Whoze Bettah Than You?

Several years ago I met this guy who I’ll call Billy Moretti. He was a dark-haired, muscular Irish-Italian guy originally from Queens and he was smoking hot. The first time we met, I got this jolt in my stomach – the kind of jolt that’s only happened to me twice so far – and we ended up having a very intense, secret-ish fling.

Billy and I had a few conversations about serious topics, such as spirituality and self-esteem. One thing he said to me was a phrase from his old neighborhood: “Whoze bettah than you?” His New York accent made the words even more affirming to me, and I would always say in response, “Nobody.” Sometimes I attempted a New Yorker accent, sometimes I whispered my answer. But I never changed it. I knew what the answer was.

When the Hollaback street harassment video went viral recently, I thought about my experiences in New York and other big cities of walking down the street and having random men make comments or try to engage me. I learned pretty quickly that my tendency to be engaging and kind with people is not a good idea when hoofing it in Times Square, DC or downtown L.A. There are a lot of freaky folks out there. However, I have to admit that the attention was always a little bit flattering. It meant I wasn’t as invisible as I often felt. It suggested that maybe I was doing something right with the way I was dressing or carrying myself if some stranger catcalled me.

I’m not the only woman who’s felt this way. “Sidewalk” is a fantastic animated short by Celia Bullwinkel that chronicles a woman’s life as she walks down the street.

 

Sidewalk, Celia Bullwinkel, animation, animated, cartoon, women, street harassment, self image, female empowerment

GIFs from Celia Bullwinkel’s animated short “Sidewalk.”

In an interview she did with Jessica Goldstein over at ThinkProgress, Bullwinkel talks about what motivated her to make the film. Conversations with her mother about appreciating catcalls “because when you get older, it goes away” and reading Nora Ephron’s essays on aging proved to be a perfect starting place.

I started to really think about how I could make a film that dealt with body acceptance, and how life is more than just how you look or how you feel about yourself being young. Who cares if you get older? Everyone ages at the same rate. We all do it, so why not celebrate it?

 

It’s Bullwinkel’s comment later in the interview that reminded me of Billy’s saying, and how it made me feel back when he was saying it to me.

I wanted to show that, even if it takes you until the end of your life to change your outlook, change your mindset, about who you are, it’s never too late. You can learn to love yourself at any age in your life.

Lately I’ve been on a positive reinforcement and self-improvement kick. I’m wearing mascara and lip gloss most days, even if I don’t go anywhere, because it makes me feel good (thanks to reading an interview with Betty Halbreich, the legendary Bergdorf Goodman personal shopper). I’m talking myself out of negative thoughts about my weight, my looks, all of it. And it’s been working. I feel really good and I feel people are responding to me differently. I’m not getting catcalls, nor do I want them at this point in my life, because I’m finally validating myself in ways I haven’t before.

But I do hear Billy’s voice in my head, and my own voice, too, asking, “Whoze bettah than you?” And my answer is, as always, “Nobody.”

The Song that Shuts Down Idiots Every Time

So in the last 24 hours, we’ve learned that actress Renee Zellweger doesn’t look the way she did back when Bridget Jones’ Diary or Jerry Maguire came out. Many people have been making it their mission to say exactly what they think about the plastic surgery she’s “obviously” had on her face. In some photos, she doesn’t look radically different, at least not to me. In other photos, especially ones taken from the side or with her head angled slightly, she doesn’t quite look like the Renee of years gone by.

All the fuss and snark lead Renee Zellweger to respond to reporters, and her response focused on how she has changed her life and its impact on her appearance.

“My friends say that I look peaceful. I am healthy,” she says. “For a long time I wasn’t doing such a good job with that. I took on a schedule that is not realistically sustainable and didn’t allow for taking care of myself. Rather than stopping to recalibrate, I kept running until I was depleted and made bad choices about how to conceal the exhaustion. I was aware of the chaos and finally chose different things.”

I don’t doubt the truth of this. Being an actor – an Oscar winner at that – has got to be exhausting. While getting big awards must be very cool, there’s a lot of work that goes into getting nominated for one, not to mention actually winning.

But that’s neither here nor there. The reality is she is a grown-ass woman and she can do whatever she wants. She can shun Hollywood and go live in a hut on a tiny island in southeast Asia. She can dress like a lumberjack and walk around pretending to be Paul Bunyan. She can adopt a couple kids and raise them as ninja warriors. Whatever she wants to do, it’s her life, and if she decides that driving a 18 wheeler, moving to Latvia, or – brace yourself – getting plastic surgery is going to make her happy, then more power to her.

So this song is for Renee & anyone else out there who’s living their life on their terms. If there’s a point in your life when you’re contemplating a major change, but you’re nervous about what others may think or say, listen to the song. If you feel so inclined, sing it to your critics and detractors at the top of your lungs, and include several hip thrusts to emphasize the most applicable lyrics.