Sunday, November 29, 2015

Weight(y) Matters

Hi. I have lost weight. I am aware of this as it is my body that has diminished in size and I do spend the vast majority of my time inside my body. There really is no need to point this out, certainly not in the way that I have encountered in the recent weeks, maybe even months.

I used to be fat. I wasn’t always fat. I have been various different sizes during my nearly 35 years walking this lovely earth. I have been a “normal size”. Then I was overweight. Then I was skinny. Then overweight, then small again, then slowly getting fatter until I decided to do something about it.  Now I am no longer fat. Regardless of my weight or size, there have always been people who seem to think it appropriate to comment on it. These are mostly people meaning well or people who may not realise the impact of their flippant comments but can I please just address one and all of you when I say there is no need for you to comment on weight lost or gained. To anyone.

Granted, my weight loss right now is noticeable. Shedding 30% of your body weight tends to show. I am pleased and proud of myself for the hard work that I put in and that paid off but listening to comments about my weight is never something I want to be subjected to. Nobody should be. You may mean well by exclaiming “Wow, you’ve gone to nothing!”. I am aware. The pounds didn’t magically vanish overnight and I am not in a state of shock trying to figure out why my trousers won’t stay on me all of a sudden. Step aside, Captain Obvious, I’ve got this.

When I first started losing weight, all the comments on my appearance were positive. As I continued to lose weight, the tone changed.

“Ooh, don’t you think you’re losing too much?”
“Have you stopped eating altogether?”
“Turn sideways and we won’t be able to see you!”
“Be careful now, you don’t want to overdo it”
“Are you sure you’re not ill?”

That last one really baffles me. Really. What if I was ill? How would you feel if I turned around and told you I was seriously ill and that was why I had lost weight? Bet you’d think twice about blurting out the first thing that crosses your mind. Sometimes I think that is said only in search of juicy gossip but then that’s awfully cynical of me, isn’t it?

To the commenters exclaiming that I “must’ve stopped eating” , let me assure you, that is not only physically impossible, going against every survival instinct years or evolution has hammered into you, also something I would never be able to do because I love food. Maybe you’ve never seen me destroy a three course dinner but rest assured, if you’ve seen me eat, you know what the likelihood of me ever letting go of that pleasure good food gives me is.

I mentioned this on Twitter this morning and discovered these seemingly well meaning people are everywhere. No matter what the person’s size, there’s always someone out there to pass comment on it. And make assumptions. If you’re fat, you’re lazy, eat badly and sit on your arse all day. And apparently it’s ok to point this out. If you’re slim, you’re unhealthy, don’t eat and are about to collapse from exhaustion. Apparently it’s okay to point this out, too.

I feel amazing. I have more energy, I love the way I look and I can run a decent distance without wheezing my lungs out. To achieve this, I eat so I don’t pass out while exercising. It really is that simple. On the days I don’t exercise (and this may shock some people) I also eat because that’s what you need to do in order to stay alive. The fact that you don’t see me eat doesn’t mean I don’t do it. There are a lot of things I do that you can’t see. For example, I shower every day. You don’t see me do it, yet I do it and nobody has questioned my personal hygiene habits purely on the basis of the lack of visual proof.

What annoys me is the assumption these people make that it is perfectly acceptable to pass a comment on someone’s weight or appearance. Not everyone welcomes it, no matter how positively you mean it. I daresay most people would feel awkward having someone you don’t even know that well making a comment about how you look. I, for one am touchy enough when it’s coming from someone I love. Just don’t say it unless the person you’re talking to has explicitly asked you to comment on their weight. Even then it may be best to avoid commenting altogether. Weight is a touchy subject.

Even if it is “just words”, you are invading my personal space with your comments and opinions. Just like a touch, when unwanted, it is uncomfortable. I work with people, a lot of people. I can meet and chat to hundreds every day. Not one has passed an unwanted comment. It’s the ones who know me superficially who seem most keen to point out there’s less of me than there was a few years ago. Again; I am aware. There has been a few leery ones. The really uncomfortable ones where a man (yes, always a man. I’m only stating a fact, not hating everyone with a penis) decides he needs to inform me that due to my weight loss I am now more or less attractive to him than I was before. Yeah. I really don’t want to know. I really, really don’t need to know that you may spend a moment thinking about me in a way that is in no way related to what I do for a living. I’m not saying I don’t do that about people I meet but at least I have the common sense to keep these thoughts to myself.

Now, if you find yourself just itching to pass a comment on someone’s appearance, here’s a few you can try instead:
                “You look great”
                “ I like your top/jeans/shoes/hair/scarf/eyes etc..”
                “What a lovely smile”
                “You look happy”

If talking to someone you’re not all that particularly fond of, add sarcastic tone to the statements above and you’re good to go.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mirror, Mirror

I saw someone post a photo of their most recent beauty purchase on Twitter this morning. It was a "pore minimiser", which prompted me to tweet this. Having tiny pores on your face is an aspiration that has baffled me for some time now. Every time I see or hear an ad for facial cream/cleanser/toner/industrial sander that claims to minimise your pores I stop and wonder why the hell should I bother? Are pores really that aesthetically offensive that we should be taking every measure possible to hide them from view for fear of traumatising small children?

I mean, if you find your own pores offensive to your own eyes, by all means, go ahead and use whatever you want to make them smaller or invisible. Just don't tell me I should do the same because you have an adverse reaction to visible pores. Same goes for pretty much anything to do with beauty "standards" set predominantly by companies who make money on your insecurities. Set by companies and repeated by a chorus of converts who seem to be in a hurry to convince themselves and others that you really do need that serum(*) which makes your earlobes appear more attractive.

My problem is not with the beauty products or even most of the advertising of said products. My problem is the homogenisation of the people targeted by the advertising. The assumption that everyone cares about the size of their pores, the frizz in their hair, the odd spot on their skin or the fact that they're going grey. I'm only talking about my own personal experience and am not for one second suggesting any of what I have said or am about to say applies to any other person on this planet. Just wanted to make that clear before I go on.

I don't give a shit if you can see my pores. I don't give a shit if I can see my pores. Mostly I can't because I wear glasses and can't see myself that clearly in the mirror after my shower. I slap on moisturiser, put on my glasses and head off blissfully ignorant of the size and shape of my pores. Yes, moisturiser. I did say I don't have a problem with beauty products, but the unnecessary "goals" the companies selling them are setting us. To be honest, without my collection of moisturisers I probably would've shrivelled up a long time ago. I have very dry skin, especially in the winter when the central heating is enough to make matters worse by a multiple of ten at least.

I also get highlights in my hair. I use make up. I like to do my nails in pretty colours. I sometimes despair about my frizzy, flyaway hair but I live in a country with high humidity 95% of the time, so there isn't much I can do about that other than pull my hair back in a ponytail, spray it with hair spray and carry on. I have stuff that's great for keeping my hair from looking like I just stuck a fork in my toaster but I could not be bothered using that on a daily basis.

I guess what I'm trying to get across here is how annoyed I get when I picture a brainstorming session in one of these companies.
- Right, we need to think of something new.
- Which body part has gone unnoticed until now?
- Back of the knee?
- Knuckles?
- Little toe?
- Toes! We could launch a cream that makes your toes all the exact same colour. Because having slightly different skin tone in your toes is unsightly.
- And hair removal cream for that bit of hair that grows on your big toe.
- We'll call it "BeautiFoot" and make sure everyone knows they can't wear open toed shoes without having put this on first because it's just wrong

Or something equally ridiculous to peddle a product that is entirely unnecessary and the sales of which are based on an idea put forth by the company manufacturing the product that there is something about your appearance that needs to be fixed.

Some of these companies are trying to pretend they're all for positive body image and that they're in the business of making people feel beautiful. Yes, feel beautiful not as you are but as you are after using our product. Most recently the beauty giant Dove started a campaign on Twitter, #SpeakBeautiful. It really didn't take off as planned . This is only one company and there are many more out there guilty of exactly the same thing.

I'm worried now that I may sound like a hypocrite. I do use beauty products as mentioned earlier. But I can tell you also of the things I don't bother doing which seemingly are deemed in the mainstream media as necessities. For example, right now my legs are sporting quite a healthy growth of hair. I'll get around to waxing at some stage but in the meantime I'm really ok with a bit of fuzz. It's still winter, you know. My face hasn't any make up on it. My pores stand proud and there is a spot under my nose. There are a couple of stray hairs on my eyebrows that I will pluck as soon as I remember where I left my tweezers. Speaking of tweezers, I need them to get rid of the two stubborn stray hairs that grow on my right nipple. Yes, really. My hair has met shampoo and conditioner this morning but I think I'll leave it at that.

I cannot stress enough how annoyed I get when I hear of some new inane, insane, outrageously ludicrous beauty fad, usually endorsed by a celebrity. Just google "vaginal steaming", "bull semen facial" or any combination of random words and you're likely to find something you're supposed to be doing to your body to deem you fit to face the society's collective gaze. It is as if we're supposed to be aiming for a plastic look. Invisible pores, invisible grey hairs, invisible wrinkles, invisible panty line. Let's erase everything that makes us individuals.

I'm 34 years of age and really quite comfortable in my skin. Finally. It's taken a while. A long while. I've always struggled with my weight because I love food and until a few years ago I hadn't realised that exercise can be enjoyable. My skin is and always will be a little bit dry because I'm often rushing out the door and don't have time to moisturise. I remember the nurse at our local health centre feeling the back of my arms and saying to my mother that my skin there felt a bit rough. I think I was 5 or 6 years of age. I remember wondering why that was worth remarking. I'm still wondering.

It's taken me this long but I finally feel like my body is my own. It's built for purpose and I love it. Yes, there is that bit of belly fat I could probably live without but apparently that's where my tickles live. I can live with that. Yes, my dry skin feels uncomfortable. Which is why I moisturise. Not because I want my skin to look acceptable to someone else, measured by someone else's standards. Yes, I wax away any unwanted body hair. Because I like the way my skin feels afterwards. To have gotten to the stage where I can honestly say I do love my body, hasn't been easy. It takes daily encouragement and a reminder that my body has served me well and the fact that it's the only one I have. There are days when I need more than a gentle reminder. I know I'm lucky, I have someone who tells me I'm beautiful. Every day.

This is just me, though. I know this. You might be like me and not really bother with make up unless it's a special occasion. (I love doing my hair, getting dressed up and putting on make up but I really couldn't bother with it every single day). Or maybe you like to use every lotion and potion in your extensive collection before you head out and face the day because that's what makes you feel good. All I'm saying is that there is no right or wrong way as long as you're doing what you're doing because it's what feels right for you. Not because someone in an advertising agency decided you should cover up a part of your face because it doesn't look like the face of a photoshopped model.

Wow. That's a long rant. I'm off to find my tweezers now.

*Disclaimer: no such serum exists. Yet.