There’s a squirming, lip-biting part of me that doesn’t want you to look at next week’s post.
But if you do, either ‘like’ the thing or don’t tell me you’ve seen it. Or I might be a bit embarrassed.
It all began with a bit of healthy pre-new-year navel gazing. This ought to have been a positive experience: last year I was fat (pregnant), sick (pregnant), exhausted (Toddler) and miserable; this year I am the fittest I have ever been (I ran 11k); climbing the hardest I’ve ever climbed (admittedly I won’t ever be turning heads but it makes me feel good) and people keep telling me that I look thin without my being on a diet. I even have some clothes that fit and make me feel good. Result!
My boobs are tiny though. The smallest, relative to my rib-cage, that I’ve seen them in more than a decade. This makes my hips look bigger. In fact, I’m beginning to look a little bit pearshaped. I –
– and then I stopped myself. You’re Doing It Again. You’ve spent the last few months carefully acheiving control of your body and here you are, criticising it for not meeting some stupid ideal that you have in your head.
You know, I think a lot of women do that. But why? Why do our bodies worry us so much?
I might have found the answer in the work staffroom the other day when I picked up a random back-issue of Reveal magazine. Admittedly, the front cover was promising: ‘We’re Curvy and Proud!’ but when I turned to the article, I was perplexed that the journalist appeared to agree with the women concerned rather than explaining that ‘curvy’ doesn’t mean ‘has put weight on’ and size twelve doesn’t count as ‘big’ anyway.
Meanwhile, there was a full A4 page covering Claudia Winkleman going out wearing ‘too much’ eyeliner; a woman called Kim being applauded for having dyed her hair blonde (as a new Mum! How ‘un-mumsy is that?!) The Abbey Clancey article manages to get to the hundred and tenth word before it says ‘super slim’ but by then ‘gorgeous’ and ‘glamourous’ have already featured. Cher, pictured in underwear and soft lighting, is 67 and has ‘super-smooth skin, an ample bust and soft locks.’ That is the main point of that article. The appearances of three first-time celebrity mums are heavily photographed and commented on; the how-to-purchase-clothes-that-almost-look-like-those-worn-by-a-celebrity article gets a double-page spread.
Admittedly this is not the magazine’s whole content: there are at last three articles about the emotional states and failed relationships of various women; four or five showing us what handbags, hats, lipsticks, shoes and beauty products we ought to buy and even a paragraph supporting a women’s rape charity. But pictorally, pictures of showbiz, female figures predominate. None of them are a size 14; excluding the ‘curvy’ article they are all below a twelve. All of them either unusually toned, unblemished and symmetrical examples of the species, or they have been airbrushed, or both.
I didn’t even search through the staffroom to find a particularly bad example to share with you; this was the first magazine that I happened to pick up. And there I was: sitting, reading it. What is it about British women?
At least my climbing friend still has a sense of perspective. We are chilling on the sofas at the wall one day, idly watching a girl in a blue crop-top and joggers making a splendid effort at an overhanging black (that’s Font 6a). She is literally climbing upside-down across a roof: her hips are close to wall; her body seems to flow over the holds like water.
‘I’d like a body like that,’ says my friend after a while. ‘Not anorexic but sporty. She looks fit.’
I jump a little. I am awed by the display of athleticism, but what I’d actually been thinking was, ‘…. look at those flabby love-handles above her hips’.
Isn’t that dreadful? I shake myself, disgusted: I can see that my friend was right. The woman looks fabulous, for a real person. She just isn’t a stick-insect, although she is hanging upside-down just as easily as one. If I was critically appraising a figure like hers then no wonder I’m not happy with my own.
Is this the media’s fault? Or is it mine? I don’t know, but mine is the only normal woman’s body I look at very often except for a lot of scantily-clad, computer-enhanced beauties on TV, on billboards and in these glossies. No wonder I tend to feel a bit – you know – baggy. And judge other women the same. Unattractive in comparison. So my perspective is a wee bit skewed.
That’s my excuse for the example of exhibitionism that is my next blog post. It is not an original idea – similar things are in the social media frequently – but it demonstrates a point that clearly still needs making: normal bodies are ok.
I recently read an article by a woman who visited a nutists camp for the first time. She said that the reality of what normal people’s bodies look like naked was completely shocking to her: for the first time ever, she saw her own body in context. The same lady wrote that, when you go to a nudists camp, there is something very liberating about just taking your clothes off and joining in the celebration.
What I am thinking this week is, I only hope she’s right.