Back when I was a child I really couldn’t have given two hoots about how I looked. I was well aware that I was (and still am) disabled and unable to do the most basic of tasks such as apply make-up or style my hair (unless I fancied a shaky two-hour attempt at uselessness.) I knew that even my ability to walk was at best rubbish and even earned me the nobel name of ‘twinkle toes.’ As much as I knew why people didn’t like me, I didn’t understand fully how much of their dislike was based upon my lack of visual and physical appeal.
In some ways being both clueless and unpopular was a real bonus, as it prevented me from experiencing the overwhelming need to fit in. I know that it would have been much easier if I had been able to simply blend in but sadly with my difficulties that just wasn’t an option. I was also well aware that I wasn’t what people would refer to as a ‘looker.’ The bullies at school made that crystal clear to me, on almost a daily basis. I was just a freak who looked different and acted oddly due to multiple mental health issues and disabilities. A weirdo that had to wear splints on her legs and someone who would on occasion; randomly drop to the floor at a moments notice. (Yay epilepsy, providing me with my very own super cool dance moves!)
It was tough being a teenage Alex. However I figured that I had at least one thing going for me… I wasn’t fat. I was relatively slender with a few curves thrown in for good measure, which I personally quite liked. I was a uk size 8-10 depending on style and developed breasts at quite a young age, relative to my peers. I thought that overall I looked ‘okay.’ I wouldn’t be winning any beauty pageants anytime soon but at the very least people would run me out-of-town, pick forks in hand.
On a side note: please don’t misunderstand me! I have no issue with the guys and gals who are a little bigger than average. Their body is their business, not mine. I was just well aware that it isn’t the ideal look in our society, so I was thankful that with everything else that made me stick out like a sore thumb, my weight wasn’t the icing on the top of the really shitty, crap cake that is my body.
As I got older I started reading magazines and soon came to the realisation that my curves were nothing to be proud of. I learnt new and saddening phrases such as: ‘bingo wings,’ ‘double chins’ and ‘muffin tops’ and these words created a new sense of discomfort around who I was. I went from knowing that I was broken and not caring about my looks, to being someone who hated what she looked like based on someone else’s opinion (who I didn’t even know) of how I should present myself to the world.
After making the massive mistake of reading too many of these little booklets I soon learnt the ‘truth.’ Unless you were either lucky enough to be naturally slender or put yourself on a strict diet and exercise regime (a laughable concept with my leg problems) to become a teeny, tiny size 6 or 8 you were deemed as essentially worthless in the eyes of the fashion Gods.
If I didn’t become the ‘correct’ shape then I would no longer have had the right to wear tight-fitting clothes or even swimming costumes. Best not gross out the locals with the ‘muffin top monstrosity’ that I had suddenly become, simply by reading a few magazines. This spiralled as I started to take note of other people’s ‘well meaning’ comments and advice, which up to that point I had simple ignored or laughed off.
I often got a stern talking too for wearing leggings because I (a UK size 10) was deemed too fat and wobbly to look nice in them. I also got disapproving looks (and comments) when I would eat cake or go for a second portion of food, even when it was salad or vegetables. I remember feeling pissed off because the guys who were of a similar age to me were actively being encouraged to eat more and I thought that it was really unfair that I couldn’t. Thinking back it was just plain ridiculous,.
I was nowhere near what could be classified as ‘fat’ but I was too nice to snap and tell them exactly where they could stick their opinions. I thought that if people told me something that was truly unkind as often as they did, then surely it must have been for my own good. People couldn’t possibly like putting others down, just for the Hell of it.
Surely to God?
The sad fact is: yes they do because they love the quick boost that it gives their own ego after they have squashed yours down. People can be complete and utter dicks. I have always been a bit slow on the uptake when it comes to social conundrums. I always thought that just because I would never do something that mean or underhanded, others wouldn’t either. Naivety at it’s finest, I’m afraid it’s been a steep learning curve over the years.
At the age of 24, I fell pregnant with my eldest daughter and what should have been a happy and joyous occasion turned sour very quickly. Not because I was unhappy with my pending bundle of joy but because the disillusionment with my body worsened rapidly. I steadily got bigger and wobblier and everyone decided that they suddenly had even more of a right to comment on how ‘huge’ I was becoming.
The comments ranged from ‘you sure your not having twins?’ to ‘don’t gain too much otherwise you’ll be fat forever.’ This coupled with all the unwanted bump grabbing that occurred, (I have serious problems with people I don’t know touching me) turned what was supposed to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life into something that was both stressful and embarrassing in equal measure. Thanks guys….
The pregnancy rolled by in what seemed like the blink of an eye and soon I was holding my tiny, baby girl. What’s amazing is how quickly my entire mindset changed after Evie was born. I held her close and counted her tiny fingers and toes. Marvelled at her tiny face and kissed her little hands. I knew that my body had accomplished something amazing and I suddenly felt a strong sense of pride. Then 17 months later came shock number two; Lily. This only confirmed my new opinions. My body grew them both and birthed them (albeit by cesarean section) and is still nourishing the youngest one now.
If I’m entirely honest, I still feel quite self-conscious of my new-found flab and mummy tummy. My boobs are saggier than I ever thought was possible and will no doubt get worse when my breasts deflate down from their current breastfeeding glory, back to their original size. I am proud of what my body has accomplished even if I’m not too keen on what it currently looks like.
Everywhere you look you see celebrity mums snapped back into shape within two weeks at most. If they haven’t they get labelled as fat, lazy and slobbish. How dare they spend time looking after their baby and trying to be kind to themselves after doing something as ‘simple’ as giving birth? They should already be starving themselves and spending hours at the gym regardless of whether they want to or not.
This is what the magazines and tabloids would have you believe is the normal way to live. Never mind the other pressures that having a small child brings like: sleep deprivation, pain from the birth, worrying about what’s normal, feeding the child along with about twenty-thousand other things that constantly take up space in your already stretched out mind. It’s already almost too much to handle for those first few months without the added pressure of other people’s opinions about how we should look and act.
The problem seems to be the tabloids and their expectations for all the celebrity mamas. If their bump is too big during pregnancy then they are obviously eating way too much and have simply ‘let themselves go.’ On the other side of the fence, God forbid their bumps be too small and compact. If they are then that woman is ‘staving’ her baby. Shame, horror, shock! How dare these woman deviate from what complete strangers define as ‘the norm.’
It doesn’t matter that bump size is controlled by many factors such as: the mother’s body type, how the baby is lying and whether or not this is a first pregnancy. The only thing that matters is ridiculing woman so that other woman will buy magazines that will essentially make them feel terrible about themselves. The body shaming starts before you even have chance to enjoy being a mother because we are being constantly encouraged to shame each other. Just so that publishers of magazines can make some easy money from other people’s suffering.
Lovely cycle of events, isn’t it?
Unfortunately we end up being held up to the very same standards as our celebrity sisters. We are told time and time again that if celebrities can snap back into shape then surely to Hell everyone can. What if you don’t have our very own: personal trainer, dietitian, time to yourself and some oh so, glorious photo shop magic? That’s no excuse in the race to be perfect and aesthetically pleasing to others. Shame on you for daring to have a muffin top or thunder thighs. Shame on you for taking your time to recover and feel human, before taking the time and effort to make yourself ‘presentable’ to the rest of the world. Shame on you for knowing that your main priorities are both; yourself and your children when you should be worrying about what everyone else thinks.
Frankly I say F*** them and the horse they rode in on. If they want perfection let them deal with their own imperfections and leave the rest of the world’s well alone. I dare say they have just as many as the rest of us do, they just have better tools with which to hide them with…
The picture to the right is of my post baby belly. I know it’s not pretty and there are many, many stretch marks but a big part of me feels like they are badges of honor for giving my children life. I quite often feel sad when I look in the mirror and from what I have been told, so do many other mums. This seems to be a normal reaction to our bodies changes. Nine months are so short a time to get used to a life time of differences.
Every time my mind goes to it’s, ‘your now really unattractive and fat’ place I go and look at my children. They are worth all the changes to my body. Both the good (hello temporary, free boob job) and the bad (boo… Thunder thighs and wobbles) and if I had to decide between a fantastic body and my girls? My children would win out every single time, without fail.
How can we possibly be ashamed of our bodies when they are capable of doing something as powerful and amazing as bringing forth life and then nourishing said lives for a further year or more. We are all super hero’s and it’s about time that we noticed that. We are worth so much more than other people’s opinions and prejudice. We are the reason that the people we love the most exist, if that isn’t a reason to celebrate our bodies then I don’t know what is.
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