Friday, 18 January 2013

wearing my skin

I have no right to be body positive. it doesn't really count for me anyway. in the campaigns for "real", "naturally beautiful" bodies, mine is the one used to oppress yours. it's a white size 10 with long legs. a boob job and a few makeup lessons away from being as close to "magazine hot" as anyone can get without photoshop. I know this, and I resent it.

not that I don't enjoy this body, you understand. I love how it's stunning height draws attention, it's hair so thick its almost waterproof, its long, dexterous, the problem is the expectation that other people should aspire to conform to a body shape that is, to most people, unnatural and unhealthy. I am painfully aware that by the simple fact of my existence I am hurting other peoples self esteem.

not that it's always been easy. for me, the challenge was never weight, it was hight. as a small child, mum was very careful to give me only hight positive messages. I remember her bragging about my big growth spurt (1 foot in 2 years, around the top end of primary school) and feeling proud. I was big and beautiful. but not everyone agreed. I also remember my aunt telling me about an operation where they could take chunks out of my femurs to make me more normal looking when I was about 9. I was also offered hormonal growth stunting at about the same time. read those last two sentences carefully; as a child, it was recommended by both a doctor and a member of my own family that I take drastic steps to reduce a natural, non harmful trait. does that sound a bit fucked up to you? yeah, me too. I didn't do that.

fast forward a few years, to the start of secondary school. I hated that place. I was bullied to the point where I was too anxious to eat. at lunch time, every mouthful was a struggle, but I didn't have the words to explain what I was feeling. I just said that the lunch break was too short. eventually, I gave up. I didn't even try to eat on school grounds. I made up for it at home, but this decision meant the bullies had something new to call me; now I was "anorexic" too. the scary thing is, I remember that now every time I'm with a friend and they're eating while I'm not. it doesn't matter if I've just eaten, or I'm anxious about something, I worry that maybe I'm scaring them. maybe they think my reason is an excuse.

anyway, I left that school. I healed and I grew up. I went to university. mostly, my body was a non issue in the circles I chose to move in. it was just a convenient physical portal through which to view the world. then, one day I walked past primark. I glanced at the window, then stopped, horrified. the manikins. they were probably the same ones that had always been there, but they were wearing bikinis. I'm not a prude, the issue was not the naked glossy white plastic. the issue was that I could see their ribs, the contours amplified by the high shine finish. I have the questionable privilege of living in a body that looks like that. mine is a stone underweight according to the BMI scale. now, I know that a lot of people question the significance of the BMI scale, but most of the criticism comes from labelling otherwise healthy people as overweight, I have never heard anyone claim that such a low weight is ideal for health.

so, where do I go from here? I don't want to perpetuate a system that hurts others, but I'm not sure how to change that. as my weight has been fairly constant since I stopped growing a decade ago, this is clearly the size I'm supposed to be. if I can't change me, that leaves changing the system. of course, that's not a one person job. I'll try to dismantle these ideas. I'll try to ignore the suggestions, both internal and external, that my body somehow invalidates that message. I'll raise my hypothetical future children to think they're beautiful, not because they're tall like mummy, but because they're real, living humans and that's enough.

I am body positive. not because of my fashionable skinny body, but in spite of it. I wear this skin with pride, decorated however I please, with a two fingered salute to the beauty industry.

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