I think you’ll find he can, too

Today is an exciting day, a day of firsts for my blog.

It’s not only my first ever official guest post; it’s written by a man! OOooOOooh exciting!

So make sure you’re sitting comfortably, and I’ll let him begin.

Guest limit #1: Boys can’t wear dresses.

A couple of weeks ago an acquaintance of mine was describing a dress they had their eye on. “It’s dead good, ‘cause, like, you can wear it to go out in, or to go to work in. Well, obviously you can’t. You’re a boy.”

My immediate thought was “oh can’t I?” (I’m not entirely sure why: maybe I’m just contrary like that) but as the day went on I got more and more annoyed at the exchange.

Imagine if the script was reversed. If the person had said “You can’t do x, y, z; you’re a girl” they’d be in so much trouble. But I’m a guy, so that’s just fine apparently.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago: It’s Christmas eve and head office has sent down a memo saying everyone in our local office is allowed to wear our finest festive dresses for the day. I’m pretty sure they were trying to be clever, but ended up making a typo. Still, head office must be obeyed, so I swore I’d follow orders and show up in my finest dress.

The dress was “Noelle” by Hell Bunny with a white t-shirt underneath to deal with the scandalously low neckline. It wasn’t a drag act; I didn’t shave my arms and legs, I didn’t wear make-up or a wig, nothing of the sort. I was simply myself, but in a dress.

Hell bunny noelle

I was worried. The people I work with are not the most mature people at the best of times and given that I’m ‘the weird one’ anyway I had a feeling it would end badly. Still, I looked at myself in the mirror and said “Damn, you look good” before walking into the lounge like nothing was different.

The reaction around the office was…varied, we’ll say. Some of the younger women said I looked very pretty, just not as pretty as they would look in the same dress.

Some of the guys thought it was hilarious. One colleague made a point of saying, quite loudly, “Look at him, he even walks gay.” Because wearing a particular kind of clothing means you’re gay, you know. My girlfriend will be heartbroken.

But I digress. The response was mostly positive.

And now it’s boxing day! The office is surprisingly normal. I’m not ‘that weirdo in a dress’ or ‘that pansy’ or any number of awful insults I imagined I would be. It’s almost like people don’t care what I wear at my desk (provided I rank at least two less than them on the scale of perceived hotness).

The trouble is, while my acquaintance couldn’t have known this, they were absolutely right. The official dress code says that female employees can wear anything they want, so long as it’s company colours, while the male employees have to wear a shirt and trousers. And no that isn’t sexist, for reasons entirely too obvious to explain. To anyone. Ever.

Still! I did something new (and hijacked this blog for 519 words), and all because someone said I couldn’t do something when I think you’ll find I can.

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All change (or not)

Shop changing rooms. They’re tricksy little beasties, somehow highlighting every ‘flaw’ you have while making new clothes look amazing. I’ve always wondered how they do it. Sorcery, probably.

I would hate to count up the cumulative hours I’ve spent in those cubicles, cataloguing the parts of my body I hate most. What a horrible, sad waste of my life.

But since jumping feet-first into body positivity, I thought I had left that changing room self-hate behind me. I’ve completely turned some of my most hated parts into my favourites. I love my body now, so how much better would it be to see it in full, lit up, in shiny new clothes? Surely it would be fun!

Turns out, no.

I went in to try on the most beautiful dress in the world, and some other fairly nice dresses, and the inner snark started from the second I closed the door. It went for my socks, the size and shape of my feet, my thighs, my hips, my stomach, my arms, my overall size, my hair, my stretch marks, the clothes I was wearing that day, and the clothes I had taken in to try on.

Honestly, it nearly overwhelmed me at first. It’s been so long since I faced such a tirade from my inner Nasty Voice that I couldn’t remember how to defend myself. My eyes filled up, and I was on the brink of a major meltdown.

Then up popped the Body Pos voice I’ve been working on for months.

“Excuse me? You seriously think it’s okay to speak like that? Would you say that to your friends? Would you let your friends, or anyone for that matter, say those things to you?

No. No you wouldn’t. So what makes you think it’s okay to speak to yourself that way?”

*Nasty Voice mumbles something incoherent*

“You can shut up now. We have, in fact, noticed that we’ve become bigger recently; you don’t need to point it out. We also decided that size/weight/body fat percentage have no effect whatsoever on our inherent value and self-worth, remember that?

You know only 5% of the population can achieve that shape you’re comparing us against. You know we are not in that 5%, never have been, never will be, no matter what. And you know that doesn’t stop us being hella sexy and downright fabulous.”

At which point the Nasty Voice died a violent death and vanished, leaving me and Body Pos voice to live in peace forever more!

Except this is real life, and I’m only human.

I silenced the Nasty Voice long enough to not cry, and to try on the clothes I had picked up. But when I tried on the most beautiful dress in the world it pointed out that a size 12 would have fitted me 6 months ago. I tried another and it sniped at the way the material lay over my hips and bum. A third and it laughed at the sag in the chest area that I can never quite fill.

The difference this time was that the comments slid over the surface instead of cutting in deep. They flitted across my mind and then they were gone.

Then I tried on a jumper dress. It’s the kind of thing I would never normally go for, but I tried it on anyway and Body Pos voice said “Heck yes!”.

This is what progress looks like, I suppose. I am changing. I am kinder to myself now than I ever have been before. But when the simple act of walking into a changing room can cause a meltdown, I clearly still have a lot of work to do.

8, 10, 12

I was in New Look today, and across the store I spotted the most beautiful dress I have seen all year: skater style, black mesh with deep blue velvet roses, that shimmered in the light like an oil slick.

I had to have it.

I went through the rack and picked out the biggest size they had in stock, a 12, knowing it wouldn’t fit well but would give me an idea of whether I liked it.

Into the changing rooms, and I didn’t just like it. I completely loved it. But I was right; I needed a size 14. So I gave the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world  back and decided to order the right size online when I got chance.

Skip forward a few hours and I’m shouting at my laptop in disbelief.

They don’t make the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world in my size. In fact, they only make it in size 8, 10, and 12.

Three different sizes. When people exist from size 6 to 26 and beyond, New Look have decided to stock an item of clothing in only three different sizes. All of which are below the average female dress size in the UK (16, if you’re wondering).

So there’s £30 they’ve missed out on because I can’t buy that dress. Multiply that by the thousands and thousands of women who are also not size 8, 10, or 12 and there’s a bucketload of money they’ve lost.

It’s kind of frightening that fat-shaming is so pervasive that companies are willing to lose business by contributing to it.

But here’s the thing. Even after a mini-meltdown in the changing rooms (post about that coming up later), I’m not bursting into tears and hating my body for not fitting this dress.

I am raging that New Look dare to think my size-14 body isn’t worthy of it.

Their message is loud and clear: only small bodies deserve the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world.

So I’m going to send them a message back, telling them that I deserve every beautiful thing they sell, and so does every body. That fat-shaming is not even a little bit okay. That their dress, although it may be the-most-beautiful-dress-in-the-world, is contributing to fat-shaming. And that this kind of message needs to stop. Right now.

Ridiculous Holiday Diet Tips

You all know it’s coming; the Christmas meal SHAME!
I’ve decided not to take part this year. I eat what I want, and so should you.

“Here’s the super secret trick to guilt-free eating: Eat. Don’t feel guilty about it. Done.”

Dances With Fat

You Forgot Your BullshitThe “holiday season” means being bombarded with ridiculous diet advice (“The Holidays are Coming” being one third of the Dieting Axis of Evil along with “New Years Resolutions” and “Bikini Season is Coming”.)  Since you’re likely to have to deal with this whether you celebrate the holidays or not, in another DancesWithFat annual tradition I’ve compiled a list of so-called holiday diet tips from actual serious online articles, with thoughts on why we might be better off skipping these tips:

10 Diet Tips You’ve Never Heard Before!

You’ve totally heard these tips before. They still don’t work.

Start Our Program Now and Get a Head Start on Your New Years Resolution

If you start earlier, you can fail at weight loss sooner while giving the diet industry (who are fully aware of the massive failure rate of their product) a boost on their fourth quarter earnings.  Or, you…

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Excuses, excuses

So this little nugget has started making the rounds again

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and somebody asked me to give my response to it. Check me out, I do requests now!

Here follows my response:

 

I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question. What’s my excuse for what?

For not having three children under 5?  Well I’m a bit too busy with Voicebeat and Salsa4Water and Madrigirls and Shapenote and spontaneously staying out til 3 o’clock on a Saturday morning and all the creative hobbies I’ve picked up and running and kettlebells and…you get the point.

Plus I’ve not found anyone worth reproducing yet.

For not being a fitness professional? My brain runs naturally toward admin. I don’t take admin jobs just because they’re all I can get; I enjoy this stuff. Shuffling a bunch of random information into a coherent report, or slotting the final piece of paperwork into a personnel file so it’s ready for audit is really satisfying to me.

There’s also the fact that I’m an introvert. Just the thought of my entire job consisting of one-on-one sessions with people I don’t know very well or standing in front of a whole class of people, is exhausting.

Or are you actually, seriously asking what’s my excuse for not looking like you?

Really?

Let’s start with the fact that we don’t have the same parents. Or grandparents. Or any familial link whatsoever. My genes are not your genes, your body is not my body, we process and distribute fat in different ways, we have different metabolisms and gut bacteria, and muscles. Basically, we’re different people.

You do understand that different people are…different? Right? You don’t actually think the shelf of identically-shaped Barbie dolls is a realistic goal for society, do you?

Has it even occurred to you that maybe some people don’t need an excuse because they wouldn’t want to look like you?

Yeah you fit the shape that the media tells us everyone must fit into (even though only about 5% of people can achieve it) but, honestly, I like my shape better. You’re kinda straight up and down, and I like curves.

But even if none of this were true; if there actually were a ‘healthy size’ or a ‘correct shape’ for people to be; if it were physically possible for everyone to become exactly the same size and shape as you if they just tried hard enough, do you really think shame is the way to get people to do that?

People have been fat-shaming at least as long as I have been alive. That’s 27 years – more than enough time for everyone to ‘move more and eat less’ their way into your body shape. But there are still fat people in the world (hi there!) and not everybody looks like you. It’s time to consider the possibility that fat-shaming is no use as a weight loss tool.

And why would it be? Why on earth would we spend time and money looking after something we hate? There’s a botanical analogy I quite like:

If a flower is a weed, you kill it.

If you like a flower, you pick it.

If you love a flower, you nurture it.

When you fat shame me (and yes, that photo is fat-shaming), you’re trying to tell me that my body is a weed. It doesn’t matter that you believe this weed can be transformed into a lovely flower; you’re telling me that my body, as it is right now, is bad.

That’s reeeeeally not going to make me take care of it. At all. I’m actually more likely to go eat a double cheeseburger with fries because my weed-body doesn’t deserve good food, while telling myself repeatedly what a sack of wasted oxygen I am. Yah, that’ll get me losing weight in no time.

Thankfully, I no longer derive my self-confidence from my outward appearance. You can try to fat shame me but I am just not listening.

But, for the sake of people still stuck in the trap of the diet industry, please stop. They are amazing, beautiful people just as they are but because they believe people like you, they can’t see that. You’re destroying them.

What’s my excuse?

My excuse is I don’t care how you think I should look. My excuse is I don’t need to alter my body to fit your ideal, because it’s perfect just the way it is. My excuse is I don’t need an excuse.

If you want to do whatever it takes to look the way you do then fine, do you.

But don’t you dare try to manipulate me and steal my happiness by making me feel like my body is made of excuses. Like the one and only reason I look the way I do is because I’m too busy ‘making excuses’ to take care of my body.

There’s enough rubbish in the world without people sticking narrow-minded bullying like that up on the internet. It’s time to stop it.

Return to sender

Dear 25-year-old me,

I’m sorry.

I’m so, so sorry. I know what you’re going through, I know how you feel, and I’m sorry.

I wish I could hug you, because I know how desperately you need it. But at least you have your new friend. Didn’t see him coming, did you! I know he will hug you so tightly that all your broken pieces will start to fit back together again.

You don’t have to be wary; he’s not trying to fix you. He’s just showing you that you’ve always been strong enough to fix yourself.

And you will.

You’re relieved to be free of that boyfriend, I know, and I’m proud of you for letting go of that toxic waste so quickly. But you don’t understand yet just how lucky you are. I wish you would be kinder to the new girlfriend. You know it’s not her fault, and it turns out you need each other.

Right now it feels like your world is ending, and that there’s no point trying with anything or anyone because you’ll just lose that as well. But it’s not true. I promise you it’s not true, and you know I don’t make promises lightly.

With all my heart I wish I could tell you the hole in your chest will go away. But I can’t tell you that. So far it’s proving to be just as stubborn as we are.

But I can tell you that that’s okay. You’ll discover that you can build something strong around weakness. That it’s entirely possible to feel like you’re not whole and still achieve incredible things.

And you will.

You are going to do things you believed you never could. You’re going to do things that frighten you, things you think you shouldn’t, things other people tell you you shouldn’t. And you’re going to love it.

But even better than that, you will inspire other people to try things they never thought they could. You will make people think about issues in ways that have never occurred to them before. You will teach them to have more confidence than they ever believed possible.

That woman you have idolised since your very first salsa class is going to sit down next to you in a club and tell you that she loves your blog. And you won’t even run off in a squee-ing fangirl mess; you’ll talk to her about it, about feminism, and books, and how much you’ve changed.

You will love yourself and your body so much you won’t be able to stop trying to spread that love to other people. Instead of grasping at compliments, you will pay them out freely. It will become your new life goal to help every person you interact with to see just how wonderful they are.

Sounds ridiculous, right? It’s hard to believe things can change so much in just 2 years, especially starting from where you are. Sometimes I still can’t believe it. But the fact is it will change. Things will get better. You will be okay again.

So here’s my advice, dear 25-year-old me: have patience and don’t wait.

Have patience with yourself. You’ve lost something in pretty much every area of your life; of course it hurts and of course that’s going to change you. You’ve been through hell (just wait til you see the look on therapists faces when you tell them what’s happened) and that takes time to get over. You don’t have to be better right now. You don’t have to force yourself better at all.

But don’t wait. Don’t wait until you feel ‘good enough’ to audition for Madrigirls. Don’t wait until you’re thinner to wear whatever you want. Don’t wait for that guy to ask you out. Don’t wait for confidence to come to you.

Just go for it, wear it, ask him first, do everything you have ever wanted to, act bravely and the confidence will come flooding in. Live. You can do it, you can do anything, and you will be okay.

I promise.

 

All my love,

27-year-old you.

Cover yourself up, woman!

Limit #15: Women shouldn’t wear trousers.

Which leads to the first entry on my list entitled ‘Stuff I Can’t Believe I Actually Have To Say’:

  1. Of course women can wear trousers.

Women can wear whatever the hell we want. Trousers, skirts, shorts, dresses, onesies, dungarees, leggings, bikinis, wetsuits, g-strings and pasties. Whatever we want.

SAM_1750
I can wear what I want AND eat ice cream in Winter. Such a rebel.

While struggling to find some logic behind this limit (a lost cause if ever there was one) I came across the following theory:

In certain religions, women must cover their legs for modesty’s sake. So a long dress/skirt = good, and trousers = bad.

Ignoring the fact that there is nothing immodest about my body just because it’s female so I shouldn’t be forced to cover it up, this argument is totally logical. I mean, it’s not like the definition of trousers is an item of clothing that ENTIRELY COVERS YOUR LEGS.

Yep. This is the most revealing outfit I own.

SAM_3393
I couldn’t possibly show my face in such an immodest outfit.

Looking outside of religion, I really can’t see any ‘logic’ in the idea at all.

There’s the theory that women are less attractive in trousers so we should stop wearing them. Because everyone knows women only exist to embody the male idea of attractiveness, so any man who feels like looking at us will be pleased by what he sees.

But even if that were true, I’m really struggling to see how trousers v skirt have any effect whatsoever on my attractiveness. I’m either attractive to someone or not, why would that change according to what style of cloth I cover my body with? Unless I put the cloth over my face. But then I would still be attractive underneath it…

Oh wait, I get it. I’m only attractive if a male says so, and how can he say so if he can’t see properly? Heaven forbid he have to use his imagination.

In the past I’ve had men tell me they prefer ‘girly girls’ who wear skirts and dresses. And that’s the only definition they have ever been able to give me: skirts and dresses.

So covering the space from one leg to the other is automatically girly? I dare you to say that to a Scotsman wearing a kilt. I dare you.

I honestly don’t know what else to say about this. I find it incredible that I have to say anything.

Just stop being so ridiculous, of course women can wear trousers. Welcome to the 21st century…