Body neutral

This is a repost from a previous blog/life.

I am not positive about my body. I am positive about other people’s bodies. Not mine. I do accept my body, though.

I was a 11lbs baby. Doctors and nurses popped by to have a look. I had a head of hair and a monobrow.

Telling that story as an adult often gets a knowing look. Then I explain I wasn’t always fat.

I was a slim child and a slim teenager. And then I started getting fat.

Slim or fat, I spent my childhood, teens and twenties loathing my body.

Now I spend a lot of time reading blogs and tweets by fat women I admire. I love their bodies. I don’t really care for my own. It’s a bit too close to home.

However, I don’t hate my body anymore. At some point, and I don’t know when it began, I started accepting myself. Being easier on myself. I’d love to say it is more than acceptance, that it is love but it isn’t. A lifetime of self-loathing doesn’t switch overnight, but I don’t look back and wish I was a younger, thinner version of myself. That version of myself was riddled with anxiety and self-doubt. That version of myself was so sensitive it often felt that several layers of skin had been stripped back. And I have a low pain-threshold.

So for me, acceptance is an excellent place to be. Acceptance is being naked in front of someone you love. It is going swimming. It is holding your large, wobbly legs up while someone waxes your undercarriage. It’s going out on a summer’s evening when you are sweaty, and your make-up has long faded. It’s posting a selfie you know doesn’t do anything for you. It’s making your Instagram profile public. It’s looking at yourself in the mirror without sighing.

This doesn’t mean I like what I see. I never have, apart from special occasions. I want to be healthy, but I don’t equate that with being thin. I equate that with not losing my breath after climbing a flight of stairs.

The reason I want to be thinner is that being a fat woman is really tough. People make assumptions about your character, about your lifestyle, your work ethic, even your romantic status.

There is only one story my dad ever tells me about me. It makes him proud. After two weeks holiday as a child, I must have been nine or ten, I came home with a tan (it was the only time, I almost always go tomato-red). He walked me to his old stomping ground in Camden Town and bought me diet cokes in the pubs he used to frequent. My brown hair had hints of blonde, and my green-blue eyes contrasted my tanned skin. And I was thin. And that is the proudest he has ever been.

When you are a woman, there is no doubting your worth is tied up with your appearance. If your dad was born before WW2 in a country that doesn’t allow a woman an abortion, you can bet your bottom dollar that he measures it out the same way.

There is a Tony Harrison poem called ‘Book Ends’. It was in the GCSE English Literature Anthology in the late 1990s. As a teenager who quarrelled with my dad about politics, religion and would you believe it, vegetarianism (had me for five years, came off the waggon in 2002 when I ate a chicken kebab in Fallowfield) the poem was very relatable. The first half ends:

Back in our silences and sullen looks,
for all the Scotch we drink, what’s still between ‘s
not the thirty or so years, but books, books, books.

And that’s what I thought it was. Books. I was really obnoxious back then. Now I know it was actually ‘looks, looks, looks’.

And those looks get between me and others still, but I notice less. I’m not asking the world to love me anymore. I know that I did before and it was hard facing the news that the world would rather shag someone else instead.

Back then, the smallest of remarks could send me into a spin. Now I laugh when a beautician assumes by my appearance that I’ve had children. Lots of them.

No, I’ve destroyed this body myself through gluttony and a reluctance to move. Decades of eating, and more recently, drinking my emotions gave me those stretch marks. No child is at fault. Don’t blame the kids.

So although I am inspired by those who are positive about their bodies, I don’t think I can ever take it that far. I can only be myself and I am regrettably self-aware. The biggest curse of all.

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