You’ll never guess what I’ve done

Limit #10: fat people shouldn’t make art of themselves.

Today’s post is inspired by (read ‘nicked from’) one of my favourite bloggers – The Militant Baker.

Jes Baker will probably never know it, but she is the powerhouse who first got me onto the road of body positivity.

But I didn’t realise until a couple of months ago that she started a Think You’ll Find I Can-esque series YEARS before it even occurred to me that not hating my body was a possibility.

This is about number 9 on her list: Fat People Shouldn’t Make Art of Themselves.

I’ll admit, when I first read the title I somewhat misunderstood it, and thought “I’ve been doing that since primary school!”.  Because I read it as making art actually of themselves. Like this:

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That’s sharpie on my thigh. Because I’m an adult now and Mum can’t stop me drawing on myself with permanent marker.

But away back in school, when I couldn’t even touch a marker without adult supervision, I had a neon green gel pen. And in every lesson that I deemed boring, where I was sitting somewhere out of the teacher’s main line of sight, I gel-penned my left hand with something that looked like this:

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And there was the time just over a year ago when I decided to buy a set of face paints. I have never looked back.

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Dia de los muertos paint for a Latin party.

 

Henna patterns with face paint
Henna patterns with face paint

 

Carnival-style for World Water Day
Carnival-style for World Water Day

So it’s never really crossed my mind that I shouldn’t make art of myself. But art about myself…that’s a whole different ball game.

One of my exes is an artist. He never drew me, and that never bothered me. I looked at his drawings of life models, and felt a distinct urge to cover myself up even though I was fully dressed. I couldn’t bear even the thought of someone looking so closely at so much of my body.

And to make a permanent, visual copy of it?? No chance.

Of course this is a fear thing; I’m afraid of someone looking at my body and judging it. I’m afraid of someone looking at a drawing/painting of my body and judging it. Y’know, that fear of social judgement I’m putting so much energy into fighting.

The thing is, I can’t draw for toffee. I can doodle and make pretty patterns with face paint, but creating an accurate representation of something is beyond me. I can’t make art about myself.

So I’ve done something ridiculous. Something I never in a million billion years thought I would ever do.

I’ve signed up to be a model for a life drawing class.

Hands up who saw that coming (I didn’t!).

So, I’m sure I’ll blog about the what-the-heck-was-I-thinking meltdown when it comes. But I’ll do the class anyway, because my body is just as worthy as anyone else’s of having art made of it.

Wish me luck!

Onesie McSingleton

I have been single for… around 2 years, I think. I lose track.

During that time several people have suggested joining an internet dating site. Most of them have done so several times, despite the fact that I said no the first time, and continue to say no every time it’s brought up.

I’m assuming the thought behind it is kind. Every last person that mentioned it was in a relationship, some of which started through online dating: They have found something good and they care about me enough to want me to enjoy good things too.

But I still wish they would stop. Aside from the fact that I expect my “no” to be understood as “no” and not “try to persuade me” (in all circumstances), my life is already full of good things.

I have two different choirs, I have salsa, church, book club, farmers markets, vintage fairs, running, baking, crochet, weightlifting, reading, writing. I have a flatmate who is a really good match for me, I have friends, I have family, I have friends so close they may as well be family.  There is no boyfriend-shaped hole in my life that must be filled in order for me to be/feel complete. It’s already pretty darn complete!

Now I’m not saying it wouldn’t be nice if a boyfriend did happen along and fit into my life (there must be space somewhere…), but I am saying that my time is precious and I’m not willing to spend it on a search for something I don’t need, or particularly want right now. Same goes for my money and energy.

But I forgive my friends for bringing it up. Like I said, it’s probably a weirdly caring thing.

What winds me up more is the general pressure from people who don’t know me very well. The ones perpetuating the outdated and quite frankly insulting idea that a woman is nothing without a partner. Thank you so much for that one, Disney.

Of course I used to believe that too. I was with a complete douchecanoe for over a year, when he shouldn’t even have made it past the first, terrible date. I stayed because being with someone rubbish who made me miserable was nowhere near as bad as the thought of being single.  I often think if time travel were invented in my lifetime I would go back there to give myself a wake-up slap.

And yet without that experience maybe I never would have learned how wrong that belief is. Since then I have realised that I am enough, and I’m completely whole just as I am.  Which has got to be better for the next man who does come along – he doesn’t have to be some hyper-supportive superman who I need to fix me, he can just be himself (as long as he’s not another douchecanoe) and be wanted rather than needed. It can be so tiring sometimes to be needed.

So please, stop with the online dating, don’t try to set me up with any of your lovely friends, and if anyone even thinks of mentioning my body clock I will go Nuts McGee.

You have been warned.

Om nom nom

Limit #9: fat people shouldn’t eat in public.

But if I don’t eat in public how can people judge what I’m eating? How can people shame me into realising the error of my ways so I can suddenly get skinny? I know society looooves a good bit of judging and shaming.

I am one of the lucky ones, in that nobody has ever straight-out told me not to eat in public. I know there are people out there who have been told in many and various unpleasant ways, and I wish I could hug them all.

But I have definitely been on dates and felt a sinking sensation when they suggested going for a meal after the movie. I have hidden in corners, booths, and bathrooms  to eat without being seen. I’ve even closed the blinds in my ground-floor flat before, just in case someone walked past and saw me putting food in my mouth. The horror.

I have never been told, but somehow I just know. Today I encountered a perfect illustration of how this came about:

This morning I was eating a slice of cake at my desk and my manager went “oh, Hannah.” in a terribly disappointed voice while looking pointedly at the cake. “What’s the occasion?”. Because I’m fat so I must be trying to squeeze my body into society’s one, tiny definition of an acceptable body, so there must be some ‘occasion’ to provide mitigating circumstances that allow cake eatage.

This afternoon my manager did an online shop, listing out loud the cakes, muffins and biscuits she would buy. Another skinny woman was leaning over her shoulder making suggestions for other cakes that she might like more.

I’m fat so cake=ALLOFTHEJUDGING. They are thin so cake=just another thing that people eat sometimes.

This happens all too often. I’ve sat down with food and had someone at the table ask sarcastically if I’ve got enough, or just yell “how much??”. I’ve been having my afternoon snack and had someone ask “are you still eating?”. I take my lunch from the microwave at work and someone invariably comments “ooh that looks healthy!”. It might be less insulting if they didn’t sound so surprised but I can’t tell, because they always do.

And even typing this I have to keep fighting the urge to justify myself.

I was eating cake because…

But I always have a healthy lunch…

I don’t just eat chocolate and crisps…

But I don’t need to justify myself. That would be me falling into the Good Fatty/Bad Fatty trap (which I first heard of on an AMAZING blog – Dances With Fat). My fatness is not made okay by the fact that I only eat cake sometimes, and that my lunch box is usually full of fresh homemade food. Because my fatness does not need to be made okay.

I am enough no matter what/when/how much/how often I eat.

So back to eating in public. Or anywhere for that matter. Nobody ever has any right to tell me where I can or can’t eat, ever. Y’know unless I decide to have a picnic using the shroud of Turin for a blanket. Then go ahead.

I eat wherever the heck and whenever the heck I want, and if people want to comment on it they can expect me (since starting this blog) to answer back.

When my manager asked what the occasion was for cake, I said “I don’t need an occasion, I can eat cake whenever I want.”, and felt very proud because just a few months ago her comment would have had me crying in the bathroom and the cake in the bin.

Last month when someone shouted, “how much??” I asked what made them think my food was up for discussion. They had no answer, and left me alone to eat in peace.

This is the dinner club:

dinner club

We eat in public every Wednesday after salsa class. I’ll admit the first few times I went I felt hideously self-conscious and assumed all those skinny people were judging my burger and sweet potato fries. Yes, I still remember what I ate – those fries were GORGEOUS.

But now I don’t even think about it. That one time I ordered a starter as well as my usual main, and someone asked if I was pregnant, I just gave them the look and then carried on eating the amazing food.

I eat ice cream in public:

NZ

I also eat fro-yo in public, which might be my new favourite thing.

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I refuse to ever be shamed by eating anything in a public place again. I have as much right as anyone else to exist and to eat, and to be happy and unharassed while doing so.

Manly muscles

Everyone has probably heard about athletes like Serena Williams and Ronda Rousey being called manly or masculine for having some pretty built muscles.

My initial reaction to this was rage, which is why I didn’t blog immediately. It’s difficult to put words into a sensible order when there’s a mini Hulk smashing round in my brain. But I gave her some rescue remedy and she’s currently working on some deep breathing techniques so hopefully I can keep the fury to a minimum. Here goes…

Dear muscle-shamers,

First up, having muscles doesn’t make you look like a man. It makes you look like a human being.

What, you think men move around using their muscles but women are powered by pink glitter?

I’m sitting up in this chair, moving my arms and hands to type and edit this post. I’m breathing, blinking when I need to, last time I checked I had a pulse and right now my breakfast will be slowly digesting. All through the magical power of lady-muscles. Otherwise knows as muscles.

I see what you’re doing. I remember the youtube video in which a mum told her little girl to eat a banana so she could grow up strong. The 4-year-old replied “I don’t want to be strong, I’m a girl. I will have a husband who will be strong for me.” I may have cried a little bit.

That’s exactly what you long-live-the-patriarchy men want, isn’t it? An entire sex made to believe that we should be less, that we are less, so you can feel you are more. You get to be the strong ones, you get to be in charge, while we are soft, weak and pliant.

And if any woman dares to step outside the box you’ve made for us, you try to beat her back by attacking the very essence of who she is: a woman with muscles is no longer a woman.

Actually you don’t have to. You’ve got this idea so ingrained that other women will beat her down for you.

And you’ve done the job so very well. I’ve been called every variation of ‘crazy’ because I do strength training. I’ve had complete strangers walk up to me while I’m lifting weights and tell me to go easy because I “don’t want to get too bulky”. I’ve heard female friends say they want to try a bootcamp class, but never have because they don’t want to “get muscles” (seriously, pink glitter?) from it. And look at all the backlash these incredible, talented women get because being brilliant at what they do means they have some serious guns.

It’s oppression, pure and simple. Hidden in plain sight as yet another thing that ‘everybody knows’.

I’ve never really thought of myself as a rebel but I’m rebelling the heck against this. I am a woman (I may have mentioned before), and I am not made any less of a woman by the fact that my deltoids are visible. Or the fact that I regularly swing 20kg of iron around my head for funsies. Or that it’s my dream to one day live somewhere with enough space for my own barbell and plates. I could go on.

And on.

I bet you didn’t think exercise could be a tool for breaking down your beloved patriarchy. I’ll be honest, I didn’t. Before this I was just building my muscles up because I love to see the definition and I love feeling strong. But as of right now I’m also building my muscles up to prove that muscular does not equal manly, to be a living example of strength and power and femininity all rolled into one.

You can hold onto your ridiculous stereotype of the weak woman if that makes you happy, but kindly keep it to yourself. I’m too busy working on pull-ups to listen anyway.

Your ideas are old, tired, and just plain wrong, and I’m not buying them.

Most sincerely,

A strong woman.

Slightly more cropped (ish)

I’ve heard it’s good to do things that scare you. In which case, this blog is amazing.

Here is my ‘working on the crop top thing’ outfit:

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Obviously not office-appropriate so I changed into it straight after work and headed to salsa, with my long coat on over the top. Because I didn’t want anyone to see me.

This plan would have worked, had Glasgow not decided that day would be the one day of actual summer it gives us each year. I managed to keep the coat on for about 10 minutes, then went for not-heat-stroke and took it off.

I thought walking up the stairs in Boteco was scary, but that was nothing compared to walking down a busy Glasgow street. By the time I reached the traffic lights across the road from salsa, I was physically shaking.

We have created such an iron rule about fat girls not showing their stomach. I had to constantly, consciously focus on keeping my arms down at my sides to stop them pulling the top down and skirt up to cover the gap. When I crossed the road (which obviously took up my attention) I got to the other side and realised I had adjusted them without even noticing. Covering my stomach was an automatic action I did without thinking – that’s how ingrained it is.

I was still trembling when I went in to salsa but at least I went in. It took a lot to overpower the voice in my head screaming at me to run away and hide my massive body under a duvet forever. Gotta love that voice.

Anyway. It was exactly the same process as last time I tried a cropped(ish) top: even though I started off hideously uncomfortable, by the end of class it just felt normal to have my midriff on display. And what with it being a warm day, I was rather glad of the extra ventilation.

I knew I had reached a milestone when a friend joined us and said she liked my dress, at which point I lifted my arms up to show a bit more skin and said “it’s a crop top!”.

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Boteco was fantastic. I never realised before how much I usually try to hide my body, and suck in any parts I can in an attempt to look smaller. There’s really no way to hide when it’s all on display like that. But instead of crippling me with shame like I expected it to, the exposure actually made me feel much more free.

I wonder what other things would be more fun if I stopped obssessing over my body and just enjoyed them…