It’s so much easier to love your body in winter. Swathed in knitted jumpers, enveloped in oversized cardigans, legs snuggled into cosy opaques. In Winter , I am happy with my body.
Seasonally Induced Body Anxiety
Then, along comes the sun. As welcome as it is brief, fortunately for some of us. I open my wardrobe and gaze at it in despair
I HAVE NOTHING APPROPRIATE TO WEAR IN THIS WEATHER
What I really mean, of course, is that I have nothing to wear which makes me feel good and comfortable in myself, whilst also displaying the amount of flesh required to mitigate against the heat.
In short, I hate my knees. And my ankles. And my calves. That which I am happy enough to march about on whilst wrapped in black tights, become loathsome once that protective layer is discarded.
Why ? Because they are too white. Calves too wide. Ankles too thick. Knees too fat. They aren’t long and tanned and toned and sinewy. Of course they aren’t. I’m five foot three and three quarters.
I feel my legs aren’t acceptable, unclothed, for public consumption. But why should the fact of their appearance come into the equation at all ? It’s hot. I need to be cool. Wearing a skirt would be a good way of achieving this . But because my legs don’t look like the ones on the beach ready bodies we are force fed, I feel too self conscious to expose them.
It’s narcissistic in the extreme to think that on a glorious sunny day in Dublin people are more concerned with the state of my legs than making the most of their rare and fleeting glimpse of summer. Yet the narcissism is stoked by the pushing of the “beach ready” media message. “Your body is not acceptable for summer as it is : slim down and tan up before you inflict it on the world.”
Do men think like this?
On a morning radio show, the male presenter was discussing the fact that young people continue to use sunbeds despite the dangers. A caller expressed disgust for the fact that young men are shaving their legs and chests, “Men are turning into women” . The contempt was dripping from every word.
Hold on a second, whilst I digress. Why is the idea of men mimicking behaviours that are perceived as female so contemptuous to you, caller? ( Rhetorical. For answer see Madonna ” What it Feels Like for a Girl “)
Women have been confronted with unattainable body ideals by the media since forever. Now, in a twisted performance of gender equality, men are seeing their own version of the body beautiful tauntingly displayed infront of them.
“This is what a body should look like.”
Most don’t. We know that, in our heart of hearts. We know we should appreciate our bodies as they are, for all they have done for us. They are not made to be decorative, that is merely a side product, for the few.
The above was written after a spell of good weather a few weeks ago. We are now in the midst of a heatwave and I’m going on holiday shortly. Consequently, I went on a shopping trip and bought new clothes that actually fit me and I feel around 90% better.
The tyranny of the number on your labels is pointless in so many ways, not least of all the fact of the discrepancy from one shop to another, but also WHO CARES? Who are you telling? Your bum is the same size whether you squeeze it into a size twelve, or let it loose in a fourteen.
I realised when I was shopping that I was looking for clothes that hid my shape. I wanted something to make my hips look narrower, my bum smaller, to cover my knees.
How exhausting. This is not how I want my relationship with my body to continue. I don’t want to always be trying to hide it, to make it look smaller. I don’t always want to be admiring other women, wishing I had the confidence to dress like them, look like them. I don’t want to always be trying to lose that extra five pounds and regretting eating the cake.
So this summer, I’m going to work on just wearing the clothes and not trying to make myself look smaller. I’m going to take up space, and eat the cake.