It wasn't quite Romi and Michelle, but it was pretty bad
are many reasons why intelligent modern gals lapse
into moments of insecurity about our bodies. Sometimes, and as much as
I'm loath to admit it, it's just down to that devious little sod PMS,
which feels not unlike, as Jess from New Girl so
eloquently put it “a fat man is sitting on my uterus”. Other times
we can blame our anxiety on the constant bombardment of images from the
fashion and beauty industries giving us another, more metaphorical kick
to the baby-maker by showing us simultaneously what perfection is and
how we’re more a Kermit than a Miranda Kerr.
as I found recently, a dip in the old self-confidence levels can also
originate from not so obvious places, too. Sometimes it can even come from your mates.
I realised this recently, when I met up with some old university friends
for our annual get-together. Since going our separate ways two years ago, we had found it increasingly difficult to get us all
together in the same place at the same time, somewhat like a mammoth
game of ‘Hungry Hippos’. So this was a momentous occasion and I'd been looking forward to it for ages, as demonstrated by unusual decision to use curling tongs and dust off the fake eyelashes. We'd decided to relive the good old days by going back to our favourite
student drinking haunts, savouring the student prices but still
retaining a sense of smugness that we no longer dwelled in a house
containing its own bacterial eco-system. The plan for the evening was
unoriginal but foolproof: have a girly gossip at a few bars and then to
the Union to show off our best lunging dance moves and to persistently
harass the DJ for ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’. All in all, a fairly standard night out. Or so I thought.
from the first moment, I began to notice that pretty much eighty per
cent of our conversation over gin-based cocktails focused on the fact
that almost all of them had dropped at least one dress size since we
had graduated (I should just mention here, none of them were anything
like obese to begin with). During the allotted gossip time I got a
step-by-step guide to exercise regimes, gym schedules, weight watchers
points schemes, and even marveled at the idea of a 'starving diet'
(WTF?). I found myself saying things like, “Well done!”
“Congratulations!” “I’m so proud of you!” because, in our heads at
least, all three
of them had become successful since graduating from uni – but it wasn't
the kind of success that the Dean had spoken about at graduation. No,
they were successful
because they now had the ideal body shape and the confidence to match.
Don’t get me wrong, they did look amazing, and I was genuinely pleased
for them (and their tastebuds) that they have moved on from the infamous
sausage and pasta splurge of 2011. But since I have undoubtedly not
changed my body shape or weight AT ALL in the last two years, I couldn’t
help but feel somehow that I must be some kind of graduate failure in
comparison (you know along with that debt stuff going on, obv). As much as I,
to put it politely, don’t agree with Samantha Brick’s views, it seems I
had fallen into the dastardly Daily Mail trap of thinking that slimming
did indeed equal winning. It seems that so had they, despite the
fact that they had all done tremendously well professionally since
graduating from university: one is now doing a law conversion course,
another a PGCE, and another has worked her way up the family business.
It struck me as odd, after that occasion, that none of these
achievements were obsessed over to the same degree that body shape was.
Would men in our situation have prioritised the topics of conversation in the same
way? When we had lived together, me and my uni friends had talked about
our bodies a lot - I think it comes quite naturally after you’ve seen
each other half naked and throwing up in a toilet basin due to an
over-exuberant night out. But I couldn’t tell if this new fixation on
body perfection was an extreme version of those nagging insecurities we
used to moan about or perhaps they were just getting a bit more
health-conscious in their old(er) age.
why was it that by dropping a couple of pounds, my relationship with my
friends had now become some kind of bizarre competition? And perhaps
even more disturbingly, although I was obviously out of the running,
by comparing the amount
of gym hours clocked and miles ran, they were implicitly competing with each other for the prizes of
‘biggest transformation’ and ‘most dedicated’. Obviously this isn’t just a girl
thing; guys compare themselves to each other too. But it dawned on me
how weird it is that people you are so close to can also make you feel
incredibly jealous and horribly guilty. I realised for the first time
what it must be like being Solange Knowles. I wanted to run home that
very instant and throw out every carb-based product I owned whilst
shouting “Screw you delicious snacks!”
however, I went home the next day a little flustered and a little sad,
and I thought about the day’s events. I concluded that:
Reunions are both wonderful and weirdly awkward. A bit like how I imagine it would feel to be stuck in a lift with Leonardo Dicaprio – something you dream about but
find out you’re severely unprepared for. Though of course, I doubt Dicaprio would fat-shame me in quite the same way.
2. I do not, and will never, enjoy talking about ‘The Gym’.
We shouldn’t compare ourselves and our bodies to others, but inevitably
we do. Without sounding too Gok Wan-esque about the whole thing - it is
important to be healthy and body confident and we should be pleased for
each other’s happiness and achievements. But it seems such a shame that
our self-esteem is influenced so fundamentally by how we perceive our
bodies. I can name over 200 Harry Potter characters, for chrissake – why the hell can’t my self-esteem be based on that instead?
And finally, I realised success after university isn’t concealed within
my muffin top but in the photos I took while backpacking solo across
Europe last year, and in the scholarship I was given to go back to uni
to do a Masters degree.
isn’t to say that I’ve finally conquered my insecurities, like the rest of you, I’m only
human, and thanks to the media and my monthly cycle (those fuckers) I have
no doubt the next lapse in body confidence is
lurking just around the corner. Believe me, there is no lasting
cure, but personally, I've found that whacking on a bit of Bob Marley
and pretending I'm the greatest mover the world makes you feel a whole
lot better. Even more so than Bonnie Tyler. Sometimes, you just have to go and have a dance by yourself.