ALLISON EPSTEIN IS A HUMAN, AND AN EATING DISORDER SURVIVOR

Allison Epstein Photo (1)

Name: Allison Epstein

Age: 23

Location: Berwyn, Illinois (Western suburb of Chicago for out-of-staters)

Occupation:

Junior business-to-business marketing copywriter by day, managing editor at Adios Barbie by night. I write and edit articles about everything from eating disorders to rape culture to systemic racism. At my day job, I write copy about products you didn’t know existed for trade magazines you also didn’t know existed. (Ask me anything about galvanized steel conduit. No, go ahead, ask.)

Where did you come from?

Lansing, Michigan, home of several now-defunct General Motors plants, the state capital, and, at one point, Malcolm X.

A Fear: Settling. Choosing comfort over working for what intimidates and inspires me, professionally and personally. Also bats. Slit-nosed leather-winged furry demons. Nothankyou.

A Goal: Pay the bills by writing fiction. It can be one short story I sell for $20 to pay my electric bill with. I’m not picky.

A Memory: In the summer of 2013, I was studying abroad in Northern Ireland when my grandmother passed away from Parkinson’s disease. I couldn’t make it back in time for the funeral, but I traveled to the Antrim coast along the north of the island, and spent the day of the service on a cliff above the blue-green sea, watching the waves roll past and listening to seals barking on the rocks below. I don’t know what I believe about this life and anything after, but I’ve never felt more connected to the universe and whatever’s beyond it.

A Mistake: Backing out of opportunities from fear of what people will think of me. It’s an ongoing mistake, and one I’m working daily to correct.

A Hero: My parents and Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

A Fault: You haven’t seen Type A until you see how I do Type A. My work-life balance is a hot mess, and I’ve always demanded more of myself than I can deliver. Someday I’ll be able to fall asleep with unanswered emails still in my inbox. Until then, I will lull myself into a false sense of security with lists, spreadsheets, and a flawlessly alphabetized bookshelf.

A Talent: I have a Shakespeare reference ready for almost any occasion. The number of friends and family members I’ve convinced to read / watch / attend a performance of King Lear is frankly alarming. I’m not sure if this is a talent or a nuisance.

A Prized Possession: My library of notebooks. I write longhand whenever I can, and haven’t thrown away a book since 2007. Everything before then is too embarrassing to be read, anyway.

A Need: Solitude. As an introvert, I’m like old film: For anything to turn out OK, sometimes I need to be alone in a dark room for a while.

I want More: Compassion. Locally and globally, for people we know and understand and for people we don’t.

I want Less: Coldplay.

What would you change about the world?

I want to get rid of the connection between food, our bodies, and our worth. There’s so much morality tied up in these issues when there just doesn’t need to be. There is nothing good or bad about food or bodies — they are what they are. The way you treat someone, whether or not you tip your servers, how you vote on social issues, how you support friends in need, there’s morality in that. In our thighs? If we could stop this culturally sanctioned long con, I’d be over the moon.

What do you love about yourself?

My writing voice. Whether anyone but my family, friends, or workshop group reads my work is beside the point (although if you’re searching for a novelist-for-hire, hit me up…). I’m closer emotionally to the main character of my novel-in-eternal-progress than I am to most people. He just understands me.

GRACE MANGER IS A HUMAN, AND A LESBIAN

Grace

Name: Grace Manger

Age: 21

Location: Kalamazoo, Michigan

Occupation: I work multiple jobs, but most notably, I manage content and development at The Parents Project, a website that gives comprehensive advice and support to parents of LGBTQ young people.

Where did you come from? A single-parent home– and then a blended family home– in west Michigan. I grew up surrounded by loving parents and a million siblings, a conservative school district, some hard times, and a lot of figuring things out as we went along.

A Fear: Disappointing those I care most about.

A Goal: To help people fully and unapologetically inhabit their bodies and their identities.

A Memory: I was painfully shy as a child, and there was a time when I exclusively communicated with my mom through written notes that I hid in a make-shift mailbox in our living room. She kept every single one, and they range from “Can we have macaroni and cheese for lunch today?” to “I’m really sad, can I have a hug?” I still read them every once in a while, and the emotions and vulnerability of my 4-year-old self consistently bring me to tears.

A Mistake: I was so terrified of being labeled a lesbian in high school that I remained complacent in instances of bullying that I witnessed, out of fear that my standing up for someone would turn the target on me instead. We didn’t have a GSA or many positive and out LGBTQ role models, and the kids who were thought to be gay were ostracized. I remember hearing some kids make fun of those participating in Day of Silence one year, and I couldn’t bring myself to say anything while fighting back tears. I didn’t know if I was gay or not at that point, but my biggest fear was being labeled as something before I was ready. College turned out to be an amazing place for me to figure out my sexuality, but I still feel incredibly guilty for not being a better ally to my peers during that confusing time.

A Hero: A magical little girl named Maia, who taught me more about loving myself during her 8 years on earth than anyone else.

A Fault: Basing my self-worth on what other people think of me.

A Talent: I am very good at handstands.

A Prized Possession: My voice.

A Need: Affection and affirmation.

I want More: Courage to say the big things and take the big risks.

I want Less: Doubt and disillusionment. Also, guns.

What would you change about the world? I wish we could have less emphasis on productivity and more emphasis on pleasure. We base our success as human beings on how much we work and produce, and I wish we paid more attention to how much we love, how much we smile, how much we connect with others on a daily basis.

What do you love about yourself? At 21 years old, I think I have been through more than most: some destructive relationships, an eating disorder, coming out to myself and to others, and the loss of a loved one. When I look back on it all, I am incredibly proud of my resilience and my ability to use those experiences to transform my life into one that I never could have imagined for myself just a few years ago.