gender

Backwards and In Heels

"Sure [Fred Astaire] was great, but don't forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards...and in high heels!" -- Bob Thaves  So this might get ranty at times, but I'd like to throw my two cents into the ginormous piggy bank of this discussion. Women on book covers/movie posters...particularly in the urban fantasy genres. This comes about because Tor.com posted an article about that pose. I posted it on my Facebook page and someone asked me what a "good pose" would be and advised me to show my work. Well, here we go. It's not a new observation. There's the video that compares urban fantasy book covers. In January Jim C Hines did the iconic blog post where he tried to mimic the covers of popular books just to show how ridiculous women are portrayed. We also learned that insulin ports are sexier than tribal tattoos. Then a blogger named Anna took it a step further, imitating the same poses and those of men on similar covers. Please go check out the latter two links if nothing else. While highlighting a problem, they are wickedly funny.All joking aside, though, there is a trend in they way women are posed on book covers that pisses me off. Now, romance covers have their own tropes. Bodices splitting, shoulders bare...whatever. Those books are somewhat exempt from what I'm about to tear into and here's why: Urban Fantasy prides itself on having Strong Female Protagonists. There are whole message boards and websites devoted to amping up women's roles in books, bringing them to the fore as role models. We don't want female characters that are shoved into men's situations. We don't want wilting flowers or smoldering vixens. We want women. Real. Strong. Capable. Women. I say this as a reader, a writer and a woman. We need stories with women being themselves unabashedly, stories where her femininity isn't highlighted. You wouldn't praise Harry Dresden for accomplishing so much while also being a man, would you? Then don't do the same thing to Dante Valentine. Women need stories where our gender kicks ass, takes names and maintains herself throughout the arc. We need for that woman to be taken seriously.

These covers completely undermine that last part. I'm sorry, I can't take a woman seriously if she's supposed to be fighting demons on rooftops if she's wearing skin-tight plastic and stiletto boots. I want strength, not a firm ass. By objectifying the heroine on the cover, you've already changed the narrative in a very subliminal way. It tells me that above all things, I should value her sexuality, not her dedication, her ferocious nature or her skills.

For example, DELIVERANCE by Dakota Banks features an Elektra knock-off in an impossible pose and clothing that is straight from the goth club on a Friday night. At least her hair is braided. Because when you're fighting off evil, there's nothing worse than having to blow your bangs out of your face or stop to tie up your hair.

FORGED IN FIRE by J.A. Pitts is another one that bothers me, but in a different way. On this cover, our heroine looks like a badass! Platinum blonde hair. Shaved sides. Reasonably realistic clothing choice for a warrior against the damned. WHY ARE WE FEATURING HER ASS?!?! She's got a fucking sword and a hammer on her hip. The look on her face tells me that she could rip out my throat with her teeth. Let her be fierce, dammit! Do not ruin the effect by sexualizing her!

GRR!!!

So, gentle reader, you may be wondering what I see as a good choice for a cover in the genre. Well, it took some looking, but I found some urban fantasy covers that I think maintain feminine integrity without objectifying the heroine.

SHAEDES OF GRAY by Amanda Bonilla. While we still have a variant on The Pose, this one doesn't make her ass the focus. She looks strong and ready to slice anything that twitches. She doesn't look like she is waiting for the first incubus she can find to shag six ways from Sunday.

Natasha Hoar's THE STUBBORN DEAD. On this cover, our heroine wears leather for a practical reason: she is riding a motorcycle. Dangerous, attractive, smart, capable. Based solely on the cover, this is a woman who has her shit together. I'd read it.

Armed. Dangerous. Lovely. Katniss Everdeen in another life, perhaps?
Caroyln Crane's MIND GAMES. Our heroine is dressed sensibly without being frumpy. She's got a wicked knife and the pose is one that is realistic. Solid cover.

 Michael R. Underwood's book GEEKOMANCY just released its cover last week and it is the hotness. We've got an attractive woman (albeit in one of the other stock poses) looking like she could be equally at home playing D&D or as an extra for The Craft. No nonsense, sexy librarian look? Yes. Witchy undertones? Yes. And in the center we've got a D20. I will read this.

It is possible to put a woman on the cover of a book without turning her into a prostitute. So why don't people do it? Why do we keep using the same dumbass tropes on our covers? And while I know it's probably asking for a lot, could we please have a plus-sized cover model? Just once? I'd love to be able to cosplay someone without saying, "Oh, I'm the fat version of ___." (Which is one more reason I love Alexia Tarabotti from Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series.)

And men, I realize that you guys have your share of ridiculous cover art as well. But, the above mentioned Jim Hines posted a spectacular blog on the topic this very morning. Feast your eyes and don't drink anything while doing so. Wouldn't want you to kill a monitor from snarking your chai.

So what about you? What do you think about book cover poses? Share some of your favorites in the comments or point me toward the ones that just make your eyeballs curdle with shame and despair.

Until then,

Nerdmaste.

Sluts and Sports

So there's a lot going on in the news to talk about, and anyone who's read my blog for any amount of time knows that I have a plethora of opinions. Rather than rant at length about All The Things, though, I'm just going to condense things down a bit. Join me. Let's chat.Sports: I'm an Indy girl, born and raised, and I hate to see what's going on with my Colts. Last week, owner Irsay decided it would be in the club's best interests to cut Peyton Manning. Alright, after last season and a nebulous future and your new golden boy Andrew Luck waiting in the wings, I can see where that might make sense in someone's mind. I'm sad that Peyton is leaving the team, but hope he finds a new home where he can play out his remaining years and thrive. (If that place happened to be Phoenix, Arizona, I would be ecstatic. Just sayin', love. Come to the desert. You'd look spectacular in red.) I'll still cheer on my Colts and I'll still root for my #18 every week wherever he lands. I'm grateful to him for all he did for Indy as a player and as a member of our community. And even with all the cash he gets for breaking those records, the man has class. Love love love my Peyton.But could someone please tell me what Irsay was smoking when he thought it would be brilliant to pack up pretty much the whole damn starting offensive line and send them off in a Mayflower truck? I mean, has Irsay discovered some new tropical hallucinagen? I have heard the argument that "well, when you're rebuilding a team you need to cut the old players who won't be around much longer to afford new players who can grow together". Bollocks! What about having veterans to coach your young blood and temper fresh talent with wisdom?

The mood around Indy this week has been like a funeral and it's not hard to understand why. I remember the 80s and 90s. I remember the days of Jeff George. (*shudder*) I remember when every week Indy watched the Colts suck monkey taint while other teams stomped our defensive line into the end zone to use as fertilizer. Back then, a local musician named Duke Tumatoe penned a song. Every Friday the song would be played as a kind of rain dance hoping that the gods would deliver touchdowns to our dehydrated Colts. I haven't heard that song in an age because it hasn't been needed with Peyton around. Now, though, it seems it's time to dust it off and start crooning. Lord, help our Colts.

Women's Health: Every day I get an email from someone wanting to make my dick bigger, harder, stronger to give her great stony pleasure. Usually this is in the form of a cock-enhancing drug. And I don't even have a penis. Junk mail at its worst. I mean, I at least have a roof or a carpet, so those ads for carpet cleaners could be useful, but without a penis, Viagra is just entirely out. One thing I've never gotten, though, is an email offering me contraceptives or an abortion. At least those would be anatomically correct. But, it seems that once again my vagina is getting me into trouble simply by being. You all know what I'm talking about and if you don't you must live in a media-free vacuous hole that even the Amish look upon with awe and wonder. Santorum, Rush, state legislatures ... riddle me this...
What the fuck is going on with the political war on women's health?
Look, I get it that there are people who have objections to birth control. I also understand that some people see abortion as murder. I'm willing to have civil discourse over this. Me? I'm pro-choice, plain and simple. I have a daughter, so obviously you know what my personal choice was, but I respect your right to make whatever decision you and yours feel is best for your situation. Done. Period. I won't begrudge you your opinions.
However, when you start trying to make and enforce laws that would violate another human being's body, laws that are specifically designed to humiliate and remove a person's choice of how and when to reproduce? That's when I get a little bit miffed. These same people who say that a woman who uses the Pill is a slut are the ones who see no problem with floods of emails busking for Viagra.
Are we really having this conversation now? A woman who is being responsible for herself and her partner is suddenly a prostitute and should have no problem shaming herself YouTube for all to see. Do I have that right? A woman's body is to be used by men specifically for pro-creative sex (sometimes with the help of Four-Hour Boner Juice) and the only choice she's allowed to make is whether or not she opens her legs. Do I understand?
Bullshit.
Put your probes away. Educate yourselves on what a woman's body does, how and why it does it and how contraception helps those actions run smoothly. Quit your male posturing and sit the fuck down with your happy blue pills, a bottle of Lubriderm and a box of Kleenex.

Stompy Boots

Hello, my loves. I come to you today not with silliness or heartwarming tales of my home life. No, today I come to you with a certified, 100% pure, uncut Wahine-style rant of the ages. Oh holy shit, I'm primed on this one. Allow me to just tell you right now: THERE WILL BE PROFANITY. Lots of it, probably. I've been incensed and I'm ready spit fiery porcupine quills in the general direction of this woman's face. Lace up your boots and come watch me kick in the teeth of a festering boil on the ass crack of humanity. So, today's rant comes to us from Liz Trotta, a contributor on (shock and awe) Fox "News". Either she's a satirical artist who just needs some time to hone her craft or she's a fucking nutjob.

So, the Pentagon recently reported that sex crimes committed by army personnel has gone up 64% in the past six years. A statistic bandied about in the Pentagon's study said that in 2011 every 6.5 hours, a US soldier committed a violent sex act. This is higher than the civilian population rates and is based on the 3200 crimes that were reported for that year. Considering how many sex crimes go unmentioned...? Yeah. Staggering numbers. The wording is a bit sketchy, but I believe this number pertains specifically to the assault of military service members by their peers. Soldier on soldier abuse. Security measures are being taken to protect our servicemen and women from these crimes, but they still happen. According to the Pentagon's numbers, domestic abuse and child abuse in the homes of US army personnel is on the rise as well. Initial reactions by officials are that the soldiers with PTSD are more likely to resort to violence.

Now... I look at this report and I see a few things that jump out at me.

  • First and foremost, we're not taking care of our military when they come home. I know from the experience of friends who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq that it's no picnic. Period. You do the best you can with what you're given. When they come home, though, we're not taking care of them. Our soldiers need mental and physical support on the homefront to deal with the hell they've been through while away at war.
  • The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are taking their toll on our people in ways that are kept in the shadows.  We think we're safe on this shore. No, we don't have car bombs or riots in the streets. There aren't rockets blowing up fifty yards from your office. But we're not okay here. We are not unscathed.
  • Gender is not specified, so it can (and does) go both ways.
So, are we all on the same page? The soldiers that have been giving up their sanity, homes, jobs and families (you know, the parts of their lives that aren't just biological processes) to go thousands of miles from home to sit in a desert where things explode all around them and people shoot at them all day... yeah, those people... anyway, they're turning on one another (at home and overseas) and on their families when they get home. (**Please know that when I say, "they", this is an obvious generalization. Not all soldiers cope with their demons in the same ways. Some have tremendous support networks even if the government doesn't provide it to them.**)
When Fox "News" ran a piece about women serving closer to the front lines, they turned to pundit Liz Trotta (the previously-mentioned object of my unholy wrath) to weigh in on the subject. She brought up the Pentagon's study in her interview. What was her reaction as a professional and as a woman? Let's take a look. Let's let Liz tell us what she thinks about this horrific insight into our failure to take care of our troops...
Let's just distill that to its finest point, shall we? "What did they expect?" Seriously? Fucking seriously? Oh, Liz, where do we begin with the myriad ways you've proven yourself to be a daft twat? How about this...?
FIRST of all, you've taken the Pentagon's findings and immediately made assumptions that women are the victims. Now, while that may be accurate, it is, at this point, an assumption on your part. Poor journalism on your part. Strike number one.
SECONDLY, you have just joined a sad group of our society that looks at sexual assaults and automatically assigns blame not to the criminal but to the victim. I don't care if you're a man, woman, gay, straight, lesbian, child, or a purple snouth from the planet Kuzbain: If you say 'no', and someone forcibly brings harm to your body, you are a victim. And there's a stigma to the word, but fuck that. Bad things happen to people and when they do, they shouldn't be harassed about it to add further insult to injury. A victim's emotion and stress and need for healing is valid. Period.
Also, along this same point, let's not forget that sexual assault is not an act of sex, it's about control and will. This pisses me off to no end that our society--Puritanical and strangely bent on sexualizing everything--still sees rape as something that must involve a penis, and therefore, must be solely about that most taboo subject that is sex. It's not. Sex crimes are about taking. The rapist isn't stealing a stereo or mugging someone for extra cash, nor are they just trying to get off. No, a rapist s/he's actively seeking to rob someone of their control. *That* is currency. A dominance of will. It's a power thing. Sex crimes involve terrorism and physical violence. Either Liz Trotta has had the good fortune to never have experienced a sex crime (first hand or through a friend/family member), or she needs a few rounds of therapy to help her with the self-loathing she's got going on.
Seriously, Liz, you're going to sit there with your face hanging out and tell me that a woman who wants to serve her country by laying down her life to take up arms... you're telling me that she should expect that rape or assault comes part and parcel with her oath? Fuck. You. Regardless of gender a person should never be told to take rape as just part of the job. It's like the shit argument of "well, when you go out looking like that, what do you expect?" That doesn't jive in the military population since everyone's wearing the same thing and it's not all flash and short skirts. And it doesn't flow in the civilian world, either. Why? Because there is this thing called respect for others. We shouldn't be teaching our girls that a bright shade of lipstick and a low-cut blouse are an invitation to be raped, we should be teaching everyone (boys and girls) that no means fucking no! Respect. Self-responsibility. Liz, you've just joined every jock on every 80's after school special who grinned and drawled, "She was asking for it." Fuck. You.
THIRD: You're bitching that this is a web of red tape strung up by feminists just to spend your tax dollars on helping women who've been raped? Seriously? Liz is bitching about feminists and that's fine (masochistic, but fine). However, could someone triple check me on something? Go look at the video. In the sidebar within the first few seconds, her credentials slide by. It says that she is the first woman to cover a war for broadcast  news. Gee, if you don't like feminists, maybe you should head back to the kitchen, put on your lipstick and start making a sammich. Turn over that journalism degree from Columbia. Stop taking royalties on those books you've published. Just shut up like a good little woman and use the 19th Amendment for a tampon.
FOURTH! (and this one burns me up...) She says that pressure from feminists has built this web of bureaucracy to "support women in the military who are now being raped too much".  Oh, fuck, where do I start with this sentence? Like it's such a sin to support women. Let's pass that for a moment and move to my favorite part... "support women who are" what? Being raped too much. Too much. Because once should just be overlooked? As if it's like hot dogs where there's an acceptable about of rat shit that can go into the food before the FDA gets pissed. What the fuck is this!? Let's just say this in nice big letters that everyone will be able to read:
IT SHOULD NEVER BE ACCEPTABLE TO RAPE/ASSAULT SOMEONE!
And then, (FIVE) the Fox "News" anchor actually stands up for lady soldiers, agrees that women need support and protection and what does Liz do? The cunt sneers and laughs! When a FOX NEWS anchor has to tell you the difference between right and wrong, you've got issues. AND THEN (six), she digs the hole deeper with this gem:
"That's funny. I thought it was the mission of the [Armed Forces] to defend and protect us, not the people who were fighting the war."
Holy shit, you want to talk about a sense of entitlement? Listen, you crotchety old bag of lipstick, your logic here is severely flawed. I'm not sure if it's the senility settling in or brain damage of another sort, but allow me to educate you on a few things. A) Yes, the Armed Forces are there to defend the country and its citizens. B) That's not funny. Not at all.   It goes like this, Liz. We don't conscript our soldiers from slave populations. We don't outsource them like your tech support team for your iPhone. Our soldiers are us. They're your neighbors, they teach your grandchildren, they sit across from you in church. They have just as much to fight for--if not more--than you do, you fucking hag. Do you know what they've sacrificed? Do you have any earthly clue what the soldiers and their families go through in the name of "defending and protecting" you?
In case you haven't noticed it a camp in the middle of Afghanistan isn't exactly luxury accommodation. When your husband is gone for months at a time and you have to be both mother and father to your children during that time, it's not something that lands you on the cover of Vogue. If you're lucky enough to have your spouse come home with all limbs in tact, what about their mind? Have you ever had to kill someone Liz? Have you ever had to duck and cover because a missile hit the building less than a football field away? Have you had to watch a friend die or hold his organs in his body while waiting for help? Have you had to raise a family alone because your husband is serving his country?
I know for a fact I couldn't do it. I couldn't be an Army wife like my friend April. I couldn't be a soldier like Sgt. Tydings. I couldn't do it. It takes stones and it takes sacrifice to wear a uniform for your country. They deserve honor and respect, but you've just raised your voice with the others who make our wounded warriors feel like it is truly a thankless job. They deserve ticker tape parades and more, they deserve your gratitude. But you laugh instead. You snark off.
And now you'd take dignity away on top of that? Go to Hell, lady.
Fuck off, Liz Trotta. You're a disgrace to journalism. You're a horrible woman. You're a pitiful excuse for a human being. Shut. Up.

Pronouns Suck!

Nerdmaste, my friends. Yes, this weekend I coined a new term: Nerdmaste. "The geek in me recognizes and salutes the geek in you."

Anyway, good Monday to you all. Today, I want to talk with you about gender reassignment.

A few months ago I found out that a dear friend of mine is transitioning from female to male. His decision to do this, gave voice to a character who's been lingering in the back of my head for a year now. And thus, I gave you the beginning of Eli's story.

My friend R has hit a big milestone in the process: asking for friends and coworkers to accept the new change, drop the old female name and refer to him by the appropriate gender. This is major. He has had to "come out" to co-workers who may not have known the difference before...so, this is a big deal.

I was thinking about R and thought, "Damn, I'm so proud of her."

Her?

And this is where I come to the point that pronouns suck.

See, I totally support R in this. I love him so damn much and am so proud that he has the courage to pursue this for himself rather than go on living a half-life. I've read his blog entries detailing what it's been like...being in one body but feeling other...and parts of it were heartwrenching to read. Seeing how happy he is in the light of self-acceptance, of the love of family and friends understanding his path... that is glorious. I'm fucking proud of him.

Intellectually, though...in my memories...R is still a her with a nice rack and a leather corset. In my head, R is a she. Her. Not because I don't support the actions being taken, but because that's just how I know "her". Now, part of this could be because *she* moved away and the only interaction I've had with *him* has been online. (Hint: COME VISIT!) But, really, I think it's because of stupid things like pronouns.

He. She. Her. Him. We. Us. Them. You.

They all create dividing lines. These are words without grey areas. Definite articles with no wiggle room. How often do you hear, "It's us against them"? There is a clear line between those two factions. How often do you hear people say, "This country is going to hell because of people like you"? These words allow people to make blanket statements or definite points.

An example that's in the news these days: Chaz Bono. I hear lots of things from people who may not know I'm listening. I've heard this bullshit idea that Sonny and Cher must have fucked up royally not just as parents but as humans for God to punish them with a transgender kid. (What the fuck? I'm not even going to glorify that with a response.) What I hear most:  people who flat our refuse to refer to Chaz as "him". They insist that Chaz is "Chastity" and use "her"/"she" in conversation. When asked why, they justify it (weakly) by saying something like, "Well, that's how I always knew her and think of her, so I'm not going to change."

What you're actually saying is that you don't respect this person. Period. You don't want to get out of your comfort zone and address someone who is transgender? That's your beef right there. That's for you to reconcile. But the bottom line is that you don't respect Chaz enough to see *him* as the person *he* is.

Our world isn't divided into blacks and whites, but subtle shades of grey. We don't have many words for the grey areas. Right now, those that do are sadly used as derogatory slang or misunderstood. I've heard of people who consider themselves gender neutral (something I find completely fascinating) who prefer the pronoun "zhe". It is none of the above. Some people see this kind of thing as part of an alternative subculture, some sort of unseemly minority. But, none of us fits the letter of every word we use to describe ourselves, do we?

You know what? I take it back. We don't live in a grey world. We live in a world full of vibrant colors. Each one just as dazzling as the next. No one fits into any mold, no matter how much we think we do.

Pronouns are boring. Pronouns pigeonhole us into drab outlines, uncomfortable molds. And in cases like this, they can be horribly confusing or abusive.

Because, if I slip up and call R "her"...one might think I'm not supportive. One might think I have an issue, that I'm being belligerent or ignoring *his* interests and feelings on the matter. And that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Love you, R. All of you. Not for what chromosomes you were given or for what pink parts you were born with, but for the person you are. The laughter, the human connection. The pronoun you pick doesn't matter. You are fucking stellar. Shine on, love.

Unilever: The TSA for your T&A

So, it's no secret that I adore Stephen Colbert. Taking my morning chai with last night's episode...yeah, that's a good start to a day. It's also no secret that I've struggled with self-esteem issues for a lot of my life. I grew up the fat kid. Being taller than most of my classmates for all of elementary school and shopping in the plus size section didn't exactly help when the pretty kids made fun of me. Even after I grew into myself and lost and gained weight (rinse, repeat ad infinitum) I constantly fight with the voice in my head telling me I'm too fat, too hairy, too pale etc. So, you can probably guess that I was thrilled to see my beloved Colbert tackle female insecurity. Take a look.

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The Word - Buy and Cellulite
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

Seriously, Dove? Are you kidding me? The same people who are doing the "Love The Skin You're In" ad campaign, the same people who are saying that little girls shouldn't be ashamed of their freckles... you're going to start giving us new ways to criticize our own reflections? You're brandishing insecurity and using your brand status as authority. You're no better than other made up regulatory groups out there. You say you know what beauty is and think you know what's best for us. This, though, this is the last straw. This is bullshit.

Look, the irony that I was plucking my eyebrows whilst listening to the Report this morning is not lost on me. I'm a woman and I've grown up with these ideals (however ridiculous and unattainable they may be) thrust upon me from all angles of media. While I like to say I'm enlightened and that I don't need to lift-and-separate; have calves that pop with the perfect strappy sandals; have smooth, poreless skin; have lustrous, full-bodied hair without a tinge of grey...but only on my head, no errant eyebrows, chin whiskers, armpit or leg hair.... *deep breath* that voice in my head still tells me that my reflection isn't good enough. That I need to lose a quarter of my body weight before I reach "pretty" because beauty and fat do not coexist.

I have a daughter. She is 5. She tells me I'm beautiful because she doesn't have these societal inhibitions. She doesn't "know better". She goes to school wearing green and orange paisley print pants and a pink shirt and sparkling pink shoes because that is what she wants to wear. That's what makes her comfortable and that's her style. She isn't embarrassed about it, she doesn't care. She doesn't worry that she's too thin, tall, short, fat, thin...she just wants to be herself. Hell, on Halloween it's hard to get her to dress up because she is so damn comfortable with who she is she doesn't feel the need to pretend to be anything else.

I am jealous of that.

She doesn't know any better? She knows best.

Why do we do this to one another? Why do we give one another new things to be insecure about? I'm a writer, I'm insecure enough as it is. Why do we have infomercials about laser hair removal, back fat, crow's feet, full-grey-coverage? And really Dove? The same people who tell us to LOVE THE SKIN YOU'RE IN are just going to give us something new and completely stupid to worry about?

Fuck you, Dove.

You had me when you started that campaign. I loved you for it. The idea of turning the tide...telling fashion magazines to go fuck themselves because beauty is in every woman, not just Size 0 airbrushed, photoshopped blondes. Why do we do this to each other?! There's got to be a woman working at Dove or Unilever or Vogue or whatever who can just say, "This is demeaning." There's got to be a way that we as consumers, women and men, can say "FUCKING STOP!" This is not okay. Fueling insecurities, making new ones, giving power to that most critical voice in a girl's head... it's not okay. It's psychological abuse at our own hands. It's self-esteem suicide. Don't buy into it.

I know, it's easier said than done and I know that this is coming from someone who uses Biore pore strips on my too-large beak of a nose and constantly laments the 60 pounds I've gained since I had my daughter. I'm not perfect (but then, the ad companies are banking on that), but that doesn't mean I should be made to feel even worse about bullshit problems that don't exist. When I went home from school crying because the other kids called me a beached whale or fat ass or whatever the particular epithet was that day... my parents told me that it would change. That people wouldn't always be that way. Seeing this latest in frippery...I think my parents may have been wrong through no fault of their own. We're still picking on one another. We're still doing our damnedest to feel better about ourselves by belittling each other. Stop. Just stop.  I've said it before and I'll say it again. You are stunning. You are the stuff of stars and you are meant to shine. The hardest part is believing it, isn't it?