In Spanish, paloma means dove.
It also means pigeon.
Paloma Aelyon considers herself both a dove and a pigeon. “I’m both beautiful and ugly,” the 2009 Staples High School graduate says.
She’s not alone. “Everyone has 2 sides,” Paloma says.
And, she adds, doves and pigeons come from the same family. The “elegant white symbol of peace” and the “anxious grey creature scavenging for crumbs of nourishment” share more than either — or any — of us realize.
Those 2 sides of the same coin — or, better, twin birds of a feather — lie at the heart of Dove Story. That’s the name of Paloma’s online venture.
A platform for women to share stories of their lives — their relationships and breakups, beautiful skin and raw scars, outward confidence and inward insecurity — Dove Story is quickly becoming an important online destination for women of all ages.
And men, who share the human race with them.
Paloma is the perfect person — though far more dove than pigeon — to collect, edit and electronically distribute so many compelling, and instructive, stories.
A longtime Westporter, she majored in communications and minored in psychology at George Washington University. After junior year she took time off, to write in San Francisco. Following graduation she moved to Tel Aviv, pursuing her 3 passions: writing, food and travel.
She’s back in San Francisco now, working full-time for a tech startup. She’s coordinated writing workshops for juvenile offenders.
For years, Paloma has been surrounded by “amazing, beautiful, high-achieving superwomen.” They’re excellent role models — but she realizes they live in pressure-filled environments.
In her early teens, a friend told Paloma’s mother, “Your daughter is gorgeous. If she lost some weight, you could enter her in a beauty contest.”
When she was 15, Paloma lost 40 pounds. Since then, she’s been “paranoid” about regaining that weight.
“There are such high expectations of women to be strong, fit, great cooks, excellent partners, good parents. To travel, and be spiritually connected with themselves. That’s a lot.”
Looking around, Paloma sees women think: “I can’t do it all.”
Dove Story hits the pause button on the ideal images of women that flood Facebook and Instagram.
Dove Story allows women to say, “I can struggle with my job, or a relationship.”
To live authentic, fulfilling lives, Paloma says, “women must be honest.”
And boy, do they write honestly on Dove Story.
The site is filled with stories of divorce. Shyness. Vulnerability. Living with ulcerative colitis. Learning one’s father is gay.
Paloma kick-started things with some of her own writing. Inspired, others have followed. Working with women she knows, and complete strangers, Paloma gently but powerfully helps them tell their tales.
The raw stories she publishes allow women to connect with each other. Her target audience is women ages 18 to 65.
Young readers and writers are important. “When I was that age, I would have loved to read stories that told me I didn’t have to be perfect, get all A’s, be in a sorority and get trim,” Paloma says.
But older women are key too. “We should never stop sharing stories, and learning,” she adds.
Paloma also “strongly encourages” men to read the stories — and contribute their own. “We need that perspective!” she notes.
“Dove Story is not a fashion, food or fitness blog that will leave you wondering if your life will ever be that pretty,” Paloma writes.
“You’ll see that each woman who shares her thoughts and words with you is una paloma.
“She’s a dove, and a pigeon. She’s beautiful and she’s inspiring, but neither her nor her life are smooth-cruising fabulous.
“She’s nothing but real. And she will inspire us all to be the same.”