Sometimes, when I’m sorting laundry, I put on one of those “bride chooses wedding dress” TV programmes as a sort of mildly entertaining background noise. Last week, the show was about “plus-size” brides. A few things were said that really got me thinking.
Firstly, one of the consultants said that a confident girl could wear any dress she liked. She just needed the attitude to pull it off. What a “big” woman, without that sort of confidence should wear to her wedding, I don’t know. They didn’t say. An overcoat maybe?
Secondly, in trying to make one bride feel “better” about her figure, a consultant pointed out that her breasts and hips were bigger than her waist and therefore she still had a beautiful “womanly” figure. Good grief. It seems even in fatty world, there is a “better” kind of fat to be. I am shaped just like a cake pop (completely round top half on relatively thinner stem). What am I supposed to think about my body?
I imagine the people making this programme were probably quite well-meaning. They were definitely trying to jump aboard the positive-body-image/non-fat-shaming train that is whistling across our TV screens at the moment. But their comments reveal how far away we are from anything like an acceptance of body shape and size not being the defining factor in one’s attractiveness as a person.
Frankly, I don’t buy that idea myself. I confess that I see very fat people as a hell of a lot less attractive than thinner ones. (I also find emaciated people unattractive and rather frightening, but that’s a whole other story.) I was listening to my daughter commenting on an advert that featured bigger models, and realised that she also wasn’t buying into the idea of fatties being gorgeous at all, regardless of what she was being shown. (“They’ve all got such enormous bums, Mum!”) Perhaps these ideas are too deeply entrenched to be easily changed.
I often hear people say “Look at the film stars of yesteryear. They were not terribly thin, but they were considered drop-dead gorgeous.” Have you ever had a good look at Marilyn Monroe’s figure? She was no fatty and her sexy hourglass shape is probably just as unrealistic for most of us to achieve as would be the figure of a contemporary super model.
No, the idea that a human being must aspire to a certain pleasing body shape is not a new one. At least, nowadays we can use Instagram filters and photoshop instead of having to resort to having a rib removed or corseting ourselves so tightly that we can barely breathe.
Men and women alike must conform to society’s current perception of a beautiful body. It is no surprise then that the journey I claim to be on towards a healthier body has turned out to be all about doing something about the old cake pop bod. Come to think of it, post-menopause, my body is more like a rugby ball on a stick, as my fat gradually creeps down my thighs to my knees. You see. There I go again. Concentrating on my body’s flaws. Like most people, I could fill several pages on the awfulness of my body. How boring. And how downright wrong. Instead I should be telling you how bloody wonderful my body is.
I am so enormously grateful for all my body’s amazing abilities. I can walk, run, dance, swim, jump and climb. I can dig in my garden and hang out the washing and cook lots of delicious food. I can read and write and sew and draw. My eyes see, my ears hear. I am so lucky I can barely believe it. Last week, I developed a really nasty stye inside my eyelid. It was sore. It was UGLY. Despite my best efforts to treat it at home, by Friday I woke up with an eye socket that was so swollen it looked like I was turning into a Klingon. In a bit of a panic I went to the doctor who prescribed antibiotics. But before starting the course, I decided to wait just one more night. I had a feeling that my eye was just a tiny bit less painful than before. And I was right. My lovely, healthy, strong body had seen off the infection all by itself.
Please don’t think I am boasting or gloating. I am fully aware of how fortunate I am. But I really want to acknowledge how amazing my body is, even if you (and I) do not necessarily find it aesthetically pleasing. I hope we can all do this, whatever our bodies are like. Seek out the things we value and treasure them, and waste no time at all fretting about the things that don’t match up to some mad image of perfection that we have in our minds.