I went shopping for a dress for my best friend's wedding this week and at no point did I want to kill myself. I didn't even cry. I cannot begin to stress what a big step forward this is for me and that is big both literally and figuratively. At 16 I was a size 8 and in 2016 I am a size 16. Not just a Top Shop 16 either a bona fide Phase Eight size 16, the real deal. I am literally twice the woman I was. I can't even find bras in my size on the high street any more. As I speed towards the grave with ever increasing mass (and therefore velocity?) I am finally okay with this. Up until now every step up in dress size has led to an increase in shame and self-loathing as I felt myself becoming more and more like the blob. I am re-framing this now. I am not a blob; I am Gargantua who makes the earth tremble with her every step. Hear me roar.
How can I begrudge my body it's current form? Look at all it has done for me. I have hurt it and hated it. I have cut it and starved it and given it away to strangers that I didn't care about. Look what it has given me in return. I have the brains to speak my piece and the limbs and lights that will take me to the places I want to go. My breasts have fed two children, the fat on my thighs helped build their brains, my stomach that rolls and undulates like the ocean held them safe for nine months. This body is not a temple, it is a home. I should work to feel safe in it, not ashamed or inadequate or unworthy of attention. My body is who I am. It is sad that I have always thought of it as separate from the me inside it.
The catalyst for this sea-change in attitude actually came about 4 days before the dreaded shopping trip when a white van man shouted me. I had committed the egregious sin of slightly blocking his path for a one whole second as I manoeuvred into a parking space. He exercised his right to free speech and shouted that I was a 'stupid fat fuck' in front of my three year old daughter. I did deep calming breaths for 10 seconds in order to quell the urge to chase him down and demand an apology. (Part of me still wishes I had.) Those words wormed their way into my brain and caused me to feel teary and loathsome for the rest of the day. Me being me, I analysed why he had had such an impact on me: I realised I didn't care about 'stupid', I wasn't stupid, he was impatient - no problem there; I was pleased at his use of 'fuck,' I wished to praise him for using a gender neutral term when he probably has a whole range of misogynist slurs in his lexicon - I am all for egalitarian insults; the problem I had was solely centred on the use of the word 'fat' - he had seen me and assessed me and found that to be my most prominent feature. Bastard.
So, I am fat. That is how the outside world sees me, it's not just in my head. I had a little cry and then had a chat with my inner warrior and she said 'Fuck him and fuck this bullshit that says your size determines your value. Look at you having a conversation with you own bad self. Go you. Also, your daughter is trying to climb up the outside of the staircase so you really ought to go and deal with that shit,' So I went and got the step ladder and hauled my daughter away from her potentially brain injuring activity and I looked at her. I saw her joy in her own sweet self and all that she can do. I realised I have a huge responsibility give her a model that tries to help her never feel like I have done for almost 3 decades. It's definitely an uphill struggle - our society is predicated on the value that a woman's value is inversely proportional to her size but we are making progress and I think it's time for me to step up and try and make this message as explicit as I can. I will take joy in all my body can do as often as I can.
Therefore I refuse to be sad or self-shaming about this most minor of issues any more. I am doing more exercise than I ever have, I am eating healthily*and I am happy with most aspects of my life, why should the fact that I need a few more inches of material in my clothes than other people make me hate myself? There is nothing wrong with my body, it is the product of a life that has been well lived. Every stretch mark, every dimple, every roll of fat where once there was smooth young skin is a testament to all my experiences and the joy and sadness that comes with living in this world.
It also helps that I found a kick ass dress.
* Let's not talk about the drinking, okay?