It’s been an odd sort of week, with the universe still sending all sorts of interesting people my way. I’ve recently met some really cool new mates that I know I’m going to have a great time with, I’ve had a blast from the past send me a friend request on Facebook and someone I’ve known for years has suddenly taken on a much bigger role in my life. I’m sort of sitting back, and watching to see what will happen next. But it’s blooming exciting and it’s what life should be all about so I’m happy.
On Monday, I was rather bemused to find myself judging a sewing competition at the Hastings WI in Ore Community Centre. I’m not entirely sure how it happened – but our lovely Anna from La La Rookh sewing parlour had been asked to judge the WI’s Make Do And Mend competition, and Lexi and I had gone along to show her a bit of support. As it was that particular group’s fifth anniversary, there was Lemon Drizzle cake and hymn singing and everyone looked beautiful in dresses and hats. They had candles and they sang happy birthday to themselves which was splendid.
Lexi and I had hoped to sit at the back, and thought we would only need to occasionally give Anna a thumbs up during her speech about her Bird In The Hand project. But the WI ladies had other ideas and we ended up at the front, with the impossible task of selecting the best sewing projects. Those ladies had worked so hard, we wanted them all to win! Being a judge is a very difficult thing and I now have a new found respect for Simon Cowell. I decided not to mention that I had only ever made two garments and only with a lot of sewing help from Anna, so I just did my best to pretend that I knew what I was talking about and tried to mainly smile at everyone. The winner was the talented Ms. Twig with her beautiful re-structured Victoriana jacket and velvet blouse, and Jan with her apron made out of a pair of jeans coming in second. Good job, ladies!
The next day, I was happily scrolling through my Facebook news feed (sponsored post from Unicef, an old classmate’s selfie, a spiderman GIF, and a short clip of a puppy barking at its reflection in a mirror) and there it was – a picture that had been taken from the night before. Anna and Lexi were standing along with Jan and Twig and their winning entries – and there I was, on the far left, looking like what can only be described as an enlarged turnip in a pink jacket. My heart sank. Oh my god. Please tell me I don’t actually look that big? How is that even me? Crap.
Since then, I’ve done a lot of thinking. Well actually, I spent most of Tuesday panicking and trying to think of a plan that will help me instantly loose about five stone. Then by Wednesday I went and comfort ate my way through a packet of Bakewell tarts – you know, the comfort eating where you do it in your room for shame of someone seeing you. On Thursday, I had a bit of a turning point and oddly enough I remembered The Lord Of The Rings. (Stick with me here). Now, I loved the films when they came out, and I remember having a special behind-the-scenes film memorabilia book which explained how they made the film. One section of the book talked about how Peter Jackson used something called Forced Perspective to make the Hobbits look smaller and the humans/elves look bigger. I mean, Elija Wood is 5 ft 6 in real life. Basically, the Hobbits would actually be standing/sitting further away from the camera, which made them look smaller, but the camera didn’t necessarily pick up the difference in distance, just the difference in size. For example:
In this still, Elija Wood was actually sitting on an especially made cart, a lot further behind Sir. Ian McKellen, so to the viewers Gandalf looks mahoosive in comparison to Frodo. I’ve always remembered this, because I thought it was very clever. And Thursday was not the first time in my life where I wondered if Forced Perspective had been the reason for me looking like an enlarged turnip in a photo.
It’s actually very difficult to explain all of this, but I’ll try: I think that women are at a loss for knowing what size they actually are. I literally have no idea what the real me looks like. It’s impossible. I realised that for every piece of evidence that I have for looking fine, I also have a counter example to prove that the real me does in fact look like an enlarged turnip.
I mean look – guys are attracted to me. So I can’t be that big if they are attracted to me, can I? I’ve actually held my jeans out in front of me before, trying to gage the real size of the bum that wears them. I’ve watched a video of me that someone posted on Facebook over and over again with absolute fascination because I didn’t look big, I actually looked rather small. Wait – is that just because I was sitting in a really big sofa and Forced Perspective made me look smaller? It’s exhausting!
I’ll give you some examples – these are various experiences I’ve had and I think they go a long way to explain the size confusion paradox which I believe plagues women in our society:
Retail Sizes. In my wardrobe, I have a lovely top that fits me perfectly, which is a size 12. In shops, I usually have to try on both the 14’s or the 16’s. I’ve also tried on size 18 things that don’t fit around my boobs (cheers, Topshop – that was a good experience). If anyone can tell me what my actual size is, that would be great. If they could also speak with all the major UK retailers and tell them to have a big meeting together to sort out their different product sizing, that would also be great.
Comparing With Friends: I have one gorgeous friend who has a beautiful slim figure, and whenever I look at her I always think ‘god she’s so skinny and lovely and slim, I wish I could look like her’. She particularly loves to borrow one of my Warehouse blouses and always wears it when I take her out to the pub. It fits her perfectly, and it fits me perfectly. This leads me to feel we are a similar size??
What People Say: A boy at college once yelled ‘CELLULITE!!’ at me, as I was getting into a swimming pool. His mates felt bad and told him ‘actually don’t be a dick, that was a bit harsh’ but it didn’t matter – It took me a really long time to get over that one. Around the same time at college, I remember coming into lunch and a girl had told me that everyone had been talking about girls body shapes – apparently one guy had said ‘I think Catherine has the best body shape, actually’ and everyone unanimously agreed. I held onto that one for a long time too. But I was left feeling insanely confused about what I actually looked like.
Shaming Comments: Getting various comments from family members such as ‘Don’t you think you’ve had enough? Well we all know Catherine likes roast potatoes! Goodness me, well I suppose you’re a growing girl so you need a lot of food. Look, Catherine has an office job now so she’s not as active as she used to be, which means she’s put on a bit of weight.’ FML. To counteract this – I’ve also been told off for not eating enough, for ‘going on silly diets’ and called ‘ungrateful’ for not having pudding with everyone else. What’s the actual truth then? Huh? Anyone?
Looking At Past Photographs: I now look at photographs of when I was younger, and I am amazed because I can’t believe how skinny I was. But at the time, I remember looking at the same photo and being rather disgusted at how large I thought I looked. I know, looking back, that there was a time when I was particularly thin, because I went on a stupid starvation phase because I wanted a boy to like me, and people used to say they were actually a bit worried about me. Did I feel skinny at the time? No. So now, when I look at the picture from the WI the other day, am I really as big as I think I am, or is it all just pure disillusion?
Looking In Mirrors: I look in the mirror in my bedroom and think – oh my god, I look great. I look really, really great – I love my curves, I love my boobs, I love my tummy. I catch my reflection in the windows of Morrisons later on that day and there it is again, the enlarged turnip. Do I look different in different mirrors? Do I have a faulty mirror in my bedroom that lies to me? Is it all an optical illusion? Does my weight fluctuate that much during the day?
Attitudes Of Friends: I look at my friends and think – oh my god, they look great. I always feel shocked when they then hear them say how fat they feel, or how big they are, or how much they hate their thighs. I look at their thighs and genuinely think – great thighs mate, what are you talking about? A week doesn’t go by when I don’t hear a self body-shaming comment from one of my friends. And hand on heart, none of them are big. Actually every single one of my beautiful friends feels ashamed of their bodies in some way and that makes me feel really sad. Is that the same for me? But then I never see them looking like enlarged turnips in photos?
Official Guidelines: On the BMI chart, I’m classed as obese. I remember a personal fitness trainer telling me that actually, muscle weights more than fat, and a woman’s weight can fluctuate between 7 pounds depending on the time of the month, and the BMI scale is incredibly inaccurate. So that’s OK then? Other friends, who are most certainly not obese, are also classed as obese. What weight should I actually be then? Am I the wrong weight? Who the hell knows.
I have no idea if writing all of this helps, or makes a difference. I’m very aware that I am coming across as vain/self-obsesses/neurotic *delete as appropriate* but unfortunately in this society women are first and foremost judged on their appearance. It’s not right, but I feel like this is how it is. The majority of women in the media are very attractive and well groomed. While the men can be older, fatter, bald but still be in the limelight. Just look at these two for goodness sake:
And these two:
And these two: (he’s actually allowed to have more food than her!?!?)
I guess, the point I’m trying to make is that I’m pretty fed up of seeing all the amazing women in my life hate their bodies when it’s clear to everyone else that they are perfect exactly as they are. But I can hardly tell them off for it when I’m so confused myself. For all my focus on self-love and positive thinking and being happy with myself, it can just take one naff picture to ruin all of my confidence. I’ll be honest and say that right now I don’t really have the answer. But I’m going to say that all of this body hating crap is on a deeper level that will take more than a few ‘love your curves’ pictures of Marylin Monroe and Christina Hendricks to solve. Oh go on then, can’t hurt…
If you get the chance, read ‘Fat Is A Feminist Issue’ by Susie Orbach which I read a few years ago. She talks about how food and the word ‘fat’ means so much more than just inches and calories. It’s about power, self-worth and control. The best I can do right now is tell myself the following things:
- I have lots of people in my life who love me, no matter what my real size is.
- It’s OK to not feel body positive sometimes – I’m not letting anyone down by feeling anxious about how I look.
- Being a certain size does not solve your problems, and it does not make you a better person.
- For every photograph of me that’s awful, there’s a photograph of me that looks great. I’m the one who chooses which photograph represents me.