Sunday, 10 April 2016

Cruel to be Cruel: Body Police are Horrible

This weekend I went out clubbing for maybe the second time this year. I'm not a big drinker, and I don't really go out much unless it's a gig or something to do with the band, but I've made some really close friends at work and we went out with a small group. We got dressed together, did hair and makeup at one of the other girls' houses, helped each other choose outfits... it's something I haven't done since uni, and it felt really nice to be surrounded by girls, doing unabashedly girly things. It was such an open, supportive atmosphere, and I didn't really realise how much I'd missed this girl-group dynamic since I moved home. Don't get me wrong, I love my Trash Panda bros and my guy time, but it was just really nice to be part of a girl gang. We all left the house feeling like nines.

Eyebrow game is strong
 I took a number of selfies and felt actually pretty. My much slimmer, much fitter friend pointed out that our legs are a similar shape and I was hugely, enormously flattered. Instead of disagreeing with the compliment out of habit, I actually took a look and was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn't hot air. I looked at myself in the mirror before we went out and thought, "Well, sure, I have a belly. And yes, I have some squidge. And from certain angles my ass looks weird, and I know I have a moon face and more than one chin. But none of those things is inherently bad or unattractive, in this day and age. My boobs look cracking, my hair looks great and these heels are actually relatively comfortable. I feel like a Vampire queen. I'm ready to go out." After years of bulimia, binge-starve cycles, hair-pulling, self-loathing and dissociative visual disturbances all based on my body, this is kind of a big deal for me. 

Tipsy duckface
Of course there were points in the night where I caught sight of myself in the mirror and thought, "Jesus, as a size 16 with a sizeable spare tyre, should I really have worn such a tight skirt? Or a lacy top?" But for a change I put those feelings to rest. Gone are the days of "hide your fatness under something baggy so as not to offend the thin people". We live in a world of Ashley Graham, Kardashians, Tess Holliday, Rebel Wilson, Melissa McCarthy, all big(gish), beautiful, proud women.

Myspace mirror selfie
I'm fat, but I get a certain level of "fat privilege" by being an hourglass - which many argue is the only fat shape generally thought to be acceptable by mainstream media. I saw these "flaws" in myself, I acknowledged them, and I rationalised them away until I felt good about myself again. And I did feel good about myself. I was surrounded by my friends, beautiful girls, and I didn't feel like the "fat friend" or "the ugly one" as I've so often felt before in a group of beautiful girls. I felt like a legitimate part of the "squad".

Last selfie before I fell asleep
Even this morning, with yesterday's makeup still clinging to the creases around my eyes, and my hair extensions matted up from a short, restless sleep I looked in the mirror and thought "You look better than usual today, kudos." I looked at photos of us from the night before and didn't cringe at the sight of myself, even in the photos where I have VBO (that's Visible Belly Outline to the uninitiated.)

The morning after
I looked more dressed up than usual, more made up, preened, polished and yes, the photos were taken at a flattering, double-chin-concealing angle. But for the first time in a long time I was looking at photos of me taken by somebody else and not wanting to screech "Oh, Jesus, delete it! Please don't put that on Facebook." I felt cute, in the most and least "attractive" photos (like the Instax photos we took where my face looks like a white planet in a wig). I felt closer to my friends. I was tired, slightly hungover, and my feet still hurt now, but I was happy. Genuinely happy.

Hungover, in my pjs
Then I got home.

I showed my mum some of the photos from the evening, buoyed up from the confidence boost the evening had given me. She sort of nodded and grimaced while she looked at them and then she said, "But it's not the real you, is it. You can't see your double chin." I tried not to let that comment take any of the wind out of my sails, and I mentioned what my friend had said about my legs. "Your friend must have big legs, then," she said. When I replied that I thought that my legs were proportionally slimmer than my upper body she just declared outright, "You don't have slim legs. You look nice in PICTURES but when we look at you all we see is your double chin." I pointed out that I know I'm photogenic, and that I know I look better in photos than in real life. She said, "I don't want you to have body dysmorphia and think that you look good when you know you need to lose weight." This was the point at which I left the room.

Later she came upstairs and said to me, "I'm sorry... but you don't have slim legs." I told her that apologising by repeating the things she was apologising for was a pretty poor excuse for an apology. She left the room in a strop.

I am too goddamn old to be blogging about hating the way my mother speaks to me.

I know what I look like. I'm very, very aware of how my body looks both in and out of clothes. I know I have stretchmarks in a colour range from angry purple to almost-imperceptible silver across my tummy, thighs, hips and boobs. I know that I have crappy skin on my arms and legs thanks to keratosis pilaris. I could draw you an unsettlingly accurate sketch, from memory alone, of the way my stomach folds at the top of my thighs or the sides of my back, at my waist, which my brothers dubbed "flub lines" when they saw me in a bikini as a teenager. I know I have "thighbrows" when I kneel and a crease in my neck from my double chin. I know I have a flat ass for a fat girl. I know I have a bump in my nose, scars in my eyebrows and on my thighs. And my wrists. And the back of one hand.

My rational, twenty-first century brain tells me that none of those things are something I should be ashamed of or feel forced to change. My liberal, body-positive, accepting, tolerant heart would see any one, all or combination of these things in another person and not judge them. I know that your body size doesn't accurately reflect your health and that BMI is trash. "Fat" is just an adjective.

The fact of the matter is, if someone stabs you with a kitchen knife, you wouldn't call it cooking. If someone uses words as weapons, they hurt. It doesn't matter that I already know when I look like; if someone tells me that they hate or are disgusted by something about my appearance it's still going to sting, regardless of how I initially felt about it.

My relationship with my body is chequered, complicated and incredibly dark in places. I have hated myself and felt such deep despair that I've wanted to hurt and punish myself, and times I've sincerely wanted to disappear or die. There are still things I want to change, and am working on changing. But I have learned from bitter experience that progress that comes from a place of self-love is so much better than progress from self-loathing.

I know I'm fat. I know I disgust and disappoint my mother.

I also know that I can sing pretty well, and write lyrics that people can relate to. I am good at my job, I'm compassionate, and I can make loads of different things, even if it does mean the occasional hot glue gun burn. I also know I can do squats with a 71kg woman sitting on my shoulders. And as someone reminded me on Twitter, if I can lift up an entire human woman, I can lift myself up too.

I don't really know how to end this post. I don't have a punchline or anything revelatory to say. I guess all I can add is that we get one chance at life, and one shot at being remembered. And I'd much rather be remembered as "squishy, but kind".

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8 comments

  1. First off I want to start by saying you looked absolutely banging in the pictures of your night out. I wish I could pull off a hang over as well as you, I defiantly do not look even half as good with one as you do ha!

    I'm really sorry your mum felt like she had to make those comments, I think family members think they're entitied to say whatever they want because they're family and it's just awful. If anything they should be pushing you up not bringing you down.

    You're a lovely girl, gorgeous on the inside as you are out and I hope that didn't dampen the high you had from your night out. X

    ReplyDelete
  2. You do look gorgeous in those photos. I look like DEATH in the mornings, let alone with a hangover too, so kudos to you, you look amazing.

    I agree with the other comment, family members sometimes feel they have the right to say wtf they want! My nan told me I looked really pregnant, when I was 8 years old. 8!

    Remember, you're lovely, kind and beautiful. Inside & out.
    Sarah xxx
    whimsicalmumblings.blogspot.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  3. I know it's easy for outsiders to comment because relationships with family are complicated, especially as fat people with fat hating families, but I mean it when I say that your mother had no right to say those things to you. She might say she's doing it out of some misguided attempt to avoid "body dysmorphia" (which sounds like she doesn't want you to be 'deluded' more than anything) but the fact is she was being mean and cruel.
    I'm so sorry that she did that to you. No one deserves to have their loved ones make them feel anything less than loved and accepted.

    For me I make it very clear that comments like that are in no way tolerated, but I understand that isn't always a possibility for some. I hope you can take solace in the fact she is WRONG.
    I'm glad you have found a group of friends who uplift you. That is something special, and something I really wish for.
    If your mother is 'disappointed' in you for being fat, instead of being proud of having a smart, kind, and lovely daughter then that is her loss and not your fault.

    Keep your chin(s) up, lovely! We all think you're fab x

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sending hugs your way lovely. I thought you looked gorgeous in your photos Elena, and the fact you had a fun night, with lovely friends is great to hear. Those are the kind of memories that stick with you and comfort you when things seem blue, and I know how difficult it is to move past hurtful comments, but I think you're completely right when you list all of the positives about yourself - and those are the factors you should use to elevate yourself with. It's always difficult when family members are critical, especially when we expect them to be the first port of call for guidance, love and encouragement but I'm glad you have a group of friends who are supportive as well as the kind words in the comments section here - don't forget that you're brilliant! - Tasha

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  5. You look absolutely stunning Elena, it's horrible that your mum said those things! You're gorgeous and also kind and lovely, one of the nicest people! xx

    Kimberley // thecolourchronicles.com

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  6. Y'OWCH, UNCALLED FOR.
    You are gorgeous and you were killing it in that outfit girl! These societal ideals are so bloody narrow and so many people have a warped view of what a body 'should' look like because of it. If you're strong and healthy and you want to wear the thing, as you say, what does the shape or size of your body matter?

    Screw what your mother said. That kind of negativity doesn't warrant any more attention paid to it. The photos don't lie, you look great!

    Jenna
    xxx
    | princessparasox.wordpress.com | bloglovin' |

    ReplyDelete
  7. Y'OWCH, UNCALLED FOR.
    You are gorgeous and you were killing it in that outfit girl! These societal ideals are so bloody narrow and so many people have a warped view of what a body 'should' look like because of it. If you're strong and healthy and you want to wear the thing, as you say, what does the shape or size of your body matter?

    Screw what your mother said. That kind of negativity doesn't warrant any more attention paid to it. The photos don't lie, you look great!

    Jenna
    xxx
    | princessparasox.wordpress.com | bloglovin' |

    ReplyDelete
  8. I just don't have the words to describe how vile I find what your mother said, I hope she one day realises how cruel she has been and how narrow her beauty ideals are and that there is more to a person than how they look.
    We dont talk really but even i can see what a beautiful person you are inside and I think you're pretty bangin on the outside too. X

    ReplyDelete

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