Big Bertha and back-floating

“Are we gonna see Big Bertha today?” Her excited face peered up at me.

The other campers were quick to join in. “Ooh, yeah, can we see Big Bertha? Please?”

I paused. “Um, I guess we’ll see . . . You just never know.”

It was a safe answer. Especially considering I had no idea who Big Bertha was. It certainly wasn’t another member of staff. There was a lot of wildlife around the camp (appropriate since it was an outdoor center). A raccoon maybe? A giant one? I knew it couldn’t be some sort of reptile because there was no way the girls would be that excited. I had no clue.

But I’d gotten good at pretending I knew what was going on. Mostly because I’d had a lot of practice.

I’m not normally clueless, I promise. It was just my first week as a counselor at a camp I’d never even attended before. The day campers I was supervising had been there longer than I had, some of them entering their third or fourth summers there. They knew every trail, every shortcut, every camp game.

I was still trying to figure out how to get to the dining hall. I’d been thrown in the deep end and expected to glide across the water.

The thing is, I’m not really a swimmer.

But I’m a darn good back-floater. So I improvised. I learned how to “let” the veteran campers lead the way through the trails, how to observe the other counselors so I could learn from them, how to exude an attitude of “I’ve got this.”

Sometimes I still feel like that first-time camp counselor, improvising my way through life and trying to pretend I’ve got things sorted out.

Confession: I don’t really know what I’m doing.

And for the first time in a long while, I have no concept of what my life will look like a year from now. The career plan I used to have was derailed when I was laid off a few months ago, and my back-up options failed to solidify with every application I submitted, catapulting me into the wilderness, struggling to find Big Bertha.

The positive thing is, I’m getting pretty good at this improvising thing. I don’t think a single year of my life in the past decade has gone how I expected. Don’t get me wrong–I definitely don’t want to have every second of my life planned out for the next five years. I’d lose my mind. I like the element of surprise, of change. But I failed to predict how much change would swirl through my life over the years, wreaking havoc every time I started to feel like I had things organized.

But I’m a darn good back-floater. It’s not what I expected, but if I’ve gotta back float my way through life in order to stay above water, I’m on it.

Oh, and eventually I discovered that Big Bertha wasn’t a raccoon but a tree. A giant, unmoving tree, just waiting for me to find her. And I did.

dear Bridget: wear it

Dear Bridget,

The world is all abuzz this week with news of leaked celebrity nude pics. You can’t go anywhere on the internet without finding another article about it.

The most common response I’ve seen is, “It’s their fault for posing nude. They should’ve known what could happen.”

There’s some truth to that. In this day in age, we’re all aware that nothing stored on technology is truly secure.

But at the same time, we all have things we expect to keep private – emails, texts, voice memos, pictures you’d rather not see plastered all over Facebook. I don’t fault these women for taking pictures they thought were private. There’s nothing shameful in that. If I weren’t well aware that technology isn’t completely private, I’d love to pose for my husband. Why? Because I like my body and I like the way he thinks I’m beautiful and has committed his whole freakin’ life to me. He is, therefore, the only one who gets to see me naked. But I don’t trust technology enough for pictures, and with good reason.

But technology and hackers aren’t the only culprits here. We’re ignoring a bigger, underlying problem: the way society has turned women’s bodies into a commodity.

The sad thing is, even women are playing into it when they willingly pose nude, “tasteless” or not, for magazines or websites. They’re allowing companies to make a profit from images of their bodies.

Your body is nothing to be ashamed of, Bridget. But it’s not for profit either. The more of your body you purposely show off, the less people focus on who you are. You are not the shape of your thighs or the curves of your waist or the size of your chest. You are more than that. And when you refuse to show your body off to the world, refuse to let people see you as an object, you force them to get to know you–the girl with a personality and a sense of humor and ambition. The girl who knows her body is not for public gawking.

I hope, as you get older, you hold tighter and tighter to the knowledge that your value is not based on your body, that you are a whole human being, not an object to be enjoyed. And that the people who would seek to pressure you into showing a little more, being a little sexier, are not worth your time. Kick them in the face and run. (Okay, maybe not literally because you could get in trouble for that. But you get my meaning.)

Wear your value, Bridget. Don’t let the world turn you into a commodity. You deserve so much more.

Love,

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What’s Dear Bridget all about? It’s a series on my blog composed of letters to a hypothetical teen girl named Bridget. Why Bridget? It means strong. And it represents the current generation of young women. These letters are my attempt to break through the chaos and the crap that’s flying at today’s young woman in order to offer advice and encouragement, from me and other incredible women who remember what it was like to be in her shoes.

If you’re a teen girl and you’ve got a question or issue you’d like us to address, let me know. Just click on the contact button (that round envelope icon at the top of the sidebar) and send me your thoughts. If you’re an awesome adult woman who remembers those teen years clearly and would like to write to Bridget, feel free to contact me and tell me about yourself.