All posts filed under: Body

Play ball, find what ails you, get some peace and quiet

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Ovarian Rhapsody: Choosing Your Cancer Hero

“This chair pattern is driving me nuts,” says my husband. We are sitting in NYU’s waiting room, about to meet the first oncologist on my list. “And isn’t it funny how they have to put those dots across the glass so people don’t run into the pane?” My husband, the architect, is always analyzing how a room could be better or why certain design choices are made. I’m looking around too, making different kinds of notes. A hushed room, friendly staff Bundled up cancer patients — some with caps, some with wigs — reading “courtesy of NYU” People magazine A bit depressing, but of course it is Red couches accented by intertwining geometric shapes made to look cheery but not too fun You never know, some of this random detail might help me select my doctor and my choice of cancer care. No, really. After scores of friend-of-a-friend suggestions, scouring RateMds ratings, New York magazine best doctor lists and insurance coverage checks, I narrowed my list of possible oncologists down to two: one at NYU Langone …

How The Walking Dead Kind of Saved My Life

It’s sort of a funny story now, the way it all went down, when I look back on it alive and sober. Because clearly I wasn’t going to be for much longer, and while that may sound melodramatic, I promise you, it wasn’t. By about September of 2011, my life had basically turned into a long string of drunken, unhappy, hazy days. I woke up, drank, wrote, slept, ate, drank, passed out, wrote some more, drank, drank, maybe saw a movie or went somewhere in between, drank, went to bed, and did it all over again the next day. Occasionally, I managed to show up for a freelance gig at an office for a week or two. With the exception of a morning “eye-opener” at home, I didn’t drink during my working hours, based solely on principle (and fear of getting caught). But the minute 5pm hit, I was dying for a drink, so I’d hit a bar ASAP before heading home to continue. Where was my husband through all this? He was there, dealing …

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The Self-Medicated Woman

I’ve learned to love my Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). I’ve also learned to accept and even love the legal drugs I use to manage it: caffeine, nicotine and alcohol. As many of you reading these words today amid your 500 other to-dos know, ADHD is blessing and a curse. My morning preamble to sitting down to this article was marked by a frenzied dance through a series of tasks I felt compelled to undertake no matter how inane, including chopping beeswax to make “cutting board butter” (thanks a lot, internet), muscling the sludge off of the side of a bottle of liquid soap (it builds up!), a step in the long process of making homemade apple jack (America’s first legal drug), repairing a broken window (it’s cold out there) and, oh yeah, getting my son out the door and to the bus on time. All before the sun had barely crested the treetops. At times, I feel ridiculous, but after a half-century of flitting from task to task, I’ve come to trust the process …

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The Waiting Room: Details of a Diagnosis

“Fakakta…shit.” “Fakakta…shit.” In a packed radiologist’s waiting room in midtown NYC, a 70-something woman sits next to me, scribbling in a stack of forms and muttering loudly in Yiddish-English. “Fakakta…shit.” The woman says this roughly every 10 minutes.  I want to whisper to her, “My feelings exactly.” I’m here to get a precautionary mammogram to rule out any additional cancer. Four days prior, I learned that I had — well, what looked like — ovarian cancer and, because my mother and grandmother had breast cancer, my gynecologist thought we should rule out B.C.  Hopefully, I wasn’t a cancer factory. This brown-carpeted clinic smells like sanitizer and sadness. I fumble with my keys in my jacket pocket. I’m still zipped up in my puffy orange coat, ready to get in and get out because this isn’t me. This isn’t me. Fakakta…shit. *** Allow me to back up and start from the beginning of this C craze. Back in September of 2015, I’d bled for five days. Hey, we ladies bleed; not weird, right? Well it was weird …

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8 Things You Know About Medication…That Are Totally Wrong

Drugs are everywhere. They’re taken in the bathroom stall next to us when we’ve gone out to a nightclub. They’re spread across the news and social media when one of our beloved artists meets an untimely demise due to an overdose. And they’re lining our cabinets and dressers when we reach for our birth control, aspirin and host of other pills. We’ve become desensitized to drugs and medications, whether experimenting during college or taking Vicodin after an intense surgery. And, of course, as with anything that is commonly used there comes a whole heap of misconceptions and myths that pervade the landscape without anyone ever making sense of them. So where does one go to find the truth in these ideas?  To dispel some common misconceptions and fallacies, I consulted three-time author Dr. Susan C. Vaughan, who is currently a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst on the faculty at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and author Dr. Frank Lipman, founder and director of Eleven-Eleven Wellness Center. Misconception: #1 Manufactured drugs have dangerous side effects, but …

Nice to Meet You, I Have Cancer

It was the first time I’d been out to a restaurant since having a cyst removed, and only a few days after learning I had ovarian cancer. > Insert record scratch sound here < Yeah, I know, I know. That’s some big news right there. But hold on, let me finish my lede… I’d spent the last week and a half recovering from surgery and, up until that November night, had been pretty much down for the count. A Percocet-induced haze of Broad City binge-watching and crushing fatigue. So by the time my friend Shelly came to Brooklyn for a visit, I was ready to shake up my bed-couch-bed routine and feel somewhat normal again. What I wasn’t quite ready for was having to share my big news with the outside world. We decided to go to a red booth and burger joint right around the corner from our apartment — a place where my husband and I were semi-regulars and would often sit at the bar and order dinner. I’d gotten to know Tommy the bartender a bit, a …

The Devil You Know: Why I Chose to Remove Both Breasts

I had a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery in December of 2009. I’m not a survivor, I did not have cancer. I am genetically inclined to get it, so I guess if anything, I am a pre-survivor — this was a proactive surgery. I never looked at my decision as brave. I just played the shitty card in the hand that I was dealt. A few years before my surgery, my mom was diagnosed with stage-3 breast cancer. Her mother passed away at age 44 of ovarian cancer. It was pretty obvious I was a vulnerable branch on the cancer family tree. The first decision I had to make was whether I should have the genetic testing done. For me, it was a no brainer; I believe the devil that you know is better than the devil that you don’t. [pullquote]No longer did I want to catch and beat cancer —     I wanted to deny it the chance to play at all.[/pullquote] I tested positive for the BRCA1 gene. In a nutshell, this …

That Time I Was Radioactive

Right now I am radioactive and waiting for a PET scan. I’ve been anxious about this test since I’ve known I would be taking it. I found a thickening in my left breast on Labor Day. It wasn’t a lump, but it was clearly out of place. I didn’t really think it was anything, but I googled it and discovered that breast cancer doesn’t always present as a lump. My regularly scheduled mammogram was only six weeks away, but I am not great with uncertainly. Six weeks of waiting would be intolerable. I called the radiologist as soon as I knew the office would be open, and when I described what I had found, she squeezed me in first thing in the morning two days later. I arrived to an almost empty office. As other patients came and went over the next four hours, I shuttled back and forth between repeated mammograms, ultrasounds and the dreaded waiting room. I cooperated as they put my breasts and arms into increasingly uncomfortable positions. Finally, the doctor asked …

How My Husband’s Cancer Changed Me — For the Better

At the start of 2014, I celebrated my half-century birthday. My New England home was packed to the rafters with friends, both old and new, family, music and food. I was enveloped in love and felt buoyantly optimistic about the upcoming year(s). My husband of 25-plus years, Ken, was starting a new senior role at a growing startup. I had launched a fledgling consulting business with a bunch of amazing clients. I had committed — finally— to getting on the biking bandwagon and going on a 62-mile race with my biking obsessed hubby. It was promising to be quite a year. Less than a month later, we learned that the funky little squamous cell carcinoma that my husband had removed from his lip two years earlier, to little fanfare, had metastasized. Stage IV cancer. The cells had spread into at least four lymph nodes. As a world-class problem-solver and fixer, I shifted into high gear. I researched and ranked doctors and surgical centers as my hubby, alternatively numb and angry, struggled to make decisions about …

1 in 8: Why You Should Still Get That Mammogram

One of the most fascinating/confounding phenomena I’ve observed over the last decade is the absolute explosion of health information on the web and the profound impact it can have, both positive and negative, on people’s behavior, attitudes and healthcare choices. While there’s definitely a lot of good information out there, there’s also a lot of bunk. Sifting through the clutter, picking out the important nuggets and turning them into choices about our health has become a huge challenge, much more so in a time when medical and scientific innovation is being communicated directly to consumers through so many different channels. In this monthly column, I’ll be cutting through the health-web BS and translating internet-speak about bodies, fitness and nutrition into real talk that matters for your health. Join me as I try to make sense of it all — I’ll do my best to tell it to you straight. Everywhere you look on the internet these days, someone is telling women what to do with their boobs. A lot of time and energy seems to …

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margit

Over the last three years, my body has slowly closed up shop. Four months between periods, then six, then almost a full year. So, I guess we’re done here. It’s a weird, bittersweet feeling — no more bloats, stains and mishaps. I’ve started to feel as if I’ve floated into another galaxy, where most of my friends are still on Planet Menses. That one time a year when it does arrive, it’s cause for a minor celebration. I secretly tell myself, maybe, just maybe at 47, I could still have a kid. Even though I know it’s a distant, nearly improbable concept. I do have a few friends who’ve had planned kids at 45 or even second and third “oops” kids at 45-plus — one, in fact, who grabbed me by the proverbial collar the other day, glared at me and said, “what have I done?!?” [pullquote]I’d never once fantasized about the perfect family, being a mom, spending time packing up carrot sticks in plastic baggies. That was, until I met my wonderful husband, who would, unquestionably, be …

Touch My Body — I’ll Pay For It

I’m single. Sometimes it seems like I’ve always been single. I’ve had boyfriends, sure, but the default is single. This time around I’ve been single for about five continuous years. I live alone with a small, affection-withholding dog. I’m very busy, and I’m very social, and yet stretches of time go by during which I do not feel the touch of another human. But that’s not entirely true. Because there are those who touch me. Folks beyond my doctor and my (incredibly handsome, erudite, gentle and highly recommended) dentist. For instance: the woman who performs my ritual mani-pedi. Like so many other ladies in this town, I make a monthly — sometimes weekly! — pilgrimage to the nail salon where an attendant awaits with a steaming, bubbling basin. Like the Greco Roman baths of yore, I attempt to relax with my fellow plebeians, other exhausted citizens stealing minutes from our days to try and absorb the healing properties of water and “ballet slippers.” We soak our extremities, they sand, buff and arm us with a …

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When You Can’t Look Away: Horror in the Newsfeed

Despite the fact that it was being played in a seemingly endless loop on the news, my mom wouldn’t let us watch the video of the Rodney King beating. She’d dive for the remote to quickly change channel or, in her most extreme moments, she’d send us kids out of the room altogether I was already an anxious kid, well on my way to becoming an even more anxious adult. Mom must have known that video would stay with me long after the trial. Even for how frequently the news showed King’s savage beating, it wasn’t impossible to avoid. This was the ’90s. There was no autoplay Twitter video and no refreshing Facebook feed flooded with violence. As much as I wish she could, these days my mom can’t shield me from them all. When I first started working in news in August 2014, I knew I’d probably have to come face to face with horrible material. I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of violence and bloodshed that unfolded during my first year on the …

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My Body F-ing Rocks

One of the great things about getting older (I am 39 this year) is a better understanding of what you need for a life that is meaningful, purposeful and satisfying. The problem is, we live in a youth-obsessed culture. You can’t be online for more than three seconds without being bombarded by images of young, invariably thin women frolicking on a beach somewhere or exercising gleefully with perfect hair, nails and skin gleaming in the sunshine. How can anyone keep up with that? Forget anyone; how can you and your ever-changing (and ever-aging) body keep up with that? We can’t. I can’t. So rather than wasting more energy lamenting it – as I did in my 20s and 30s – I am letting go and remembering something really cool: My body rocks. [pullquote]When I say that I have an ass that doesn’t quit, I literally mean it: I have an ass that doesn’t quit.[/pullquote] I am a biologist. I spent years and years getting my PhD and, while I will spare you my dissertation, the …

I Hit My Breaking Point and Asked for Help

I flipped my hood up and started walking, on my way to buy beer at midnight on a work night. I had gotten up from my desk back in the apartment when the panic set in that I wouldn’t have enough of what I called “my medicine” to get me through the assignment I was working on and then carry me on to maybe four hours of passed-out sleep. Where writing was concerned, I was sure I was much more productive then. Fueled by wine, adrenaline and a liberal shot of rage, words flowed out of the space between sober and drunk, a space where I spent a lot of my time. Whether the words were good or not is debatable, but I thought they were better — and only possible — with a few drinks in me. It’s a writer’s ego that values output over possible self-annihilation. Can’t do it if you’re dead or incapacitated, but what’s that small detail? Bless our hearts. That night, dwelling on my bullshit logic, I put on my shoes and …

Seeking “Irresistible Grace” in My 50s

Age is transforming me into a graceless buffoon. Case in point: I’m cooking a giant pot of soup. Tonight, it’s kale and beans, made with the leftover bones of a rotisserie chicken from a few nights previous. (I call it “Free Chicken Soup” — buy a chicken, get the soup for freeeee!) My cell rings, the dog barks, my son stomps by grudgingly on his way to practice his trumpet. I twist to the left, and my elbow sends the big wooden spoon flying off of the counter and into the forest of dog hair on our kitchen floor. In my mind, I swoop down in one fluid movement to retrieve the spoon, rinse it effortlessly in the sink with one hand while dispensing an encouraging booty smack to my son, then pluck up the cell while striding to the back door to let out the dog. In thirty seconds flat, the world is set aright. Soup bubbling. Client satisfied. Son and dog on track. But my mind has forgotten my knee. In reality, as …

I Can’t Quit Quitting

I consider myself to be a fairly successful quitter of the things. In my 48 years, I’ve managed to quit bad relationships, self-destructive behavior, credit card debt (mostly) and junk food. I’ve quit crap jobs, crappier friendships and — periodically — drinking. Heck, I would have even quit my own child after three straight months of colic and no sleep, but that’s illegal here in Canada. But smoking? Oh, smoking is a black-hearted bastard. Now, I’ve quit smoking too. Hundreds of times, in fact. I’ve quit for two days, two weeks, two months; I even quit once for two years. I didn’t touch a cigarette for the duration of my pregnancy, and I stayed strong during the postpartum period as well. Until… well, see above re: quitting my own child. The Modern-Day Pariah My 16-year-old son has no concept of a day and age where smokers weren’t treated as lepers. But when I grew up, smoking wasn’t frowned upon. Sheesh, it was a necessary rite of passage! Something you aspired to! I know for a …

Habits of the Mind: Beating Back Anorexia

I spent my youth despising the way I looked, from my (real or imaginary) pooch or my rounded thighs to the creases in my upper arms that skinny girls didn’t have. I took this obsession with my weight to the next level during my junior year of high school and went full-blown anorexic, taking the same mental traits that made me a classic overachiever — disciplined, conscientious, results-oriented — and turning them on my body. It takes a lot of discipline to ignore your body’s hunger signals — especially once it figures out you’re starving. Tracking my restrictions became the anchor habit underlying the anorexia, and I managed to whittle my total daily caloric intake down to 750 calories, starving my body but feeding my mind with goals reached and control expressed. Let’s be clear: Anorexia is not just a disorder of the body. To thrive, eating disorders require a perfect storm of mental, physical and environmental triggers. It’s complicated. Like, woah, complicated. It only took me ten years to realize the road out of …

The Necessary Hell of Exercise

I played rugby in college and was the captain of the team my senior year, but my time as a rugger was cut short when I tore my ACL and had to have reconstructive knee surgery. If I stopped here and didn’t say anything else, you might be left with an image of me as an athlete — and I wouldn’t mind being thought of that way — but my tragic flaw is that I am painfully honest, especially when it’s at my own expense. The truth is that I am not, nor have I ever been, athletic. I played one season of T-ball in kindergarten, and a highlight reel would consist of that time I stood too close to the batter and took a bat to the head and the occasion in which I slid into first base on my face. I did play volleyball in seventh grade, but only because my mom made me — and I quit two weeks later because I took a ball to the mouth. And I hated the …

I Have A Lot of Bad Habits…But I’m Working On It

I am an amassment of bad habits, all of them clinging together to crudely resemble a human female. I am a lady-shaped jumble composed of candy corn, terrible excuses, kitty-cat videos and wine. I’m nothing but bad habits, baby. I may be exaggerating a little bit. That’s another bad habit of mine. All right, look: I may have a number of bad habits, but I’m not all that different from anyone else. I’m pretty sure we share a bunch of these. Are any of us really getting enough sleep? Are we exercising as much as we should? Come, now. There may be a few virtuous types out there, the ones who win ultramarathons or help the poor while also following a gluten-free, sugar-free, cruelty-free diet, but I avoid those people. They’re not much fun at parties. I think. I actually avoid parties, too. The thing about most bad habits is that they tend to be fun and therefore hard to get rid of. Conversely, good habits are less fun, which makes them extraordinarily easy to …

Is Your Office Making You Sick?

Most of us spend the vast majority of our time (about nine hours a day, on average) at work, and for a large proportion of us, work time equals office time. Offices have evolved with our job descriptions, but the essence remains the same: Every day we leave our homes to join another group of humans in an environment that is not exactly tailored to our unique specifications but within which we must live (and live productively) for the largest part of our days. The first year I left academic research (working in a laboratory) for a corporate job (working in an office), I experienced a series of strange health ramifications. On the surface, one might imagine the laboratory environment, where I could potentially be exposed to various dangerous chemicals and strange bugs on a routine basis, would be less healthy than the open-plan office I moved to. But it didn’t play out that way for me. Within a year, I gained about 20 pounds and got sick more times than I ever had in …

Peeing on Sticks: When Your Body Just Won’t Comply

I’ve learned on my journey to parenthood that I have fertility issues and it’s very hard for me to get pregnant. Also, I am prone to miscarriage. After my most recent (third) miscarriage, I asked the doctor if there’s a correlation to having both issues, like maybe one makes you more likely to have the other. She replied with a simple and direct “No.” My uterus gets a big fat C-.  It gave me one beautiful, intelligent son, so it doesn’t get a total fail, but I did nearly lose him at 17 weeks. This third miscarriage was just brutal, both physically and emotionally. I was just about to enter 10 weeks in my pregnancy when I received the awful news that there wasn’t a heartbeat any more. Getting pregnant in the first place was difficult because I don’t ovulate monthly. It’s more like quarterly. And after that pregnancy had ended I begun the cycle of getting pregnant all over again. Seriously, how can my reproductive organs just not work? It’s unknown why! They just …

Why Weight Loss Felt Like Betrayal

I am a fat woman. Most days, that’s merely a description, not a value judgment. It wasn’t always that way. At a young age, I learned that food was a double-edged sword. Wielded by my mother, food was a gesture of love that meant she was taking care of her family. In my hands, it was a way to soothe feelings of sadness, loneliness, hurt and anger. Growing up as fat girl with a heaping helping of nerd thrown in, I was bullied at school, ignored by boys and told through every possible medium that when measured against the Western Beauty Standard, I would never win. I’ve done all the usual things every self-hating fat woman has done: crazy diets, becoming best friends with bad self-esteem and creating the world’s best arsenal of self-deprecating jokes. It wasn’t until my mid-20s, after I was brave enough to cancel my subscription to Cosmo (which taunted me every month with pages full of clothes I could never wear, guys I could never date and skinny, beautiful models I …

Why A Nude Photo Session in Your 50s Is Not Such a Bad Idea After All

If you get those Living Social emails, you surely have received offers of discounted “boudoir photography” sessions. While I like a deal as much as the next underpaid editor, I’ve always viewed them as a spectacularly bad idea. Take off your clothes for some stranger in a second-floor studio on Canal Street? Not sure I want to live that social. Delete. (Come to think of it, this pretty much describes my Living Social bikini wax experience, but I’m almost positive there were no cameras involved.) Another reason boudoir photography has held no appeal: Mine is not a body built for the boudoir. Not that I’ve ever, knowingly, visited a boudoir, but I’m pretty sure the ladies you’d find there would be womanly, curvy, Rubenesque. By contrast, I possess super-sturdy legs, broad shoulders, narrow hips and a not-narrow waist. I have what I call a Man Back which makes for a bra size that starts, alluringly, with the number 36, only to be followed by a demure “A.” Practically a Man Front, in other words, at …

Self-Acceptance as a Woman Meant Starting with My Hair

I have been running away from my body for my entire life. For as long as I can remember, I was never very happy with the body I was born into. Even before my gender issues began to emerge, I was always the chubby kid — husky-sized suits and all. Yes, I was teased. Relentlessly so, for quite a while when I was young. The mocking jokes from my so-called friends cut like a knife. But I persevered, or so I thought. Unless you have walked a mile in my heels, it’s very difficult to explain what it is like to wake up every morning of your life knowing — really knowing — on a very visceral level that something’s just not aligned correctly. Something’s a little off – askance, as it were. It became quite apparent to me as I reached my teenage years that this was most definitely NOT the body that I signed up for. The realization scared me to death. It was like out of nowhere, I awoke to find myself …

Embracing My Bad Side: 11 Unflattering Selfies

On a lazy Saturday in September, I intentionally posted 11 of my most unflattering selfies on Facebook — just because. Well, not precisely “just because.” Here’s the what, the why, the how and the what happened of that frivolous undertaking.   The Experiment “Ugly selfies” are nothing new. Nearly five years ago, Bay Area poet Sonya Renee Taylor helped popularized the trend with “Ugly Picture Monday” on her Facebook page. She encouraged other women to join the pictorial exercise, which became a way to laugh at oneself and/or boldly pronounce one’s self-acceptance. For reasons that had little to do with being funny or displaying courage or promoting confidence, I too wanted to join the unprepossessing parade with my own “ugly” photos of my face and my body. I use the word “ugly” loosely, because I, like you, know that I’m not the worst-looking creature to ever walk the earth. And I, like you, have enough sense to know that not looking like Kerry Washington or Kim Kardashian or Karlie Kloss is not what makes one …

Mommy Hottest: Why I’m Not Sacrificing My Sexy for My Kids

“A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.” —Victor Hugo “Stacy’s mom has got it going on.” —Fountains of Wayne Last month, my husband came home after a week of work travel. He brought me this incredible dress from a street market in London — a steampunk mashup of leather and lace with a thin brass chain dangling from the neckline that somehow reads as both sweet and sexual. It’s the kind of completely impractical piece of provocative clothing he knows I adore but would never buy for myself. I went into the bathroom, slipped it on, then walked back into our bedroom. His face lit up. “I love it,” he said quietly, looking at me like I was the only person on the planet. Our two boys, who’d been busy opening the souvenirs he’d brought them, stared at me. “Awkward silence,” the 8-year-old stage-whispered. And then this, from the 12-year-old: “Mom,” he said, “you don’t look like you.” Lately, that’s the problem. Society has finally caught up with the fact …

She Quit Corporate America to Become a Beauty Blogger — That Was Only The First Challenge

Beauty blogging is very different than it was when I started in 2007. In fact, everything about beauty blogging and my life in general has changed. Back then, I was living an entirely different life: a 15-year career in corporate America as a human resources executive, living in the South, with no real creative outlet. I started out creative (I went to school for art,) but my father put the pressure on my sophomore year to “get a degree you can eat on.” So, I switched to Business. The need for approval had been established when I was young. Interestingly enough, it would come back to haunt me almost my entire life. Once on the winding ladder to company success, I blindly kept climbing. Externally, I became a very successful HR professional — but inside I was dying. Over 100 pounds overweight, I drank myself into a stupor at happy hours and was utterly miserable. I wanted — I NEEDED — to do something different. It was during that time that I decided to follow …

To Boob Job or Not? That Was the Question

I stood obediently still in the bridal shop as the seamstress fussed with my wedding dress. A saleswoman watched from across the room. “Give her a little shape up top,” she called out, loud enough for every customer in the store to hear (and possibly those in the shop across the street). “I’m trying,” the seamstress yelled back, “but she’s got nothing. Nothing!” Like every small-breasted woman, I’ve got tons of stories like this one, tales of humiliation, longing and finally, resignation that the boobs I was born with were not going to get any bigger on their own. Angst over my boob-less-ness started early. At age 12, the one girl in my summer camp bunk with sizable breasts — Jodi S. — was a celebrity. She wasn’t particularly pretty or charming, but her boobs made her a star. My prepubescent friends and I were fascinated with the way those puppies looked encased in a plain white bra, on display in a pink bikini, taut under a tee shirt, or swinging loose in a flannel …

My Best Sports Moment Ever: That Kickball Homerun 35 Years Ago

The daily recess kickball game told you pretty much everything you needed know about the pecking order at our tiny school. The little kids stuck to the swings and slides on the grass; the fourth-graders were allowed to play the fifth- and sixth-graders in a parking lot kickball game. There were just 16 of us in the fourth-grade class versus twice as many older kids. None of them particularly liked me, the new girl. I had bushy hair and an annoying habit of showing off my vocabulary. One day at lunch the kids formed a circle around me and demanded I recite big words. I probably deserved it. I had never played kickball before. The game made enough sense, but I was not what you would consider “sporty.”  The whole sequence of running up to a rolling red rubber ball, calibrating your speed just so to get a good “smack!” and kicking the ball beyond your opponents’ reach confounded me. In the outfield, I usually misjudged where the ball was going to land and let …