A WEIGHTY SUBJECT

I am at best curvy. At worst a bit of a plumpy. But it hasn’t always been this way.
I was a skinny kid, a skinny tween and a skinny early teen. I wore 4 inch heels to school at 14, looking like a pipe cleaner in school uniform.
When we moved too far away to attend the same school I visited my old friends in the school holidays and comfort ate on weekends at home. Double bills of horror films to the accompaniment of lumps of cheese and packets of crisps. My thrifty mum couldn’t keep up with school blouse button popping and my bra size went from 32B to 38DD in mere months. I’d stopped cycling everywhere at about the same time – it was easier to stalk the boy I fancied on foot. I felt more confident in my bigger body. I felt sensuous. I’d always thought myself pathetic as a thin girl. Now I was brave and courageous. Full of life.
About a year later I discovered that most boys didn’t like my overflowing flesh. They wanted a girl their mates envied. They wanted a girl who was hot. I looked down at myself in confusion. Was I not hot then?
My confidence evaporated. The ground beneath me swayed and broke up into pieces. I started to diet and fell in love with the feeling of abstinence. Hunger pains gripped me lying in my bed at night. I fought my will to eat. Sometimes I only ate apples, another time just one bowl of cereal a day. I refused to eat with anyone else so that I could stash the meal my mother had cooked me into a plastic bag to be thrown away later. This was real control and at the end of it I had a concave stomach. Hurray for me!
By that time I had reached the weight of six and a half stone I was a waif. Now it wasn’t just my mum on my case. My boyfriend was concerned. His mother said I was so thin I resembled a drug addict. When Karen Carpenter died from complications from anorexia I was getting the hard word from most people.
I was lucky. I wasn’t so emaciated that I couldn’t turn back. I still had enough vanity to be shocked that I may look like a heroin user. And although slim was the preferred female shape of the day, boobs and hips were sought after too. Writing this I am appalled that the body-fashion of the day should be relevant to young women but it was.
And it certainly is now. I could spit feathers at the skinny images of young women that are out there for our youth to see. The other day I saw a pathetic, but alarming, article containing drawings of what body shape men and women prefer in females. Women prefer a slim shape with a modest bust apparently. Nice swivelly hips. Whereas men were reported to prefer a version of femininity that wouldn’t exist without starvation, and a boob job not far short of Dolly’s. Not a human form, a blow up version surely.
There are naturally thin women and these are the girls who are picked to model clothes. I get that – they sell more. But to encourage further weight loss and air brushing away so called imperfections puts an unnecessary strain on girls and boys. Perfect, perfect, perfect. Why are we even focusing on our looks? Didn’t magazines used to have interesting articles in them? Instead of page after page of pouty ads for make-up, diet food and stuff we used to consider frivolous.
I grew up subscribing to Spare Rib magazine and reading Herman Hesse. If anyone caught me looking in the mirror I was teased. Look at her, how vain is she! I have wondered how I would deal with raising a girl, as one blessed with two sons. But it affects boys too. Son No.1 works out nearly every day and feels blobby if he doesn’t. When should I start to worry?
I don’t know the answers. I don’t really know how we got here. Fame culture, porn culture, reality TV? The husband blames Twiggy. Even I still involuntarily suck my stomach muscles in when watching celebs on the red carpet in their confectionery gowns. It’s hard to be part of an age when Marilyn, if alive today, would be considered fat. 

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