So I’ve finally gotten around to reading Screw Inner Beauty by Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby and yes, it’s awesome. I want everyone I know to read it – especially the non-skinny people and most especially the parents. (And yes, people-who-read-this-and-know-me-in-person, I will happily lend it to you if WHEN you all come asking me for it.) Anyhoo, as I made pretty clear in this post a while back, I have a few issues with prevailing societal attitudes towards fatness and I’m sick of the diet diet DIET YOU FAT LOSER mentality.
Now if I’m brutally honest, I’ve not been feeling so great lately. I’ve been gaining weight. In itself that’s not an evil and I’m beyond beating myself up over how I look (waaaaay beyond). But right now I feel lethargic and slobbish and a little too familiar with the biscuit tin. I know if I stopped bribing the boredom and angst to shut up with sugar hits and started eating more of what might actually improve my functioning and, like, moved a bit more, I’d probably feel better. So… here’s to working on that. But you know what? This lethargic phase hasn’t been all bad because I learned some things. Like, I still love myself this way. It’s damn easy to be all warm and fuzzy about self-acceptance when you’re lighter than you’ve been in a while and edging closer to what the magazines tell you to naively aim at but it’s another thing entirely to look at yourself and think ‘whoa, you just got a whole lot bigger’ and still be able to say ‘meh – I’m still the same awesome person I was for the last couple of dress sizes.’ Not that I can always say that or that it’s always easy but the will is there, k?
The other day I was shopping for jeans and I overheard some women talking. One of them was shopping for an outfit for a function and she had a friend along to advise. It wasn’t going so great. She was having trouble with sizes and styles and I guess just experiencing one of those shopping days that makes you want to crawl into a dark, dark cave and live among a tribe of tracksuit wearing troglodytes. I know, because I was having the same kind of day. Anyway, whilst trying on what was obviously one of many ill-fitting outfits, she complained to her friend that everything just looked crap on her. And then she said it: maybe I should just stop eating. Maybe, if I just didn’t eat anymore, something would fit me.
I wanted to call out over the cubicle wall that maybe if they just made more clothing that fit a range of body shapes and sizes we could all spend less time struggling in poorly lit cubicles and more time taking long walks or, you know, eating watermelon sorbet. Luckily she’d chosen a good friend who reassured her she was fine and that they’d find a better dress (not body) soon.
Anyway, this whole thing got me thinking about two questions: one being why the hell do we still think WE should diet to fit into clothes instead of, you know, getting clothes that fit US? and the other being why the hell do I, a fat woman with whole bunch of other neuroses, seem to mostly be able to resist the tendency to loathe myself out loud?
I can’t answer the first one except with sputtering, apoplectic type noises.
For the second, I think a small clue lies in my upbringing. Sure, my biological mother is fat-phobic and has done charming things like greeting me after years of separation with the words ‘my, you’ve gained weight haven’t you.’ Yeah, mum, it’s called puberty and by the way THANKYOUVERYMUCH. I also went to boarding school and learned a lot about adolescent self-loathing and body criticism there. But there was one part of growing up where no one could be bothered with any of that shit and that was in my family home.
It occurred to me when I was reading the chapter on families in ‘Screw Inner Beauty’ that I don’t hear my (half)sisters complain about their bodies. Sure, they mention sometimes that they’ve gained or lost weight and they occasionally rib each other about bust size because that’s a running joke from adolescence. But when they talk about their bodies, they use neutral-ish descriptors and they do not ever say crap like ‘I hate my thighs’ or ‘I wish my arse wasn’t so big’. I don’t remember them doing this even as teenagers. In fact, they often say positive things about their own appearance and each other’s – and mine. As women in their early twenties this seems like kind of an achievement. So why is this so?
Seems pretty likely that it’s because their mother, J., unlike my mother, doesn’t bother to torture herself for not looking perfect. She. Just. Doesn’t. When I visited my incredibly thin and fashionably tanned mother did I hear constant whining about thighs and calories? Hell yes. Did my sisters ever hear this from their mother? No way. At our place bodies were for doing stuff: lifting lick blocks off the back of the ute, going to gymnastics class, making playdough animals, lounging in front of the fire eating golden syrup dumplings. They were not a collection of parts which could be graded and assessed according to factors like size and weight and smoothness.
Remind me next time I see J to ask her how she managed to avoid the seductive pull of all that body hate and how on earth she fitted in with other women when talking the language of diets and thighmasters is practically compulsory in some circles. And while you’re at it, remind me to give her a hug and thank her for showing me and my sisters what a healthy relationship with your body looks like. I bet one day Little Bean will thank her too.