Exult: Realistic Love

February 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone.  In its path, it leaves dying roses, half-eaten boxes of chocolate, and the question of when some of us will find love.

I take inspiration from J. Gerry Purdy’s story of love. He was a guest speaker in my new media class last semester.

Purdy’s wife, whom he bragged about and doted on throughout his presentation (she was there for support), was his high school sweetheart.  They broke up, and went their separate ways, both getting married to others, having children, and eventually divorcing.  After reuniting through email exchanges before one of their high school reunions, they finally married each other.

And, he’s absolutely crazy about her.

When he discussed his favorite rituals most of them involved his wife: buckling her seatbelt in the car, dancing with her every night, reading her a bedtime story, and saying “I love you” as much as possible.

We hear these stories, and most of us wonder, “When will that happen to me?”

We also hear the stories about ugly divorces and people who marry someone just to find out after one, five, or maybe ten or more years that the person they married wasn’t actually right for them.

After these conflicting tales, we wonder which scenario will be our’s— still head-over-heels at our twentieth wedding anniversary or raising two kids on our own, looking for love again at forty.

Sometimes, I honestly feel like true love doesn’t exist and that we just find somebody who we can live with and that’s the end of it.

After taking the time to step back and watch others in their relationships, I’ve realized we do end up picking someone who we can live with.  We pick somebody out of practicality, and the romantic evenings and hand-holding after twenty years of marriage evolves from there.

Perhaps the problem with many of the divorced couples is that they rushed into marriage, not fully understanding whether this person would be the perfect support and partner to get them through life.

The point is that we shouldn’t rush into decisions like that.  If we are patient, don’t rush things, and don’t try to make nothing into something, we’ll find that perfect person one day.

So, no matter how many of your Facebook friends are now engaged, listen to your heart and your mind.  Someday, they’ll lead you to the guy who will dance with you in the kitchen every night…even after thirty years of marriage.

Ashley Bene is a junior at the University of Georgia majoring in Magazines.  She wants to congratulate her parents on twenty-six years of marriage on February 25!

Exult: A Body Image Experiment

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Last semester, I decided to do a month-long experiment with a friend of mine. Andrea agreed to let me photograph her in her bathing suit for a month, and she kept a journal of how she felt about her body image.

Her pictures and comments are on a webpage for you to view.

After a month of this, Andrea and I came to several conclusions.

Even though I photographed her for an entire month, her body hardly changed. Her body on the “good” days looked the same as it did on the days she felt down on herself. So, why did she feel bad about her body on some days?

Andrea’s journal entries support the idea that, while you’re not necessarily what you eat, you do feel like what you eat. If you eat healthy foods regularly and save the sweets and junk food for an occasional treat, you will probably feel better about your body.

Working out, also supported by Andrea’s journal entries, is also a factor in how you perceive your body image. By working out regularly, you feel more positive about your body because you know you’re taking care of it and you’re on your way to toning up areas that don’t meet your satisfaction. Working out can also be a great stress-reliever, which can lead to a more positive outlook on everything- including your body image!

In light of these experiment results, here are some tips and ideas for fitting workout time into your busy college lifestyle:

1) Take advantage of our hilly campus! Try to walk more often instead of using the bus when going to classes. Also, instead of riding the elevator, try taking the stairs to your class on the fourth floor. Every little bit helps and working out won’t feel as daunting if you do it a little bit at a time!

2) Ramsey. I never used to like going to gyms, but now my friends have to almost force me to leave Ramsey. Part of your student fees go toward your “gym membership” for Ramsey, so it would be wise to take advantage of it! Ramsey offers something for everyone, no matter how experienced (or unexperienced) you are. All of the weight machines have easy to decipher pictures and instructions to help you work out, and the facilities include basketball courts, swimming pools, rock climbing walls, and other features.  If you live off-campus or commute, find out about other gym memberships in your area or see if your apartment complex has a fitness center.

3) If you don’t always have time to go to Ramsey, it is easy to sneak in a quick workout at home. Find workout videos on YouTube. You can also take a few Pilates or Yoga classes until you feel comfortable doing the moves on your own. Then, you can do them anytime, anywhere!

4) Another great tip that has helped me, especially when starting a new work out regimen, is to find a friend to work out with you. It is a lot easier to keep committed when you have a friend to help push you along.

5) It is also easier to stick to a workout routine if you have a regular schedule. Try to work out at the same time on the same days every week. It’ll be much easier to remember and you’ll find that, after a while, it becomes ingrained and you feel strange when you skip a workout!

6) Use your electives to your advantage.  In past semesters, I have used my electives to take dance classes, so I could still get a work out on my busy days!   The dance department offers several fun options such as ballroom dancing, folk dancing, and even pilates, among other classes!

Remember though, this isn’t about being the skinniest girl in the world or trying to be a body type that you just aren’t. It is about how you feel about and perceive yourself. We are all diverse in our body sizes and shapes, which is what makes the world so beautiful. Be supportive of your friends. Give more compliments- to yourself and them!

Ashley Bene is a junior majoring in magazines at the University of Georgia.  She wants to thank Andrea for participating in the experiment and tell her she has a rockin’ bod!

Exult: A Woman in 2010

December 15, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

As the season of revelations and resolutions approaches, I find myself contemplating where I am and where I want to go.

As I look at the past year, I see the ups and downs I’ve been through.  I recognize the happiness the good times gave me and the lessons and strength the bad brought.  I am thankful for both.

This New Years, I find most of the improvements I hope for in 2010 involve health and fitness.  Because of that, when I start this column back up after winter break, I’ll reveal the results of the month long experiment I mentioned and cover some women’s exercise and health topics.

On a deeper level than personal fitness though, I find myself contemplating the woman I am becoming and what kind of a woman I want to be.

What does it take to be a strong, yet elegant woman in 2010?  It is a tough balancing act that I think will prove a challenge to maintain well.  How do we appear elegant without seeming like we have no backbone?  How do we appear strong without coming across as unpolished or too brash?

I don’t know the answers yet, but I feel like my experiences thus far in college are pushing me in the right direction, and I need to stay focused to stay on track.

As Clare Boothe Luce, an American diplomat and playwright, said, “Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed.  If I fail, no one will say, ‘She doesn’t have what it takes.’  They will say, ‘Women don’t have what it takes.’”

Sadly, there are still people who maintain that sort of attitude about women.  It is our responsibility to be the best women we can be so we can continue to crush stereotypes against our sex.

No matter what you face in 2010, I hope you’ll devote some deep thought to what kind of woman you are becoming and you’d like to be.  There’s never a better time to start thinking about the future than the present.

Ashley Bene is a junior majoring in magazines at the University of Georgia.  She hopes everyone has a safe and happy winter break!

Exult: Taking the High Road

November 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Okay, ladies, let’s talk about taking the high road.

Halloween weekend brought the University of Georgia’s fall break and the UGA v. Florida game.

The following week brought tired students back to the UGA campus, and a media commotion over Brandon Spikes, Flordia’s defensive captain, and his alleged attempted gouging of Georgia running back Washaun Ealey’s eyes in Florida’s 41-17 victory over the Dawgs.

Since the cameras caught the incident, Spikes is being punished by Florida coach, Urban Meyer, by having to sit out the first half of Florida’s game against Vanderbilt on November 7.  Wednesday night, Spikes announced he would suspend himself for the entire game against Vanderbilt.

Though Meyer and Spikes may blame the “emotion” of a game of football for the incident, the fact of the matter is that Spikes did it, and he is the only person responsible for his actions.  Kudos to him, though, for willingly extending his suspension.

If there’s a lesson to learn from this incident, it’s that one should always take the high road.  Even if Spikes hadn’t gotten caught, he would’ve known what he had done.  The same goes for the rest of us.

If others around you are playing dirty, it doesn’t mean you should stoop to their level.  It doesn’t even mean you should dignify their actions with a response.

When somebody wrongs us, like a roommate or coworker, many of us have the first instinct to strike back.  The smart thing to do, however, is to walk away, cool down, and make a sound decision about the appropriate action later.

Sometimes things happen in the heat of the moment though, but we should all have a decent understanding of right and wrong.  That little voice in our minds pops up, and let’s us know we’ve crossed the line; we need to stop and listen to it.  It’ll help prevent us from making as big of a misjudgment as attempting to gouge someone’s eye.

But when we do slip up, we should offer an apology- warm and heartfelt.

Women are constantly bombarded by stereotypes about being “catty” or “malicious,” especially to other females.  If every one of us made an effort to take the high road, we could kill this stereotype.

It takes confidence to deal with a confrontational situation and avoid resorting to petty actions and comments, especially when your opposition does.  Being confident enough to handle altercations is a great feeling and is essential to future success.

There’s something to say for taking the high road.  You’ll be able to hold your head high, knowing you haven’t done anything wrong.

Ashley Bene is a junior at the University of Georgia majoring in magazines.  She will remember to wear goggles if she ever finds herself playing football with Brandon Spikes.

Exult: A Daily Toast

October 26, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Last week, I had my ah-ha moment.

We had a guest speaker, J. Gerry Purdy, in my Introduction to New Media Class. While he was supposed to talk to us about new media, he focused most of his presentation on getting the most out of life. I have never left a classroom so moved.

The best part was when he told us about his traditions. He glowed as he listed them: reading his wife a bedtime story, buckling her seatbelt, dancing every night with her, prayer before dinner, laughing often, and saying “I love you” as much as possible.

The one that hit me hardest: toasting something good that happened each day before dinner with a glass of champagne.

While nightly champagne may not be an option for many of us who are underage or broke, the sentiment remains. Even on the worst of days, there is always something good.  Even if you have to dig deep to recognize it. I don’t always remember that.

But I should, and so should you.

Our lives can improve dramatically from recognizing even one good thing about every day. I think we’d all be happier if we made this a daily ritual. If more of us were happier, we could make others happier. My day always perks up when I see someone smile.

But ladies, we can take this a step further. What if you said something good about yourself every day?

Even when you wake up in a bad mood or feel bloated, you’d have to identify one thing you like, whether it is your sense of humor or your smile. We could all benefit from some daily affirmation.

In the movie “Baby Mama,” Tina Fey’s character had post-it affirmations all over her vanity mirror about getting pregnant. What if you covered your vanity with post-it notes about your favorite features or encouraging phrases about your workout routine or diet?

Everyone deserves to be happy, and to some degree, life is what you make it. If you tell yourself you don’t like the cards you’ve been dealt, then you’re going to play poorly. If you tell yourself, “Well, this is what it is,” and make do with what you’re given, you’ll be at peace with yourself and happier.

So chill some champagne and make some pretty sticky notes: it’s time for your optimism to shine, even on the dark days.

Ashley Bene is a junior majoring in Magazines at the University of Georgia. For her daily toast, she is recognizing her recent academic accomplishments!

Exult: Beauty Comes in All Shapes

October 19, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Have you heard of Lizzi Miller, a 20-year-old model who appeared on page 194 of Glamour magazine’s September issue?

Lizzi’s beauty has catapulted her to receive national attention with interviews on CNN and other news shows.

But the catch is that Lizzi represents the average woman.  She’s considered a “plus size” model, but in reality, she just has the normal curves that many women have.  Her ability to stand tall (and model hardly clothed) while looking like she feels fantastic about her body is what has caused such a stir.

Why can’t all women feel that way?  Surely if Lizzi can work in a cut-throat industry, where being super skinny is all the rage, the rest of us can find a way to be happy with our bodies too!

Glamour magazine, in honor of the hundreds of letters and comments readers sent and left on their website about Lizzi, decided to devote their November issue to being true to real women (I just about tore the cover off the issue in my excitement to read it when it came in the mail).  It’s about time a women’s magazine recognized that we are NOT skin and bones, and we should embrace our curves!

Glamour magazine isn’t the only organization trying to encourage women to feel good though.  Dove also has their Campaign for Real Beauty, which they started in 2004.  According to their website, its purpose is to be “a global effort that is intended to serve as a starting point for societal change.”

We need to stop beating ourselves up about our flaws.  Many times, it’s just a figment of our imaginations, and other people don’t even notice the things we do about our bodies.  And besides, who is to say they are “flaws,” anyway?  If it’s part of what makes you who you are, then how can you call it a “flaw”?

In honor of this notion, I’m doing an experiment.  For the next thirty days, I am going to take a picture of one of my friends wearing a bathing suit or workout clothes every day.  She’ll record how she feels about her body on each day, and at the end of the experiment, you’ll be able to see how her body changes (or doesn’t change) over time.  If my experience and my friends’ experiences have shown me anything, it’s that we’ll find that her body doesn’t fluctuate nearly as much as her mind tells her it does.

So, ladies, stay tuned.  In about 4-5 weeks, check back for the results of the experiment!  Until then, take every moment you can to appreciate being your beautiful, unique self!

Ashley Bene is a junior majoring in Magazines at the University of Georgia.  She wishes more women, including her, had the confidence that Lizzi Miller has!

Exult: Five Reasons to Fall for Fall

October 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Fall is upon us, and the weather has been beautiful!  Fall is my absolute favorite time of year.  I just love the comfortable temperatures, and being showered in colorful leaves when I’m outside.  Fall may not be your favorite season, but here are five reasons to fall for fall:

1)      Fall should make you feel beautiful!  The weather is nice, so you can still wear some of your summery clothes without dealing with the heat of summer.  Not to mention, on most days the Athens humidity is down, so most of us have increased odds at having a good hair day!  How can you not feel beautiful when a cool breeze massages your skin and blows your frizz-free hair?

2)      Fall gives you a great excuse to get outside for exercise!  I love walking around campus for my workout.  With the perfect weather, you have no excuse to not go out!   You can run or walk around or you can get some friends to play Frisbee or soccer!  Everybody is looking for a good excuse to go enjoy the weather!

3)      Fall brings new fashions!  If you’re into clothes and following trends, fall offers a welcome change.  Belted jackets, one shoulder tops and dresses, big necklaces, and boyfriend jackets are just a few trends seen on the Fall Fashion Week runways!  Fall also means stores are putting their winter clothes out, so it’s the perfect time to shop the clearance racks for summery bargains!

4)      Fall means a series of fun holidays are coming up: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Hanukah, Christmas, and New Year’s, to name a few!  I love the holiday season because every holiday presents different traditions or events that I can enjoy with the people I love: my friends and family!

5)      Fall also brings new foods and recipes!  Seasonal foods are a lot of fun because they only come around for a few months out of the year!  If you like apples, you’re in business!  Apple pie, apple torts, apple dumplings, apple crisps, applesauce… it’s all so delicious!  Pumpkin is also a fun fall treat, whether you’re making pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pie, or pumpkin shell soup!  Here are some fall recipes!

Ashley Bene is a junior majoring in magazines.  She is a sucker for candy corn, one of her favorite fall treats!

Exult: Sunny Inspiration

September 28, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

In honor of the glorious sunlight and blue skies we’ve seen after the darkness and rain, I decided to compile a list of inspiring quotes by women for this week’s column.  Many of these women overcame “dark” times to help women find their way to the sunlight of equality.  Whether we’ve made it or still have a ways to go is a hotly debated issue, but we definitely have gone somewhere.  I hope these will inspire you to tackle whatever obstacles are standing in your way.

“I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.”
—Martha Washington, first First Lady of the United States of America

“I think the key is for women not to set any limits.”
— Martina Navratilova,
a Czech-American tennis player

“For what is done or learned by one class of women becomes, by virtue of their common womanhood, the property of all women.”
—Elizabeth Blackwell
, first woman in the U.S. to become a physician

“We’ve chosen the path to equality, don’t let them turn us around.”
—Geraldine Ferraro, first woman to be nominated as Vice President of the United States

“If you have knowledge, let others light their candles in it.”
— Margaret Fuller, author of “Woman in the Nineteenth Century,” considered to be the first major feminist work

“Don’t compromise yourself. You are all you’ve got.”
—Janis Joplin, an American singer, songwriter and music arranger

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist

“I can honestly say that I was never affected by the question of the success of an undertaking. If I felt it was the right thing to do, I was for it regardless of the possible outcome.”
—Golda Meir, fourth prime minister of the state of Israel

Ashley Bene is a junior majoring in magazines at the University of Georgia.  She will never take sunlight for granted ever again.

Exult: Will You Still Read This If I Tell You It’s About the VMA’s Spectacle?

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I know we’re all tired of hearing about the VMA’s and how Kanye West made Taylor Swift cry, but I wanted to bring up something  inspiring about the whole situation.

Did any of you notice how supportive all of the women (some of them even nominated in the same category as Taylor Swift for awards at the VMA’s) were of Swift when West interrupted her acceptance speech to proclaim Beyonce had the best video?

Kellie Pickler and Pink (among other celebrities) immediately updated their twitters sounding off about West’s rude behavior.  Kelly Clarkson, on the other hand, took it to a whole new level by blasting West in an entry on her blog (Read it here.  It’s fantastic).

Then  Beyonce asked Swift to join her onstage later during the show so she could finish her speech.  It has been said that Beyonce’s father arranged for Swift to come back up on stage.  Whether that’s true or not,  it was Beyonce who agreed to give up her moment in the spotlight to let Swift reclaim her’s, and that’s worth recognition.

The fantastic part of the evening and the following days was getting to watch all of these women come together in support of Taylor Swift.  These women have been outspoken and made strong stands, but remained classy while doing so.  There’s something really powerful in that.

We don’t have to sit back and let people walk all over us just because we’re being “ladies.”  Times have changed.  We can be outspoken and still be lady-like.  If I were Taylor Swift, I would definitely stick by women like Kelly Clarkson, Kellie Pickler, Pink, Beyonce, and all of the other women (and men, for that matter) who’ve been supportive of her.

And we, as women, should be more supportive of each other.  We need to remember how hard women worked (not all that long ago) to earn us some of the rights we enjoy today.  I know I take it for granted sometimes.  The ability to be outspoken and stand up for each other was given to us by these women, and we should take full advantage of it.

Also, in light of the Taylor Swift-Kanye West drama, we should take a moment to look to either side of us at our friends.  Would your friends stand by you and tear Kanye West to shreds for doing something like that to you?  I know mine would, and that’s what I love about them.  They are the Kelly Clarkson’s and Beyonce’s of my life.

So while we all feel bad for Taylor Swift and are irritated by Kanye West’s latest deplorable behavior, it’s always nice to find the silver lining in a bad situation and even learn a lesson for our own lives.  Surround yourself with strong friends who care about you, and you’ll be able to get through just about anything.

Ashley Bene is a junior majoring in magazines at the University of Georgia.  According to a quiz on Facebook (“Where Will Kanye Interrupt You?”), Kayne West will interrupt her wedding day.

Exult: Beauty + Electricity = Beautricity?

September 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Have you ever thought about how much we rely on electricity and appliances to look beautiful?

Late last week, in my residence hall, our power was out for a few hours. As we all sat in the hallway enjoying each other’s company, I started thinking about our dependence on electricity for beauty.

Women back in the day didn’t use flat irons and curling irons. If you think back far enough, they didn’t even use blow dryers.

So many times we say, “Oh, I didn’t get to blow dry or straighten my hair today, so I just threw on a hat.”

Why should we feel we need to put our hair in a hat when we can’t expose it to damaging devices like flat irons and blow dryers?

A  few weeks ago my flat iron burned out. I don’t have a car on campus, so running to the store isn’t always easy. After I calmed down (I was actually really upset!), I hopped online and ordered a new one.

But I had to wait a week for it to arrive.

In the meantime, I wondered what I was going to do with my hair. In August in Athens, my hair was going to frizz badly in the humidity.  Combating it without a flat iron seemed impossible. How could I go a whole week without straightening my hair? It was then that I realized how grossly dependent I was on my flat iron.

Our hair is not made to withstand that much heat, and that’s not all.  I use a heat protection spray when I blow dry and straighten my hair. It works well, but I’m just adding more chemicals to my hair. Can that really be healthy for it?

I’ve also heard that shampooing daily isn’t good either, but our society has put some ridiculous beauty standards in place for us to follow (Read more about it here). I remember girls in my residence hall during my freshman year talking about how gross it was when girls didn’t wash their hair every single day. What if you don’t have super oily hair and didn’t work out or anything that day? Why should you wash your hair when you probably don’t need to? You’d be robbing it of the natural oils that are actually good for your hair.  What if we just quit adhering to these standards? What if we stopped exposing our hair to so much heat and so many chemicals?

All of these products and chemicals make us look just like everyone else. We can all straighten our hair every day with our flat irons, so every girl looks like she has ridiculously straight hair. We’ve let these chemicals and products mold us into carbon copies of each other.  I think it’s awesome that we all have unique hair. None of us will have the exact same hairstyle if we are true to our natural roots.

I’ve decided I’m going to be kinder to my mane. I’m going to limit my use of my flat iron and blow dryer and the chemicals that go with it. I definitely don’t intend to give up my blow dryer and flat iron, but I promise to use them less often and be more in tune with what my hair wants to do.

So, if you see a girl walking around campus with half straight, half wavy, and completely frizzy hair on a humid day this week, that’s probably me, just being true to myself.

Click here for information on how to prevent heat damaged hair!

Ashley Bene is a junior at the University of Georgia majoring in magazines.  She is embracing her natural hairstyle.

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