My Hot Tomato Why – Unlearning Mean Girl CultureOn January 22, 2020 by pinkcrush1112
The photo above is me with my gals (minus Jesse Hyde), my crew, my Hot Tomato tribe at Sparkly Ladies Night 2019. You may not understand how remarkable this photo is without understanding where I come from. So let me give you my “why”.
My high school years were a bit miserable. I had fallen in with a group of mean girls. This feels a little vulnerable to write because I still live in the general vicinity of where I grew up and I don’t talk about this to point fingers at anyone. I was a mean girl too. I participated in mean girl culture like it was my job. Maybe it was a means of survival. Whatever it was, it sucked.
At some point I just became too weird the mean girl gang and much to my relief, they dropped me. Mean girls don’t “jump you out” or anything, you just cease to exist. I felt nothing but relief to no longer be on their radar or hit list.
I still didn’t know how to be friends with women. I didn’t even know how to be a good friend to myself. I actively picked at my appearance and didn’t stand up for myself. Naturally, I picked at other women’s appearances and didn’t stand up for them either. I was in a terrible marriage with an emotionally abusive husband and I found myself, again, in a life I hated. When that relationship finally, thankfully, fell apart I knew that I had to make a serious shift. While attending Ohio University I took a Women’s Study class and began that work of unlearning my mean girl skill set. I began moving through the world differently but it took awhile.
I really had no idea how to go about changing but I knew I wanted to build myself and my friends up instead of tearing each other down. I wanted deep connections and the safety net of a tribe of women who could hold even an imperfect person like me. I craved honest conversations and grace when I made a mess of things.
I had to first change the relationship I had with myself. My body. My mistakes. My failures. My wins. My strength and my weaknesses. It was a one step forward, two steps back kind of journey. I examined my relationship to my body and my culture through a series of self portraits and writing. I began to accept my body and examine our cultural notions of beauty.
The relationships I had with other women slowly started shifting. I found other women that felt like me and wanted something more than competition and body hate to fuel their friendships. And like magic I found I was building a life I loved.
And then Hot Tomato happened. Enter Jesse Hyde.
It started as an experiment between friends and almost immediately we realized Hot Tomato was so much more than just a viable income stream. The community we were accidentally building was needed not just by us, but by pretty much every single woman we knew. We were collectively craving a space free from judgement that fostered connection and reconnection with our inner most desires and one another. We needed a group of women that understood that when one of us is succeeding, we all succeed. We needed a tribe that held us accountable with love and compassion.
We began to notice that women changed after working with us. We observed that the simple act of being photographed and celebrated was enough to set off a chain event in most women’s lives. We delighted in watching a woman who felt unattractive, overweight and disconnected from her body and sexuality when she arrived be reborn as a woman who felt more in love with her body than she could ever imagine. We watched women begin to unpack years of trauma and find their voices as they reclaimed her their bodies. We watched women whose only connection with one another is that they were both Hot Tomatoes step up to help and support one another, over and over and over again. And it was, without a doubt, pure unadulterated magic.
So yes, Hot Tomato started out as a boudoir portrait studio that celebrated all women but grew into a community of women that felt inclusive, kind and brave.
So back to my photo (Jesse Hyde is missing from this photo but always part of my core tribe) – you are looking at women from their 20’s to their 60’s. Collectively we have seventeen living children, one brand new grand baby, multiple pregnancy and infant losses, a teen mom, sizes 2-24, straight, gay, married, divorced, widowed, engaged and single. We have survived losing parents and siblings, divorces, messy break-ups, boot camp, multiple loved ones with serious health issues, financial scares and job loss. We struggle, we support each other, we fight and we keep bringing our best selves to the table. We are a messy, joyful, supportive family.
This is my why. These women. You. Me. Hot Tomato exists for all of us.
You, sweet friend, are my why. We are here for you when you are ready.