Monthly Archives: December 2022

Body Impolitic’s 2022 Guide to Sane(r) Holidays

Laurie and Debbie say:

We’ve been putting up versions of this post since 2006. As we have said for the last two years, there is nothing sane about pandemic life. All of us are experiencing pandemic fatigue, pandemic brain, and the never-ending uncertainty roller-coaster. Many are experiencing worse. Denying that to ourselves just makes things even rougher.

The suggestions here are (mostly) for folks who are planning to celebrate the upcoming holidays in some way, and are fortunate enough to have people and resources to celebrate with. If that’s not you, skip to the bottom. If that is you, then even if your family are your favorite people and you look forward all year to the holidays, you still may find useful hints here.

We hope most of you are staying safe, however you define that. Both of us have traveled recently, so we know how stressful traveling can be. If you are traveling or socializing locally, please be cautious and thoughtful, to protect your own health (including your mental health) and that of others.


1 – You have a right to set your own boundaries around health protections, including COVID, flu, and everything else. That includes telling your family (chosen and blood) you can’t see them if they don’t respect your protocols. It also includes deciding that for your own mental health you need to see your closest people even if you don’t agree with their pandemic decisions. Do what is right for you and trust your gut.

2 – You have a right to enjoy things in your own way. To the extent possible, do as much or as little holiday stuff as you want; it’s supposed to be a celebration, not an obligation.

3 – If you are spending time with people, try to choose some who know how awesome you are. If you have to be with toxic people, remind yourself three times (out loud) in your last alone moments before seeing them that they are toxic. As soon as you can get away from them, do something really nice for yourself.

4 – Eat what you enjoy. Corollary: don’t eat what you don’t enjoy. Desserts are not sinful, they’re just desserts. Making people feel bad about themselves is sinful. Relatives who push you to eat (or not to eat) may want to be in charge of your choices, but you don’t have to let them take over. If you currently struggle with eating disorders, or have a history with them, we hope this helps.

5 – Wear what you think you look terrific in; if you don’t think you ever look terrific (we disagree) wear something that makes you feel comfortable, with colors or textures you like. Accept compliments and ignore digs about your clothes.

6 – Plan your responses to inevitable comments beforehand. If you have family members who don’t share your politics, you do not have to put up with hateful comments, whether they are anti-science, anti-democratic, anti-trans, anti-Semitic, otherwise racist or in other ways repulsive. Make a plan in advance: if you want to actively disagree with them, have your facts ready. If you want to cut off the conversation, try “We disagree, and I’m not willing to discuss it here,” or just walk away. Or keep all three options in your toolbox and use the one that feels best in the moment. Make a promise to yourself in advance that you’ll engage or not engage on your terms. Whatever you do, don’t spend too much energy on those ideas or the people who express them.

7 – Not spending too much energy applies to the personal digs too. For example, if you know that your uncle is going to tell you, “for your own good,” what he thinks of your recent life decisions, practice saying, “I appreciate your concern. Excuse me, I really want to catch up with my niece.”

8 – If you enjoy time with kids, they can be a great way to escape from the adult toxicity. If kids drive you crazy, keep your distance when you can, and try to keep your patience otherwise: they didn’t overstimulate themselves with sugar and toys.

9 – Be effusive about every gift you get; then be discreetly rude about the awful ones later to your friends. If they’re really awful, throw them off a bridge in the middle of the night.

10 – If you hate the holidays, or they make you sad, you are not the least bit alone. Participate as little as possible. They’ll be over soon. If you’re wishing you had someone (someone particular or folks in general) to spend the holidays with, treat yourself with special care. If you’re a volunteering type, safe and protected volunteering can work, and so can staying at home and taking a long hot bubble bath.


If you have enough (time and/or money) to give to someone who has less, doing that often really helps when you’re feeling attacked. If you know someone who is having a crappy holiday, even — maybe especially — if you are too, consider taking a moment to do something for them (a quick text, a social media hello) that they will appreciate.

If you love and miss your family, this is a hard time to be away from people you care about. Stay in touch by phone and internet, make little rituals with each other to minimize the distance, and look forward to better holidays someday.

If your family is difficult for whatever reason, connect with people who help you feel comfortable, and enjoy the break!

We will see you in January 2023. No one knows what is coming; we will get through it together.

Stay safe and well!


Follow Debbie on Twitter.

Follow Laurie’s  Pandemic Shadows photos on Instagram.


Bustling Around

etching of two women in green and purple dresses with big bustles

Laurie and Debbie say:

The history of European and Euro-American women’s fashion is simultaneously rich and varied on the one hand, and deeply repetitive on the other hand. The crazes and trends vary greatly, but the “invisible hand” of a power-and-money-hungry male establishment can always be found pulling the strings, doing whatever they can to objectify women, make us physically uncomfortable, and ensure that we are contained and controlled by male expectation.

In that context, we were struck by this episode of Slate’s podcast Decoder Ring. The podcast, hosted by Willa Paskin, deconstructs historical curiosities. In “The Butt and the Bustle,” the turns to the periods in women’s fashion when big, huge, and artificially big butts have been a fashion goal.

In our times, this is personified by J-Lo, whose big butt was one of the first in recent years to be admired rather than decried. As Paskin and her various interviewees point out, it’s ironic that J-Lo is more Brown than Black, as many Black women have beautiful large rear ends. This, of course, is just another example of how white sociocultural trends are so frequently borrowed from Black people and their art forms, and white trendmakers are extraordinarily good at misplacing credit for whatever it is that they stole.

Rather than focus on J-Lo and now, Paskin spends most of the show going back into history, and specifically the Victorian history of the bustle: an undergarment so prominent that it defined not only the woman who wore it but the shape and construction of the dress she wore. As you’ll see in the photographs, bustles (for rich women who didn’t have to work) were almost incomprehensibly unwieldy. You couldn’t sit down, you couldn’t go easily through a doorway. What’s more, because artificially big butts were in but small waists were also required, the upper-class woman in the bustle was not only inconvenienced in the back, she was also laced in at the waist, often so tight that it was difficult to breathe.

Paskin spends a good portion of her 45-minute show explaining the shameful and cringe-worthy history of Sarah Baartman, an African woman with a naturally very large rear end. Baartman was exhibited as the “Hottentot Venus,” a savage anomaly. Her exhibitors saw her as nothing more than a sideshow prop who could make them rich. Many fashion historians see her as part of the long-term impetus for the bustle as a fashion object.

Black and white photograph of a woman in a bustle, holding a closed umbrella out in front of her

Featured on the show is Heather Radke, who has written Butts: A Back Story (gotta love that subtitle), an amalgam of the history of butt size and her own personal experience as a woman with a large derriere.

If you don’t know the history of the bustle, you’ll find more about it on the podcast itself, and in Radke’s book. The history of women’s fashion is endlessly interesting, including bustles and butts.


Follow Debbie on Twitter.

Follow Laurie’s Pandemic Shadows photos on Instagram.