A Case for Public Nudity, or How I Learned to Love the Spa


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I travel between worlds. I mean . . . we all do, but we’re not always cognizant of the push and pull, how the fit/non-fit shapes and remakes us.

JP Mural - Jose Ramos

I am a child of the heavily-clothed North Eastern States. Raised under the tenets of humility and modesty of my Islamic upbringing, and equally inheriting Western beauty ideals. You’d be hard pressed to convince my teenage self that, in my early twenties I’d appear in the buff in public, on foreign land.

In the locker room of the spa/water park a friend took us to outside of Leipzig, East Germany, a teen boy, (brown, mixed-heritage), dropped the N bomb, or perhaps its Deutsche equivalent, and was instantly-firmly chastised by my horrified (white) friend.

In the outdoor pool at that same spa, a 7-year old, sunning herself on a rock, spied me with gentle, innocent curiously. She was beautiful and I was beautiful. Two bare things soaking up a warm German sun.

JP Mural - Jose Ramos

My younger self, growing up in Coastal New Jersey, mortified when my one-piece bathing suit collected too much sand in the crotch, could not imagine that less than an hour north of me, Korean American children my exact age followed their parents into a parking garage sized ‘health club’ to soak in sex-separated bathing rooms. Would never fathom that, grown up, I’d ‘discover’ these same places where I could just be, and preen . . . and occasionally get chastised by stern-faced grammies, white hair wrapped up in soaked and sweating washcloths, dissatisfied with my spa-etiquette.

JP Mural - Jose Ramos

You probably get my point: I was not raised for public nudity. Mine was to wide leg trousers and sweaters layered one over the other . . . over the other. Mine was to deny men who might treat me as less than a brain, and to not notice if a woman turned me an appreciative eye. Mine was to discomfort and embarrassment, skipping right over ease, gratitude, and pride (Pride being a Bad Word, precursor to dropping your steak in the water while admiring your own reflection, and maybe later drowning.)

Therefore, imagine my growing admiration, respect and delight when, during my first American Korean Spa experience at that crazy, five-floor joint in Queens, I observed a brown-skinned teen at the entrance to the bathing room I’d recently (reluctantly) departed. Her slim back toward me, tiny towel clutched in front of her chest. She gazed into the room at the shining arms, legs, butts, hair, breasts and set in her mind: resolve. I can do this? Right? Stroll in vulnerable; surrender to this space where every woman is as she is and should be.

That girl could, and she did.

JP Mural - Jose Ramos

Radical Acceptance on the Internet, Part 1


The Internet is GREAT.

It’s the magical mix tape of our lives . . . in the sky, with maybe some of that shiny black ribbon hanging out. A person (or talented cat) can laugh, love, dislike, hate on, mock, unfriend/follow, applaud, listen, commiserate, get bizarre, self-refer, or hatch terrible, no good, very bad plans (or SPAM) simultaneously, depending on one’s propensity for/against multi-tasking (or evil).

And then there’s this . . .


Ugh. Internets, why you no forget?


Somewhere between 1998 and 2013, I grudgingly acquiesced to a campaign of radical acceptance related to instances of me on the Internets. That is: I refuse to try to eradicate every single awful photo (of which there are and will be many, MANY); I’m not going to over-curate my persona(s) to make myself out as superhuman (am I succeeding? dunno); and I will accept that, like weather, favors change and thus crumbles the cookie (ie. behavioral expectations for the manner in which our digital selves will continue to evolve #thankyouTwittershaming)

With this in mind, I will RIGHT NOW practice some radical self-acceptance and claim these Visages of Phoebe that will be forever (maybe) emblazoned on that all-important series of tubes (I mean servers. That’s what you were referring to, Al Gore. We know.)

Cambridge City Councillor Nadeem Mazen’s team did great work on this short featuring Agassiz Baldwin Community (though, it’s tough to watch myself on video)


Brock of The Sprocket Podcast has solid interview skillz. This conversation was fun and relaxed, and somehow listening to myself isn’t as nerve-wracking as viewing: http://bit.ly/the-sprocket-E219bcal/

Irritation: A Study, A Boon


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In my near two decades as an adult woman, I have suffered many fools irritations. You know. Run of the mill stuff: catcalls, wolf whistles, random grabs, assaults on my intelligence, backwards compliments, non-subtle demands that I be always pleasing in my countenance and manner. Hey, why don’t you smiiiiile?

These experiences, not unique to me, can be draining. They repress my goodwill, shake my faith in men, and erode my desire for humanity to continue past my brief time here. Sometimes, I’d prefer to dig a giant hole and just dump men everyone in.

Enter the Internet. Suffering silently alone has evolved into suffering loudly together, publicly. Hyper publicly. Enter fresh, new terms. I’m not super-hip, so I know only a few: mansplaining, man spreading . . .

Pausing there for a moment. I once saw a woman on the T get into a battle of wills with a man over the spread of his legs, blocking the seats to either side of him. Impressed at her unrepentant boldness, I was used to being squished between the tree-trunk outer thighs of dudes not so large as to need that much space. My experience of calling men on their . . . stuff has never been great, so I devised, over time, an understated but effective method: silently using my leg to intimidate their leg. Turns out, legs have their own language; plus New Englanders don’t like to touch.

So, tonight. Yep. On the Orange Line and the dude next to me was really, really into his smartphone. Sizing him up, I felt fairly certain that my leg could nudge his out of my floor space. Our knees leaned lightly together. Heat traveled noticeably from his person to my person and suddenly I was all awww, thanks, guy! A bitter night got less cold, literally, while Mr. Space Heater stayed glued to his device. Did not notice. Unwittingly provided a service for 3/4 of my ride home.

Fine. A boon. Justthisonce! Tomorrow, I’m back to annoyed.

Researching for the WIP


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For the first time in my (admittedly selective; and I don’t manage the selecting) memory, I’m juggling four major writing projects and this blog, which is a long-term effort in its own right. It’s a curious feeling like, at any moment, one project will tumble, ripe from the tree, and some force will pluck it up, cart it off. Well . . . one can hope. And work. And see what happens.

Library books in black and white

Learnin’ from the good ‘uns

Thanks, WP folks, for the 2015 Blog Review

As told, WordPress.com stats ‘helper monkeys’ (why not helper hamsters? honey badgers?) prepared a 2015 annual report. Very nice of them!! Also, Wednesday-postdays are now where it’s at. See you then.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 27 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

A Christmas Day Stroll


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Red garden orb

Some years it’s weather that prompts us to tarry longer than we planned before making the 280-ish mile trek to coastal New Jersey. Other years, a dip in health. Some, friends’ invitations to holiday engagements. Others, energy (or severe lack there of.)

This December, check ‘D.’ All of the above.

Frosted leaves

Flower display outside Vee Vee

Christmas Day, instead of opening gifts in David’s parents’ ocean-edge, cliff-top home, D and I took a stroll in the record-setting warmth. The sunlight was gorgeous, so naturally I wandered with my camera.

Dried hydrangea

We weren’t the only ones out and about. (Close, though.)

See the squirrel

Run, squirrel!

Daughter and mother bike on sidewalk

Centre St. Post Office in sun

Silk flower

Bench in sun at Jamaica Pond

We were among the few seated for a treat at one of our favorite Jamaica Plain restaurants, Cafe Beirut. Ah, well. More for us.

Rosewater lemonade 2


Baklava, I declare my love.

A Year Arrives, Departs


Today I took the subway because it was raining.

Oak Grove orange line

I sat, reading my iPod among all the readers (and game players and early-morning conversationalists) on their devices, and beside me a large man in a heavy, tan hooded sweatshirt who smelled heavily of cigarettes and hard work, whose face I never saw. His hands were broad. He’d pulled a rumpled Metro newspaper from the floor of the car and, well-used ballpoint pen in hand, folded it to the page with sudoku. Whole ride, he sat, staring at the puzzle, scribbling a few numbers.

I became aware of the man’s breathing, the steady, rhythmic rise and fall of the tan sweatshirt, beneath which a person, a pulse, a heartbeat, a heart. I became aware, in the seat on my other side, a different man whose details I can’t recount because I paid him so little attention. He was younger, smaller. How shockingly obvious his breathing suddenly seemed, the lift of his jacket keeping pace with the man in the tan sweatshirt. Then I glanced around the subway car and everyone was doing it. Everywhere, hearts. Lungs. Hands. Thoughts. Desires. Hopes.

You’d never know it. A year arrives and it departs. For us, I mean, the short-lived things who tragically fail to honor hearts on the subway. Who go along reading, talking, thinking, zoning out and, in our shared silence, believing the myth we are alone.

Scenes from a Veg Food Fest



FOMU baristas serve up cupcakesWay back when, my good friend Kelly and I had an annual tradition of checking out what’s new in the veggie-dom at the Boston Vegetarian Food Festival. Then she moved to Cali. I got distracted by other festivals, other learning spaces, other events.

Then Kelly moved back and we returned, two friends together, curious and delighted.

Guests visit tables

Boston Fodd Fest bags & t-shirts

Woman in cage speaks with man

I believe this woman is being factory farmed . . . ?

Guests visit eatery



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