Kaite

Kyira: “What made you want to be a part of this project?”

Kaite: “I just wanted to see what it was all about. It just seemed very interesting to me just because there wasn’t a full explanation of what the whole process would be like - which intrigued me - and after looking at some of the profiles, I was like ‘Hmm’. And so I called Megan and was like ‘Is this for anybody?’ And she went, ‘Yeah’ so I figured I might as well start with this and see what happens.”

Megan: “Well it is good to have different types of people involved too. We have guys coming to also be a part of it, you know, and…”

Kaite: “And I noticed there were profiles of people with all different body sizes, shapes, and so on…men, women, all different ages, everything.”

Kyira: “Uh huh. And it has been interesting to see, especially with the age piece. We have had a couple of woman that have done it and feedback they have given is that they feel old looking at themselves in pictures compared to others and it’s interesting because no one else can see that, really, looking at these photos. And sometimes, I get other people asking about how young they are. You can’t see that two people right next to each other might be 10 or 15 years apart when all you see is the beauty they each hold in their photos and story. It becomes less of a thing because no one else is looking for that and when we can let those little hang-ups about ourselves go, it leaves more room for acceptance and celebration for who we are.

Kaite: “Yeah, absolutely. Age is very easily mistaken and not something to get caught up in. I mean, for me, I have four older sisters and quite a few of my sisters look considerably older than I do. And well, my oldest sister and I look the most alike and we always are seen to be the youngest in the family - even though I am the youngest in the family. My next older sister is only 11 months older than me but looks maybe 15 years or so older.”

Kyira: “Really?”

Kaite: “Yeah and I mean she was very heavy for a long period of time and while she has lost a bunch of weight over the years, she has had a hard time balancing her body out after all of that.”

Kyira: “Right, isn’t it incredible the toll it can take on your body to hold more weight or even when you lose it.”

Kaite: “And a couple of my sisters take after my grandma’s side of the family. My grandma was a short German lady who, as my mother says, was as wide as she was tall. And I mean I am the tallest person in my family and I am only 5’ 6 1/2”. Everyone else is under 5’ 5”. So if you take my weight and put it on someone who is 4 inches shorter than me, then, understandably, it can make you more on the paunchy side.”

Kyira: “Yeah and its hard because you can only do so much about how tall you are, you know?”

Kaite: “Right and I am not happy at my weight either, even being a little taller. I would like to be less heavy than I am but ultimately, I am happy and that feels more important.”

Megan: “And you’re confident.”

Kaite: “And, you know, I mean I don’t work out any where near as often as I used to but I can still get on my bike and ride 15 miles and turn around and come back again.”

Megan: “I can’t” (laughter)

Kaite: “A couple years ago, my cousin Debbie invited me to go on one of those ride on the wild side bike rides. You know, that start at the zoo? And it was like a 27 miles bike ride…”

Kyira: “Nope, I would quit that before I started. I mean the fact that you can do that is incredible. I feel like too often we equate strength and health with what we look like when in fact, those often do not equate with each other at all. And it is the abilities you have and stamina you have built that means so much in terms of your overall health and strength as a person.”

Kaite: “Yeah I mean I carry my clubs when I walk on the golf course. I use a 15-lb bowling ball and most men I know nowadays are dropping down to about a 14-lb ball.”

Kyira: “Sometimes I think, too, it is about how your body is able to move and do things and we can take that for granted. So, I am curious, since you just finished the photoshoot and Megan, this is your first one behind the camera, what was it like going through that together?”

Kaite: “It was fun. I was just like, ‘Okay so what do you want me to do?’”

Kyira: “So you were able to let go and just enjoy it?”

Megan: “She was a natural.”

Kaite: “And you know, if I hadn’t known Megan as long as I have and the fact that I work out on a gym on the regular basis where I take my clothes off in front of other people, it was a little bit easier for me. So you know, I was able to just have fun”

Megan: “Yeah she definitely was great in front of the camera…I mean you were really confident.”

Kaite: “Yeah it was just so comfortable for me that it was more of like, what do you want and where should I go…direct me.” (Laughter)

Kyira: “And what a unique thing though, I mean even though it seems easy for you the way you are talking about it, I don't think that feeling is normal. I mean, for me personally, I am notoriously the one who goes into a stall to change clothes at the gym because I am not comfortable changing in front of other women and I feel like a lot more people do that or shy away from changing because of that feeling. I mean, and I guess for me, that was just the way I was socialized.”

Kaite: “No, for sure. And, I mean for me, I grew up like that. I mean with friends or people you see just gib-gabbing with no clothes on. It’s no big deal.”

Kyira: “And what a free thing because ultimately it is just a body.”

Kaite: “Right! Yeah, the feeling is fantastic. The girls up at the Y are just fantastic like that.”

Kyira: “So how do you think culture overall has influenced the way that you have seen yourself as being beautiful?”

Kaite: “I mean, I grew up living with 6 women, my father being the only male in the household. And even in extended family, I only have two male cousins. It was just…I mean…even with the girls I grew up with, it was just normal to be around women and be comfortable in your body. Even like hanging out at slumber parties bouncing on the bed in your PJs or no clothes at all. It was just normal. The only one I think who was a prude in my household was my dad.”

Megan: “And I mean, living with that many women I am sure influenced his comfort in the home.”

Kaite: “Yeah, I mean so much estrogen…I cant imagine…Let’s just say I am very happy that I had two boys because I don't think I could have handled doing that to my husband too.”

(All laugh)

Kyira: “Do you think having so many sisters made it more comfortable to be in your own skin? Or would you spend more time comparing yourself to each other?”

Kaite: “No, I mean we were all so different. I was the tomboy of the house. Because my parents got divorced when I was 12 and someone had to take care of the house. That ended up being me. So, I taught myself to be mechanically inclined, I cut the grass, I washed all of the windows. I did all of that stuff. And my sisters would scoff and be like ‘how come she gets to be outside while we are in here?’ and it’s like ‘Because you can’t start the lawn mower.’”

(All laugh)

Kaite: “Ill start the lawnmower for ya, but that won’t do much, you know! And I was also a gymnast in school, because my dad was a gymnast too and I wanted to follow him in that. Which also made me different from my siblings.”

Kyira: “And it’s cool to see someone breaking traditional gender norms years ago when this was more taboo. And I mean even now, this is not something we typically see in our culture - teaching woman to be mechanically inclined or take care of the lawn…unless it is a very intentional choice that is made in providing this learning, it often does not happen for girls.”

Kaite: “No, and it didn’t for me either. Most of what I know I had to teach myself because my father wasn’t one for teaching us things. I mean none of us even learned how to drive until after we were 18. He would say things like ‘what’s the point in learning how to drive. There’s no car for you to drive anyway.’”

Kyira: “And do you see people shocked at your skills or treating you different because of them in our society?”

Kaite: “Oh yeah. I mean recently I went down to Gilo’s down on Teutonia after taking apart our lawnmower a few months ago and said ‘Here, I need one of these” and he looks at me, a little stunned and is like ‘Uh, who’s fixing this?’ and I look at him and was like ‘who do you think is fixing it’…(laughter)…and he looked up and said ‘You know how to do that?’ and I said ‘Yes dear, I can take apart an entire lawnmower and put it back together’…and with such a stunned look he was like, ‘you can?’ and I just thought, you know there are many women in the world who can take a part a lawnmower.”

Kyira: “And as you are saying that I just feel like that is such a beautiful quality because I was someone that fell more into traditional gender roles. I was taking art classes instead of autoshop…I don't think autoshop even crossed my mind as a possibility.”

Kaite: “And see, when I was growing up, the girls weren’t even allowed to take those classes if they wanted to - autoshop, metal shop, etc. We had no choice. We had to go into home ec and such.”

Megan: “And boys weren’t allowed into home ec.”

Kaite: “Right.”

Megan: “I mean that was new to us, even, coming through school.”

Kyira: “And even for us, there was still judgment if you took a class out of your gender norm and went to the ‘other side’.”

Kaite: “Yeah and I mean it took a long period of time before people realized the advantages of people being able to choose for themselves. And we still have a ways to go on that too. Like getting to the point it is not a ‘thing’ to have women playing ‘guys’ sports and stuff. I mean I would play on the boys teams. Even now, I play golf with my husband and my sons and I hit of from the same tees as they do.”

Kyira: “And do you see those qualities as beautiful to have and hold the way that we are seeing them from the outside?”

Kaite: “Oh yeah! Yeah.”

Kyira: “Like it feels good to know and do those things?”

Kaite: “Yeah absolutely. I mean I have always been this way but I still know it is unique and I like it. I like beating the boys sometimes.” (laughter)

Megan: “Yeah I mean I see you as someone who is both physically and mentally really strong. Always have been.”

Kaite: “I mean I have my moments like most people do but for the most part, I can hold my own.”

Kyira: “How do you nurture that? How do you make sure that the pressures from the outside don't take that from you and declare that as not beautiful?”

Kaite: “I try not to think about it.”

Kyira: “Yeah.”

Kaite: “I mean I have gotten to the point where I am almost 58 years old and it’s like, there are things that I can change and things I can’t change. And the things that I can’t change, I mean why should I waste my time trying to fix that when it is not mine to fix?”

Kyira: “So true, I mean that isn’t yours to fix.”

Kaite: “No, I mean whatever your issues are, is what you need to fix without imposing your views on me.”

Kyira: “And it is interesting, I just took this human development class this summer and we talked about how people will move into different roles more naturally without even realizing it and I did an assessment of who does what in my household and it was like, ‘shit, I totally feel into the norms’ And now, I truly don’t want to change our roles…I mean, I like what I do and my partner likes what he does in terms of the house and such, but the difference now is I feel like we had a conversation around it and it could be a choice for each of rather than a societal norm. The problem is though that I have a hard time when the roles do get a little mixed up, not because of gender, but I tend to have a certain way I like things and it is hard not to then put unnecessary pressure on someone you want to operate at your same level - male or female.”

Kaite: “Oh absolutely, like one time when I decided I wanted to cut the grass but then my husband came out and commented on how non-straight my lines were…I didn’t touch a lawnmower for almost 2 years. I don’t want to be assessed for how good of a job I do when I am doing something for the house or us or even specifically for my husband. And one day he asked me how come I wasn’t cutting the grass anymore and I told him it was because of his comment. He talked to me just like father would have when I was growing up. Being a gymnast especially, my father would constantly be pushing for perfection. For example, I was the only person on both squads - boys and girls - that could do a reverse iron cross which is on the rings, straight out like this, upside down (gestures) and the only thing he said to me when I did it was that my foot was kicked in.”

Megan: “He didn’t say good job or you’re amazing or anything like that?”

Kaite: “Nope, all he said was that my foot was crooked…I didn’t speak to my father for 6 months.”

Kyira: “And I wonder, too, if he even knew, in saying that, if he could even catch in that moment why it was so bad or hurtful.”

Kaite: “Yeah and we never talked about it ever. Not once. And it is just like, out of all of the kids - 32 boys and girls - I strived to do that just to show my father and make him proud and I got one snotty comment out of it and nothing else.”

Kyira: “That has to be so difficult and i am sure something that has carried with you, like you said, into interactions with your husband or other people.”

Kaite: “I mean now it is just like, I have gotten to the point where some things, things like that, are just too trivial to waste my time on any longer. I mean that lawnmower thing was like 30 years ago and so…”

Kyira: “You have learned how to let things go over time?”

Kaite: “Yeah I mean it has just gotten to the point where…I mean like I said, I sit there and ask myself if it is worth getting bent out of shape about or not.”

Kyira: “Right, and at that point, it becomes yours if you decide to keep holding that and carrying that with you for that long. I mean you have the power to let it go when you want to.”

Kaite: “Right I mean it is just that some things aren’t worth the aggravation any longer. And so…one day at a time. It is all you can do.”

Kyira: “What a great point to wrap it up on…remembering to take each thing one day at a time. Thank you so much Kaite for being a part of this project and for sharing your story with us.”

Kaite: “Absolutely, thank you!”