once” started to become a thing, and everyone was always saying, “Just say YES?” Well, I hated that. Why do I have to say “yes” to something when I really don’t want to? Do I have to say “yes” to building community everywhere I go simply because I am seen as a community builder?

I think it’s interesting that in order to feel welcomed to a new place we are encouraged to go out and explore and be social right away. What if that is the exact opposite of how a person works? What would happen if this time I started to build my community a couple months after arriving in a new place? How many times do I have to say “yes” to attending events and meeting new people before I can say “no?”

As my feelings fermented, I realized moving is a big deal, and for those who say it’s not, they probably haven’t experienced a community as deeply rooted as mine. 

I’m sure I’ll create another community in Baltimore — it’s my nature. But like those pickles, I just need time.

Mikole Levran works as an outdoor and farm educator just outside Baltimore at Pearlstone Center, where she loves exploring the woods and getting nibbled by baby goats.



By Emily Hammerman

I am 24 years old. I have a well-paying job in advertising, a four-year relationship with a man I adore and an ongoing role in a hip-hop dance company in the magical city of Chicago. Life is going very well.

Or at least, that’s what all my friends tell me as I mope and complain and sip a $6 latte at some bougie, urban coffee shop.

“You’re doing so incredibly well for your age,” they tell me. “Don’t you know how many people are without work and still paying off student loans?”

I don’t know. Because it’s never felt productive to compare myself to anyone but the version of Emily I want to be.

And when I compare my routine life of sitting at a desk for eight hours a day only to come home to discuss the pressing issue of what rendition of meat and vegetables we’re going to stir around in a pan for dinner to that mega-productive superhero of a human being I seek to be, I realize, sadly, I turned out pretty ordinary after all.

All these hopes and dreams of living an extraordinary life have come crashing down in flames. Dreams of putting my film degree to use, spending hours on end running around a film set and scribbling down storylines on stained whiteboards. What happened to volunteering in another country? What happened to dating around? What about my plan to publish a book and then help adapt the movie it inspires? What happened to my life?


“I realize, sadly, I turned out pretty ordinary after all.”


Again, I am 24 years old. I know I live a pretty privileged life. But I waste way too much time thinking like a sour 75-year-old with major life regrets, talking like it’s too late to change careers or date different people or move across the world. I know it’s not. But it’s less of the imaginary clock that’s keeping me from regrouping, and more about the fact that I do truly love all aspects of my life.

My job is in a creative field. I get to write taglines for well-known brands and brainstorm exciting concepts for huge retailers. I’m learning skills that are 100 percent transferrable to different industries, I remind myself, and networking with professionals who would be more than willing to connect me with their contacts.

I’m also crazy about my boyfriend. We met years ago working at a summer camp, and what started as a fun fling quickly evolved into a healthy, comfortable, loving relationship — a relationship I see lasting a lifetime, complete with vows and children and all that grown-up jazz.

Lastly, I believe Chicago is the most exciting city to spend your 20’s in. A Midwestern girl at heart, this place has all the opportunity and liveliness of New York City with the warmth of home sweet home.

So what’s the issue?


“I waste way too much time thinking like a sour 75-year-old with major life regrets, talking like it’s too late to change careers or date different people or move across the world. ”


I’ve come to learn about myself that no matter where I am, what I’m doing or who I’m doing it with, I will always yearn for more. I am completely overwhelmed by the idea of choice and of all the different outcomes certain choices may bring. Why? Because I know that each potential path I venture down might lead me to discover yet another layer of Emily — a deeper layer to study and appreciate and help guide me.

I could continue to live in Chicago with my boyfriend, working in advertising until I croak, and call it a wonderful life. And it really would be. But I could also move to Rome, fall in love with some hotcake of an Italian and paint for a living. Or I could pursue a career in production by moving to Los Angeles and crush hard on the barista who prepares my latte each morning. Or Australia. Or Maine. Or Israel. To write. To teach. To act. With that guy. Or this one. Or no one.

There are so many alternate middles and ends to the story of my life. And with each passing day that I grow older, I can’t help but worry that by choosing to live one, I am denying myself the experience of another. How can I become Emily the superhero when I’m only capable of one life?

Honestly, I can’t. I am by no means a superhero. No matter how hard I wish it, I will never be able to rewind and take on a new role, a new job, a new life. All I can do is move forward with eagerness and enthusiasm. And that is so completely OK.

Because these feelings of longing are what make me who I am. I use them to fuel my creativity and generate new perceptions. They are fodder for the writer in me and the passion in my relationships. They give me weight and energy and insight and motivation. I love these feelings. Because they’ve made me love myself.

Emily Hammerman continues to look forward to all the adventures the rest of her life may hold. She works as a copywriter at an ad agency in Chicago.



Editors’ note: To respect the privacy of both parties written about here, we are not using Stephanie’s last name.


By Stephanie R.

As a member of my high school’s swim team, every day each winter I would join my teammates at the swimming pool at 6 a.m. Shivering, we would wait on our blocks until it was time to dive into the cold water.

Hitting the water on that first dive was always a shock. You’re going so fast that it feels like the freezing water slams into your entire body all at once. For a moment, you forget everything. It’s so cold, your mind shuts down. 

One of those winters, the school had to drain the pool and refill it. We had a few days off of swim practice while the massive amount of fresh water heated up. When the water was just warm enough for the coach to legally hold practice, we were back in the pool at 6 a.m. I’ll never forget that day’s dive. Somehow, it was even colder than all the rest — the sensation of shock and cold I usually felt was multiplied a hundredfold. 

I’ve been thinking about that shock recently. It’s the only way to describe what it felt like to break up with my boyfriend 10 years later.

☐ ☐ ☐

April 24 2015: Our first date. P takes me on a picnic in a local park. He brings a baguette, fruit, lunch meat and a bottle of wine. It’s magical. 

April 27 2015: Our second date. He takes me to an Indian restaurant. He brings me flowers in my favorite colors and a bottle of wine. 

May 10, 2015: We officially begin our relationship. I am elated. 

August 25, 2015: My 27th birthday. P misses a flight home because he “slept through the alarm.” I spend all morning crying. He arrives to my birthday party four hours late. Later I find out he was too drunk to get to the airport on time.

February 20, 2016: I get an amazing job offer in Cleveland that I tell P I’m taking. He says he’s not sure it’s worth staying in the relationship if we’re living 2.5 hours apart (we were both living in Pennsylvania at the time) or if he moves in with me and has to make a long commute to work. I tell him I’m not talking to him until he makes up his mind whether this is a relationship worth continuing. We reach a compromise: He decides to live with me in Cleveland on weekends and work from home on Mondays, and live in Pittsburgh Tuesday through Friday. Still, I’m left feeling hurt and confused.


“I’ve been thinking about that shock recently. It’s the only way to describe what it felt like to break up with my boyfriend 10 years later.”


March 10, 2016: We fly home together from a trip we took with my family to Iceland. I fly with P through Boston instead of Toronto with the rest of my family, due to complications from a DUI he got in the U.S. in 2014. He starts insulting my family while the flight takes off. I am baffled and outraged. I ignore him, then later have a miserable time in the five-star hotel he booked for our layover.

March 11, 2016: I am brokenhearted and thinking of breaking up with him. I was already having some doubts before the trip, but his lack of effort to get to know my family on the trip and the post-trip insults are the final straw. Mom tells me to give him another chance. I agree; it must be my fault. I can do a better job of making this relationship work.

June 1, 2016: P pays to fly us back first class from our one-year anniversary trip to Europe. It’s my first time flying in first class, and I am in awe of everything, despite his unimpressed attitude. We have a great conversation about what our wedding might be like if we got married before he orders too many rum and cokes and starts acting childish and immature. He thinks he is hilarious when he’s drunk, but no one is laughing. I spend the flight crestfallen, worrying about him and about us. 

June 2, 2016: He doesn’t remember the wedding conversation we had on yesterday’s flight. I think this is when I first realize how serious of a problem he has with alcohol. He promises never to get that drunk again. I believe him.

July 5, 2016: P gets really drunk at his friend’s wedding in Texas. Back at the hotel that night, he claims I’ve been screaming at him about his drinking and making demands. He’s the only one screaming. Five minutes after our conversation ends, he falls into a drunken sleep. I’m up all night.

July 6, 2016: He tells me he’ll stop drinking for a month. I am so relieved.

August 25, 2016: My 28th birthday. He asks me to pour him a glass of wine. I want to show him I trust him to make responsible decisions about alcohol, so I do. I take a nap. When I wake up, he has drunk the entire bottle and then throws up in my sink.

August 26, 2016: P promises he’ll stop drinking for good. I believe him.

October 31, 2016: We have a Halloween party at my house. P barely interacts with our guests. I steal a few sips of his drink, which tastes like rum. I spend the rest of the party worrying he’s been lying to me for months about being sober.

November 1, 2016: I confront him about the night before. He tells me he wasn’t drinking then and hasn’t been drinking since he promised to quit. I believe him.

November 24, 2016: We spend Thanksgiving in Chicago with P’s family and their friends. Thirty minutes after we arrive, I notice he can’t sit up straight or form coherent sentences. I’m terrified he’s having a stroke or another serious medical issue. I find out he’s just really drunk. I spend the rest of Thanksgiving sobbing to my parents on the phone in between yelling at him.

November 25, 2016: We head home from Chicago early. He promises me he won’t drink again. I tell him I want to help him, but if he lies to me again, it’s over.

December 9, 2016: My first semester teaching at my new job ends, and I drive to P’s house, excited to spend winter break with him, but somehow feeling anxious and depressed. I can’t figure out why. 


“Thirty minutes after we arrive, I notice he can’t sit up straight or form coherent sentences. I’m terrified he’s having a stroke or another serious medical issue. I find out he’s just really drunk.”


December 14, 2016: I’m still feeling miserable. He is staying late at work, and despite being at his house, we spend hardly any time together. We do trivia night with his friends. He’s acting stupid drunk, and his friend even calls him on it. P denies it to both of us, but I still spend the whole night worrying. I want to drive us home, but P says it hurts him that I don’t trust him, so I let him drive. It’s a miracle we didn’t crash.

December 15, 2016: The evidence is mounting against him, and I can’t lie to myself any longer. I catch him again — he’s drunk. I call my parents, sobbing, and drive home the next day. I tell P it’s over.

☐ ☐ ☐

“I want to have the kind of relationship that you and P have,” a close friend of my then-boyfriend told me after he started a new relationship. 

I smiled. I loved hearing this feedback. 

At that time, I thought my life was just about perfect: I had just gotten a new job near my hometown in the Cleveland suburbs, just bought a house and the year before, a new car. Any day now, I was sure P would propose. The only thing that had been missing from my “perfect” life before then was a perfect relationship. But I knew I had it with P — and other people knew it too. 

Turns out, people have a profound capacity for self-delusion, and in this I am no different from the rest.

We were picture perfect — picture perfect because I denied my unhappiness. I ignored his mistakes. I believed his lies. It’s hard for others to understand how I didn’t realize he was drinking and lying to me sooner in our relationship, but it makes complete sense to me. I wanted to believe that I had a loving, caring, intelligent boyfriend. I wanted to believe that P cared more about me than he did about drinking. I wanted to believe that we didn’t have any problems. So I ignored the voice inside of me whispering that something was wrong. I ignored that voice until it became a scream.

Breaking up with P caused a total, mind-numbing shock to my system. Finally, I could no longer lie to myself about my relationship — and about my life. I could no longer make excuses for him or believe his lies. But because I had lied to myself for so long, it was hard to come to grips with reality. 

It’s scary to think how miserable I was yet how much I insisted I wasn’t. I let him shape my reality. I depended on his scraps of positivity and love, and ignored everything else. I forgot what true happiness was.

For a long time after the breakup, I felt my perfect life had been ruined. Sure, I still had my new job, house and car, but I didn’t have my relationship. It took me many months to realize that my life wasn’t and could never have been perfect with P in it. 

I wish I could tell you the secret to helping your loved one stop drinking (or using), but unfortunately there is none. As much as you want to help them, they need to make the journey on their own. You can support them through it, but most importantly, you need to take care of yourself.

Know that it may feel like things are hopeless, but it will get better. You are not alone.

I turned to Al-Anon, a national organization with support groups all over the country designed to help those dealing with a loved one’s drinking, whether or not the alcoholic or addict is still drinking or is still in your life. The writings of Melody Beattie, especially her book “Codependent No More,” also helped me recover. Her work focuses on self-acceptance and self-compassion for everyone, but especially on those dealing with a loved one suffering from substance abuse.

I may not have the perfect relationship — a relationship that’s the envy of my friends — but I know now that my being truly happy is worth so much more.

Stephanie R. is a 28-year-old professor of psychology. She lives in the suburbs of Cleveland with her dog. She recently started a blog to discuss these and related issues,



From the Editors:


Hi Cropped readers,

Happy May/June! And happy summer to those in the northern hemisphere.

We have some great stories in this issue that will make you think about identity and our expectations for others and for ourselves. I think if there’s a common thread in all of these great stories, it’s the tension between what we want and what others demand from us. Leah’s mom, for example, valued having a slim figure and expected Leah to have the same. Stephanie expected her boyfriend to confront his drinking problems head-on, but she couldn’t force him to do that; only he could recover on his own. Darlene’s family members thought it was a bad idea for her to propose to her boyfriend — so much so that they openly tried to prevent it from happening. And Emily and Mikole were both grappling with expectations for themselves: How long should it take to build community? When is it time to make a change?

These are difficult questions. I (Maria) have been struggling with this recently as well. I’m a little low on money at the moment while I prepare to move from one apartment to another, but I’m still having trouble saying “no” to plans that involve spending money. I’m also in a new relationship, which is exciting, but also involves some adjustment from my old schedule and way of life. I am constantly trying to figure out how to spend my time during the week. What do I want to do, and what are others just expecting of me? 

I’m happy it’s summer here. It’s always been my favorite season because I associate it with a slower pace of life and some much-needed down time. I wish the same relaxation and balance for you, no matter where you’re located.

Maria (and Marina)

P.S. Our newsletter is REALLY finally launching in June. Sorry we got your hopes up prematurely. 




I love the podcast “Death, Sex and Money” (I think a lot of Cropped readers do too; if you haven’t listened yet, check it out!), and recently there have been a few of my favorite episodes ever. The episode “Newlywed and Paralyzed” is about a couple, Rachel and Hiroki, who deal with a tragedy and huge life change shortly after getting married. “Two Wheelchairs and a Baby” is about another couple dealing with physical limitations while building a family. And if celebrity interviews are more your thing, you might like this one with actress Gabourey Sidibe.

One of my college acquaintances, Hanna Bartels, recently wrote an essay called “Water Baby” about having a miscarriage, and it is beautiful. I have thought about it many times since I read it. It will probably both enlighten and upset you. It illuminates a struggle many keep secret, and I highly recommend reading it.


I just watched both seasons one and two of “Master of None” and thoroughly enjoyed them. There are definitely some corny moments, but it's a visually beautiful show about a plethora of relatable topics (remember when Karen mentioned it in her essay way back in Issue 3?), and I love how so many of the episodes feel like their own little films. But what I really like best are the soundtracks. Anyone else? From Townes Van Zandt to Digable Planets to the Italian Mina, they run the gamut. Listen here and here.

"When You Love Your Friend But Hate Her Social-Media Presence." I read this headline and immediately let out an internal YES! I've certainly been there. Haven't we all? This article gives some insights into what it means and how to cope.