I’m not here to tell you things that people with tattoos are tired of hearing or to angrily defend my right to have tattoos. I get it. They aren’t for everyone and that’s fine. I’m just here to tell you why I have them and why they are important to me (and they are extremely important to me).

Let me start by saying that tattooers are talented and inspired artists. Not only do they have the imagination to create a piece of artwork and the skills to actualize it, but they are then tasked with putting their art on a canvas that is pliable, imperfect, and moving. That’s incredible if you ask me.

Their purpose is the same as other artists. It’s not uncommon for someone to go to the Bob Ross’s of the world and say, “Make me something beautiful that I can hang in my home and look at whenever I need to remember something important to me.” With tattoos, It’s the same thing. I’m going to an artist and saying, “Make me something beautiful that I can carry with me always and look at when I need to be reminded of something important.”

I am a believer that every tattoo has meaning. Whether it’s a breast cancer ribbon reminding you of someone you loved firmly and lost or the Tasmanian Devil eating a slice of pizza that makes you smile whenever you look at it, they all serve a purpose. The beautiful thing about tattoos is they don’t have to mean anything to anyone other than the person attached to them. They can be for everyone or they can be a secret just between you and your ink.

And their meaning is a very important to the owner. The first tattoo I ever got was two words written very small on the inside of my wrist. Only smiles. No, it’s not fancy and yes, I am aware how cheesy it sounds. However, I got it right after my freshman year of college. It was a really hard year for me and a lot of things happened that left me with few reasons to smile. Having that reminder on my skin whenever I turned over my arm encouraged me to keep my head up even when it wasn’t easy.

No, maybe that’s not a message I need daily anymore, but that doesn’t mean I’m not glad it’s on me. Now it serves as a reminder of a time when I had to be stronger than I felt and that I can do it again if I need to.

I have scars from falling down porch stairs and tripping into my fireplace ledge. You can see them above my eye or in the thin line on the top of my right foot. My tattoos are markers for the scars that you can’t see. They are the memories of challenges I’ve faced that have changed the way I think.

That’s why it doesn’t bother me that I’m going to carry them with me until the day I die. As I age, they will age with me and together we will become an antique, picture-book novel of who I am. They are not just words and pretty pictures. They are my story. Some people keep a journal, I put my journal on my body.

It’s written in permanent ink that I can read it again and again so I never forget the moments that led me here.

I’m feeling frustrated today. I’m feeling frustrated because negativity, anger, and hatred are running ramped through the veins of our little planet and pouring into our hearts, creating darkness where there shouldn’t be.

It’s not an America thing. It’s not a political thing. It’s not a social media thing. It’s just a standard that we find it acceptable to be cruel to people for no reason other than we feel like we want to. From spewing hatred about our current political climate to flipping people off in traffic to talking shit about Becky in Accounting, we make thoughtless choices on a daily basis to treat people poorly.

I am not above this. I am horribly guilty of this all the time. I can think of dozens of examples of times that if I could go back and watch myself acting that way I’d lay a hand on the shoulder of my past-self and say, “Honey, what are you doing?”

No matter how much I make a conscious effort to be kind, I still often fall short. I know, that makes it sound like being kind is the hard choice. If it’s so easy to slip up, then the high road must be the more difficult one to take. However, the more I paid attention to the feelings, the more a realized that the opposite is true.

If someone cuts in front of you in line at the grocery store. You’ll likely feel a rush of rage, wonder how they could be so rude to just blatantly cut the line, say um, excuse me, I was actually in line first and cause them to blush heavily while getting behind you apologetically. Bonus points if you get home and tell your roommate about the rude lady at the grocery store. The other option is to say to yourself they probably didn’t see me and go back to reading the ridiculous magazine headlines on the rack.

Both your days are better because instead of making it a situation, you just realized that in the grand scheme of things this is an absolutely minuscule thing that will effect your life in no way moving forward and there is no reason to ruin the day of another person just because your superiority complex makes you believe that people are cognizant of you at all times so when they wrong you in some way it must be intentional. Phew, and you already thought I was pretty bad when it comes to run-ons.

The point is, it takes a lot less work and emotional effort to be nice.

The other thing that bothers me is when people say, you should be nice because you don’t know what that person is going through. I understand the sentiment, but really, you should be nice because you just should be. To everyone. You should be as kind to the happiest man in the world as you are to the saddest man. Kindness is received well by all. Of course, you might see someone who seems like they need an extra boost of kindness but that doesn’t also mean you shouldn’t be nice to the woman with her dream job, a yacht, and a hot hubby.

I mean, it’s basic freaking knowledge. Ever heard of the golden rule? Of course, you have. We collectively learned this before we even knew how to write. Yet, we’re all still a bunch of dicks. Let’s take a quick survey.

Do you like it when people are unkind to you in either an emotional or violent way in the physical world or online?

A. Yes, I love being embarrassed or made to feel like less of a human being
B. Um….no?

If you picked A then I don’t think this is the right blog for you. However, if you picked B, then, duh. If you don’t like the way that feels then maybe don’t make other people feel that way? I don’t know man. It seems pretty straight forward to me.

To be clear, it is totally okay to disagree with a person or to feel like steel wool is being dragged along the inside of your stomach when someone breaks the social norm, but it doesn’t give you the right to be cruel. Here’s the crazy part. If someone else is the one inflicting cruelty on you or a person near you, you can even stand up against them without dipping to their awful ways. How something makes you feel inside is not easy to control, but how you respond to it externally, is completely and totally within your control.

So, like, don’t be a jerk, okay?

I’ll leave you with the quote by the Dalia Lama that you’ve probably already heard because everyone uses it, but I just really like it, so let me have this.

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” – Dalia Lama

It is always possible.

I have a lot of girl crushes. I might possibly have more girl crushes than I have regular crushes on men. I mean, I can flip through a couple Instagram photos of a shirtless dude celebrity and then move on, but when I have a girl crush, I scour her social media all the way back to the beginning. I want to know everything about her. I want to know what she likes, what her humor is like, and get a sense of just how cool she really is.

At this moment I am crushing hard on Gal Gadot. That’s Wonder Woman for those of you who don’t pay attention to wonderful things happening in the universe. She is gorgeous (I mean, she was Miss Isreal), she’s badass, she’s funny, and she juggles motherhood and a Hollywood career beautifully. She did reshoots for Wonder Woman while five months pregnant. Seriously, just look at her.

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She’s a real person?

Gal-Gadot-Smiling

Are you fuuuudgin’ kidding me?

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My girl crush is in a pretty advanced stage by now. I’ve spent an embarrassing number of hours watching behind the scenes and press junkets on Youtube just to hear her perfect accent. She’s amazing and if I ever got the chance to meet her, I would likely hyperventilate. Not because she’s famous, but because she’s an incredible human specimen and I am crushing so hard.

Of course, it’s easy to have girl crushes on celebrities because we rarely see them in anything other than their perfect form. They wouldn’t have made it into the limelight if they weren’t intelligent and beautiful so it makes sense that they would be loveable.

However, not all of my girl crushes are famous. I have girl crushes on women in my life all the time. I had a one on this girl in my senior project group because she was the hardest worker in the class. I had one on my manager at my old job because she was vivacious and kind. I have girl crushes on basically all of my older brother’s friends because they are all so sweet and they light up the rooms they walk into. I have one on my sister-in-law because she is super goofy and the prettiest person I’ve ever seen in real life (honestly, she looks photoshopped but that’s just her face).

I’ve encountered some pretty fierce ladies in my twenty-three short years.

So often it’s the female way to see a girl shining in all of her wonderfulness and be angry or jealous that we feel inferior to her. We want to shine brighter and snuff her out. The difference with a girl crush is that I don’t want to be like these women. What makes them so special is that they are flawless in an area that most people are flawed. In any type of attraction, what draws you to a person is the things that make them stand out. If we all were equally perfect, we would never be able to call out what makes someone wonderful.

Sure, having these women around me certainly makes me try a little harder. I strive to be a little better in the areas I struggle in that they do so well, but not in an attempt to match them. Rather, it’s in the way that running next to someone fast makes you push your normal pace. You’re not trying to beat them because you already know they will win. You’re just trying to make yourself a little bit better because you recognize how much you admire their strength and speed.

That’s why I love girl crushes so much. It’s an opportunity for a woman to acknowledge how incredible other women are. Something that, in my opinion, is not done nearly enough. I spend so much of my time glaring at the girl across the party that all the guys crowd around or glancing at the girl on the treadmill next to me to see if her thighs also jiggle when she runs. It’s such a natural reaction to compare and put down to make myself feel better. With girl crushes, it’s a way to say, “You know what? There are ways that you’re better than me and I think that’s beautiful.”

Dear Guys at the Gym,

I’m so glad that I get to see all of you every day. My 5 pm – 6 pm gang. We all get to hang out in silence. Inches from each other, moving around heavy stuff and ignoring each other’s presences with headphones in.

I know all of your names. Well, at least the ones I made up for you. You know who you are Tattoo Guy, High School Soccer Kid, Dad Always Balancing on Stability Ball, Crossfit Guy Who Does Pull-ups on the Squat Rack, Old Guy with Glasses, and Beardy Trainer Who Works Right After This. The rest of you, don’t worry, I have names for you too.

We’re the best friends who have never met. We know each other so well, that we don’t even need words. When you take out one earbud, point to the bench press and raise your eyebrows, I know you mean Are you done with that? When you inch slowly towards the squat rack while I’m in the middle of a set eying the weights on the side and give me that little cringe smile, I know you mean I’m so sorry to interrupt, but can I borrow those?

To which I respond by widening my eyes and nodding. You know what I mean.

I know we’ve never had a conversation before, but I feel like I know you. I’ve definitely gotten to the gym and thought something along the lines of, huh, High School Soccer Kid isn’t here today. I wonder what he’s up to. Or Tattoo Guy, remember when you used to bring your girlfriend with you all the time? I haven’t seen her in months. Did you guys break up? Why do I care?

Even though we don’t talk much (re: ever), there is one time that we all share an actual moment. At the beginning of the year or as the weather climbs up the thermostat, the gym is infiltrated by new people who are not part of our silent clique.

Of course, we are happy that they are trying out new fitness goals and working to making a positive change in themselves, yadda yadda yadda,  but as we stand on the peripheral of the floor, waiting for a bench to open up, we share a few sweet moments of annoyed eye contact.

Or maybe you’re challenging me for the next bench. I’ll still take it. At least we’re acknowledging each other’s existence. We’ll be bro-nodding and be giving close-lipped hey smiles in no time.

Finally, I want to thank you for accepting me into your group. When I switched gyms last fall and came to join you, there was an adjustment period before you let me be one of your own. You were skeptical at first. I was a girl (gross), my weights were smaller than yours, and I’m sure you thought it was just a phase. But after a few months your glances of what is she doing here? transformed to a cool indifference of well shit, I guess the mediocre, ponytail girl who never smiles is sticking around. whatever. 

I love you too.

Kierstyn

 

I feel good. I’m tan from a recent vacation, thin from a lot of work put in during the winter months, and my hair has finally reached my shoulders after a bad haircut. I look smokin’.

Are you cringing yet? My guess is that you are because who do I think I am to have such high opinions of myself?!

I’m supposed to look in the mirror and see something equivalent to Gollum. I’m supposed to say things like, “Ugh, I’m sooooo ugly,” and my friends will protest and then I’ll whine, “Whatever, you guys are totally just saying that.” I’m supposed to have a low self-esteem.

But why?

Why is such a horrible thing that I like the way I look? I spend tons of money on creams and tinctures to make my face clear and my hair smooth. I spend hours of my time in the gym lifting heavy things and in the heat or snow pounding away miles to get the body I have. These are things that make me feel confident and motivated. That’s pretty hot to me.

We always bring up these ideas of conventional beauty standards and how they keep people from feeling comfortable in their own skin, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. Sure, we need to change all that and have a wider range of representation in media, but those outside of the current standard still feel hella sexy, they just never talk about it. The bigger fear than being judged for not being perfect is the fear of being judged for loving yourself despite your flaws.

Being hot doesn’t really have anything to do with perfection. You can want to change lumps around your waist and still adore the way your calves look when you wear heels. You can hate the fact that you have acne but love your sleek man bun. You don’t have to be flawless to be a stunner (and no one is flawless, by the way).

It’s all about confidence. Whatever you look like, whatever you’re wearing, sexiness is all about feeling your most confident and looking the way that makes you want to strut. Regardless of anyone else’s opinion.

For me, the time that I feel sexier than any other moment is when I’m doing squats at the gym. Not because I look cute. My short hair is usually falling out of my ponytail and my face is red and sweaty. Not because I have a huge butt. On the contrary, it is quite small. It’s because I’m there squatting the same weight as some 6’2 guy next to me, making me feel strong and powerful. It also makes ALL those leg muscles pop and I love my legs.

Of course, there are things I would like to change about myself. I don’t like that my shoulders are so wide, I wish my chest was smaller, my lips were bigger, my waist slimmer, my booty more bootylicious. Yet, none of these things stop me from looking in the mirror and thinking damn girl. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that I’m not perfect in every aspect, but I wouldn’t let that stop me from loving all the great things about myself.

I just don’t understand when this switch happened. When did we stop being allowed to admit that we like ourselves? It obvious that most of us have days when we’re feelin’ our look. That’s why Instagram exists. It gives us an outlet for us to showcase how fine we are without explicitly saying, Hey, I look really good today. I never judge someone with an account full of selfies and mirror pictures. Good for you for knowing how smoking hot you are. I’ll heart every single one. It doesn’t make you cocky to know you’re a beauty. It means you’re confident and introspective.

Another thing I think is important to add, is that there’s nothing wrong with thinking you’re a cutie patootie, as long as it’s not at the expense of someone else. Yes, I think I’m a good looking lady, but in no way do I think I am more attractive than the people around me. They are all differently sexy and many of them are sexy in ways that I am not. I know a lot of woman with great butts (can you tell that I’m sensitive about my butt).

While it’s important to be confident in yourself it’s equally as important to feel confident in everyone else. Being hot is all about what you have to offer, not what you have compared to the person next to you in yoga.

So don’t roll your eyes. Don’t think Wow, vain much. Don’t start cataloging all of the things you can think of that are super not attractive about me. Just accept the fact that I’m fine with how I look and, most days, I feel smexy as heck.

You should too.

Hey, it’s your girl Kierstyn, back with another unpopular opinion.

I feel like every post I see online from people my age is about “millennial dating” or “how hook-up culture is destroying America one dick-pic at a time.”

So here’s the unpopular part: I don’t think dating culture has changed at all. Sure, it’s morphed with technology and we now have access to things like Tinder and FarmersOnly.com, but if you really believe that casually doing the nasty is a new concept that derived from an emotionless and screen-addicted pack of 20-somethings, they why don’t you go ask your parents about the 60’s.

People have been getting it on with friends, getting ghosted after first dates, and having mismatched expectations of relationships since the dawn of time. I’m pretty sure that hit it and quit it was originally found carved into a cave wall.

Maybe I happen to live in a very unique population, but I’m twenty-three and almost all of my closest friends are in relationships that they’ve been in for years. They met their partners through mutual friends, started hanging out, clicked, told each other they had feelings and boom: dating.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that’s the same way people have always paired up (I mean, beyond arranged marriages and stuff).

If you don’t want to participate in hook-up culture..then don’t. Just because the internet says this is the norm now, doesn’t mean that it’s true. Ask that cute boy in your Psych class if he would like to grab lunch after class or tell that girl you work with that you’d love to hang out sometime. It’s not like the only way to meet people is to swipe right at 1 am. (It is right, isn’t it? I’ve never had Tinder)

Then there are those of you millennials who are absolutely in it for only one-night stands and booty calls. To you I say, keep doing you, honey. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for knowing what you want. Like I said, you are not some new and mythical beast that has descended on the planet to bring an end to marriage and monogamy. An often forgot about a piece of the Constitution (written in very small print on the back corner) says that we as Americans reserve the right to be “not looking for something serious.” As long and you and your partner are in mutual understanding of the terms, then you can do whatever you want.

Relationships have always been tricky territory. From “should I double text him?” to “I think he hath forgotten about me. It has been a fortnight since he last sent me sweet words by horse,” being on the same page and building a relationship with another person is hard. In our generation, it hasn’t gotten any easier, but it hasn’t gotten any harder. There will always be reasons that it didn’t work out with someone or why the two of you wanted different things. You can’t blame being a millennial or being able to stalk your ex on Facebook for your relationship troubles.

You’re so young. Just because you haven’t found the right person who has wants that align perfectly with yours doesn’t mean that they aren’t out there. In the meantime, hook up if you want to, or don’t, or go on dates with different people to see which one fits best, or sign up for a dating site, or be super single and not ever have to worry about what your crush is thinking. All the options that have always been there are still there.

The only thing you shouldn’t do is think that there’s no hope for whatever it is you’re looking for.

Today is my sister-in-law’s 21st birthday. Since she doubles as my sister-in-law as well as my best friend, I thought it would be a good time to talk about all of the things that make having a sister-in-law equally as great as being married. We tell practically everyone that we meet is that I only married her brother so that we could be sisters (He’s only mildly offended by this).

If you have a sister-in-law then you know how great it is. It changes everything to have an ally in your corner who’s just as excited to have you around as you are to have her around. So, here are some of my favorite things about having a sister from another mister.

She’s the only person who understands what your spouse is like.

Whenever you get agitated with your hubby for one of his (very few) frustrating traits and you feel like no one in the world understands how you feel in that moment, your sister-in-law locks eyes with you across the room. They say, “Girl, I know, I’ve been dealing with this for 21 years.”

Your few blissful years with your spouse have nothing on the life-long journey of fighting over toys, back-seat road trips, and arguments about who is the favorite child that your sister-in-law has gone through with him.

That rage boiling in your stomach? She’s feeling it too.

You stand up for each other.

If there are two people in the world that your hubby is willing to go toe-to-toe with, it’s you and his sister. This means that the two of you have this unspoken pact to stick together in the event that he decides to get sassy. It doesn’t matter who’s actually right. The point is to be each other’s back-up, no matter what the situation.

This applies to the parents too. Sisters have to stick together.

You have someone to hang out with on family vacations.

Your whole life, whenever you went on vacation you hoped your parents would let you bring a friend along. Family vacations were always ten times better when you got to spend the week giggling with your BFF and looking for any cute boys. Now, when you go on trips with your in-laws, your bestie is already built in with the vacation.

Of course, you hang out with your hubby and the rest of the family, but they aren’t always going to want to do what you want to do. Your hubby isn’t going to lay out tanning with you or take a jog down the beach or scan through sales racks with you. But your sister-in-law sure will.

You’re bad influences on each other.

In the best way. They will always be the one to encourage you to eat that extra donut or get another tattoo. They always say yes when you ask if you should buy a $100 pair of leggings and you always urge them to just tell the boy they like how they feel.

You always support each other’s ideas because you think all of your ideas are great, even if that isn’t always true.

You have someone to share secrets with.

The sister-in-law code is a strict one. Any secret information swapped between the two parties with be done with no judgment and will not be shared with any third-party unless allowed by the secret holding sister.

Since you’re friends first and foremost, you don’t have the same sort of family judgment that you do with your biological siblings. That I’ve known you since the day you were born and I expected better of you type of judgment. With your sister-in-law, it’s more of a you do you, boo.

As for the secret, since you don’t share the same friend group and you don’t share the same parents, you know that a secret shared with your sister-in-law will stay with them.

She is the best friend you never knew you needed.

You know when you’re in a relationship and think to yourself, “I don’t even remember what my life was like before I knew this person.”

That’s how you feel about your sister-in-law. The moment she comes into your life you forget what it was like before you called her family. All you know is that you now have a friend for life. A damn good one, if I might add.