For Saul

This is your hint!

My dearest Saúl,

I know the world is bleak and you sometimes feel sad – but look at how loved you are! Now you understand why I said we were talking about love, even if you didn’t believe me yesterday 😄❤️

Hug Val extra tight for making this happen, and have SO MUCH FUN with the rest!

Clothingstore

After coming back home crying, once again, because going to shop for clothes is an absurd nightmare, I wanted to share some ideas on how I think clothing stores should change.

I want to stop walking around in your store feeling like I’m not supposed to be there.

I want clothing sizes for women to make sense across brands. If I fit into an XL at one store and not in a XXL at another, something is off.

I want shirts that don’t end near my bellybutton. My basic shirts should fall at the hip, not at the waist.

I want shirts that have been made specifically for women with large chests – not regular shirts that have just been made a size larger.

Closeup of a curvy woman's tshirt, including a crease that allows for a large(r) chest
Look closely; you’ll see a crease. It’s put there so the shirt fits a larger chest and makes all the difference in the world.

I want jeans that 1) fit both my leg length AND hip-width, 2) do not get damaged beyond repair due to inner-thigh chafing in less than 3 months and 3) are the norm, rather than the exception

I want shoes that look frickin’ amazing, sizes 40 and up. I am so tired feeling like Cinderella’s ugly sister, trying to fit into decent shoes. Right now it’s either shapeless clogs or feeling like my toes will fall off because there’s nothing available in my size.

I want to be assisted by employees who have been trained to help me figure out how to dress for my body type, instead of handing me an item at random.

I want mirrors in the dressing room, so that I can check myself out before having to step into the outside world.

When I’m shopping online, I want to select a model who has my body type, and have them show off the store’s clothing.

And speaking of online shopping: I want plus-size models to look happy and comfortable, instead of looking downcast and miserable. Do me a favor and go to this page on Zalando: https://www.zalando.nl/dameskleding-bloezen/zizzi/?season_name=lente-zomer. Look at the women’s faces. How many look like the clothes they wear make them feel unhappy?

I want the term ‘plus-size’ to die in a fire. It indicates that women with these bodies are outside the norm, while all I see are regular bodies being dubbed ‘(too) large’.

In the end, I just want to leave your store feeling good about myself – not crying because you made my body feel inadequate and abnormal.

Postpartum depression

If you have had trouble reaching me in the last few months, or wondered where I went off to, this post is for you.

About 7 months ago, our family welcomed a beautiful baby girl called Elin. The pregnancy had been very rough on my body – I had pelvic girdle pain that made it impossible for me to walk. I was in a wheelchair for most of the 9 months I carried her. In the end, I could barely sleep or even get myself to the toilet. As a result, I had prepartum depression (yep, that’s a thing), which made the risk of getting postpartum depression a lot higher.

What I first thought was just having difficulties adjusting to life with 3 kids, quickly turned into a depression that I could not shake. It took a while for it to get bad enough that I broke down and told my husband I needed help. That may have been one of the hardest things I have ever done. The day after, I saw my doctor who promptly put me on medication. Only after taking those first few pills did I recognise just how bad the depression had actually gotten.

Long story short: I’m only just emerging from the deepest depression I’ve ever had. Pretty much everything was overwhelming – from getting out of bed to making sure I ate.

I know some people have tried contacting me, and I am also aware that I have been a dutz at getting back at you. I’m so sorry that this happened, and I promise that I am working on getting back on track. Your patience and understanding are very much appreciated.

How To Own Things When You’re A Woman

Almost exactly a year ago, my husband and I bought a house together. A huge moment for me, as I had not bought a house before. My husband had, and we decided to stay with his bank: ABN AMRO. We figured that they already had most of our financial details, which should make things easier…. Right?

Wrong. Oh, how very wrong we were.

I won’t go into the trouble we had even getting the mortgage on the house. Let me just say that it took over 50 documents, daily phone calls, and 33.000 euros more than the bank had originally quoted us to get the house.

It was worth it in the end, but I’m never doing that again if I can help it. Side note advice: get yourself a decent financial advisor. Most of our issues were due to the bank advisor’s inability to provide us with proper assistance.

That being said: we bought the house. Signed the mortgage and ownership papers at the notary office. Got the keys, fixed it up, and have been loving living here since. So far, so good.

Until recently, when I discovered that I wasn’t actually allowed to pull up any information on my own mortgage.

You’ll need your husband’s permission

One of my hobbies is budgeting. Not kidding. I love making sure we have our financial stuff in order. It makes me feel secure and I honestly feel that being financially savvy is a feminist issue.

I have a plan in place that will allow us to buy a new kitchen next year using the money we saved (instead of taking out a loan and paying that off). That is a powerful feeling!

Me being me, I started looking ahead and wondering what our best course of action should be after the kitchen is paid for. One of the options is to pay off our mortgage faster than the 30 years we signed for (no way in hell I’ll still be paying for a mortgage when I’m retired!).

So, in order to do some research, I logged into our banking platform; I had seen that we had a nice overview of our mortgage in there when my husband had been logged in a while before.

There was no mortgage information under my account. Confused, I logged out and back in again, this time using my husband’s details. Under his account, the mortgage details were there.

Weird. I triple checked my own account, determined that there really wasn’t any way I could bring up the same information when my details were being used instead of my husband’s.

Confused, I called up ABN AMRO’s helpdesk. Here’s how that conversation went, approximately:

Lady: “Hi there, how may I help you?

Me: “Hi – this is Ines van Essen. I’m calling because I’m a bit confused. I don’t appear to have access to my mortgage information. When I use my husband’s account, I can see all of our details, his and mine. When logged into my account, that same information isn’t there.”

Lady: “That’s strange. Let me take a look at that.”

Lady: “……………………….. Hello, ma’am? Yeah, so I looked things over, and it appears that all mortgage information is listed under your husband’s name.”

Me: “Okay… But my name is on the mortage contract.”

Lady: “Yes ma’am. We made an error – sorry for the inconvenience.”

Me: “That’s alright, can you adjust it please so I have access from now on?”

Lady: “No ma’am – you’ll need your husband’s permission for that. Please visit one of our offices together – your husband should bring his ID with him.”

Fair is fair: the lady I spoke to was friendly and quick to agree that the situation was rather ridiculous. She couldn’t however, provide any other information on the mortgage (think rates, current height of the mortgage, anything).

I felt ripped out of my own time, Outlander style, and thrown 100 years back in history. In order to access information on something I owned, my husband had to accompany me and sign a paper that said he’d allow me access.

My… I Mean, My Husband’s New Car

About 10 months ago, I needed a new car. We somehow always end up having car trouble and after a bit of calculation, we figured that a private lease was actually a good choice. We normally never go for leases on anything, but this whole thing would end up costing us less than buying a second-hand car.

I had never owned anything so new and expensive. Like, ever. I have a hard time buying new clothes, let alone get a brand new car, including new car smell. I was excited, okay – and cars have never really excited me.

I filled in the paperwork myself. Form 1 was for the requesting party’s details – mine. The second form was for the main party’s spouse (because they need to consent, understandably – it’s a loan, after all), meaning my husband. All was well and I was approved for the loan within days.

Car pickup day came around and I practically hop-skipped to the dealership. We were welcomed, I could already see the car under a big cloth in the back of the shop, it was awesome.

Until it was time to sign. The man getting everything ready presented my husband with the paperwork and asked him to sign.

Confused, I looked from my husband to the salesman. “But… It’s my car.” I said. “My name was on form one.”

“Oh,” the salesman shrugged. “I guess they made a mistake. Everything is already registered in Mr. Van Essen’s name, though, soooo….”

My husband signed the papers and we took the car home. I got to drive – but all the excitement had gone out of the experience.

About Speaking Up

It took four weeks, 1 trip to the ABN AMRO office (while extremely pregnant and unable to walk or stand for more than a minute), five phone calls with five different people, extra paperwork, three departments, and one official complaint to get the issue with my mortgage fixed.

We were promised that things would be resolved twice, only to find out later that not even a note of our request had been made. The paperwork we were sent was wrong; it would give me power of attorney over the account, but not ownership.

The car lease salesman promised that they would adjust the registration on the car right away. Ten months on, it still hasn’t been changed. I’ve given up asking.

With each individual occurrence, I’ve been asked whether it’s really necessary to have the details changed is really needed. My husband and I are married, so it doesn’t make any difference whose name is on the contract.

But what if that changes? Nevermind the frustration when yet another person assumes everything should be in my husband’s name. If my husband and I were to get a divorce (we’re not, but if) and I have no access to my own financial details without his permission, that would make it harder for me to leave.

In the same situation, I would be left without a car – it’s not in my name, so I have no right to it. I need a car, as I have a disability that prevents me from using my bike for everything.

Had I been in an abusive relationship, both these situations would impact my ability to leave so significantly, I doubt I would be able to at all. (Let me be very clear: I am not in such a relationship, my husband is a wonderful man, is as appalled as I am at both occurrences and has done everything in his power to help rectify things).

Having the correct name on a contract matters. With both the car and the mortgage, the big problem turned out to be the same: not the initial error, but getting it fixed.

The point of this post: don’t let things like this slide. Speak up, especially if it concerns your partner. Don’t assume that just because it’s not needed now, it doesn’t need fixing. Put in the effort.

Also: being financially independent is super duper important, even if your relationship is awesome. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

Help me write!

I’m currently around 4 months pregnant – still have a ways to go! The problem is that I am currently experiencing a bad case of something called pelvic girdle pain; a hormone related affliction that makes it very hard for me to walk, sit upright, or do pretty much anything.

That means I have a lot of idle time. I can’t move from the couch much, so doing chores and leaving the house are becoming increasingly impossible. I’d love to have something to do other than work or play the Xbox though – time to get a little creative!

I want to spend this time working on my writing skills. Ever since I was little I wanted to be a fiction writer, but I’ve never been brave enough to show any of my skills to anyone. The only way to get over the fear that you will all hate my writing is to actually write some stuff. I’ve learned that public accountability is something that works well for me.

That’s where I need your help. I’d love it if you leave me a writing prompt!

What’s a writing prompt?

A writing prompt is usually a description of a scene but can be anything that is indicative of a situation that’s happening. Some examples:

  • “No, I don’t want you to do that.” she said, with a hint of pleading in her voice.
  • He’d always hated speaking in public.
  • It was a sound unlike anything they had heard before.

The purpose of this is to help with writer’s block, to hone the writing skill, or generally just for a bit of fun.

What do I need from you?

Leave a writing prompt in the comments below and I’ll write a short story for each individual comment. The prompt itself can be anything, although I’d love it if you can:

  • keep it to one sentence
  • not post anything too pornographic

In return, I’ll write a minimum of 700 words per prompt, first come first serve.

Where can you read the results?

All short stories will be published under the (currently empty) Fiction menu item, at the top of the page. Alice gif