It’s 1999. I am eleven years old and have recently started at my secondary school where the uniform is a red and white striped shirt, reminiscent of a strawberry campino, a grey A-line skirt and a royal blue blazer two sizes too big for me. So far, so single sex school. I am happily strolling back from the dining hall with my new chums when a towering sixth former from the grammar school up the road walks past us and says, looking squarely at me, “God, she’s got fat ankles”. I momentarily falter in my happy little stroll and look down at the talocrural joints of unknowing offense. They look alright to me, but what do I know? I’m only eleven. This seventeen year old has really lived, y'know? He knows his ankles. They must be too fat. To save time let’s fast forward through the years of the oh-so-familiar female corporeal agony to arrive today at me; a 25 year old woman.
I am a size 10. I am 5 ft 8. I have a BMI of 21.29. I weigh exactly 10 stone. These are my vital statistics. And they used to be truly vital. Facts I would slave over, obsess about and try to change and manipulate to get to the right answer, like a hungry Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind. It feels terrifying even now to tell you these facts, it feels as if I’m telling you my deepest, darkest secrets. You might be able to guess all of the facts above but I’ve never confirmed them to anybody before. Never committed to their veracity in writing before.
What triggered all this unprecedented self-acceptance was Boy George. Boy George recently lost six stone. Grace Dent tweeted his diet plan and, intrigued, I clicked on the link. I arrived at his nutritionist’s six week food plan. I tried so hard to muster the energy to dig deep and commit to eating no wheat or dairy or sugar for forever. I powered on to try to force myself to eat poached fish every night of the week. The point where I threw in my mental towel was here.
“3. Omelette made with 1 egg, onion, tomato, peppers and spinach. You may have an apple also.”
A disembodied internet dietary deity was giving me permission to eat an apple. And thank god for that permissive apple, because it was the fruity portal to my own personal epiphany.
I don’t need the internet to tell me it’s ok to eat an apple.
The internet is like the scene in Snow White when everything in the haunted forest is attacking her and she ends up collapsing and crying on a rock. I don’t want thigh gaps to fly at me from Tumblr’s branches, I don’t want a detailed rationale on when to eat carbs to swoop at me from Twitter. What I should have done after that 17 year old douche told me I had fat ankles was shrug it off and go write some more of my unpublished debut novel about Richard Whiteley (sadly since burnt with great melodrama in my back garden). What I actually did was torture myself for 14 years about how fat my ankles and other bits of me were and I’m sick of it. So sick of it. I want to fill the space in my brain reserved for a running noms tally to be replaced with clever, worthwhile things. And not even just those great things but with silly, fun, absurd, ridiculous things. Any things apart from the constant obsession about what I eat and what what I eat makes me look like.
I will fear no bagel. I will vanquish all cheeses. I will lay waste to strawberry jam filled doughnuts. Not all the time. But whenever the mood damn well takes me. My stomach will be the sole Dictator Perpetuo of what passes my lips. What does my brain know anyway? It might be hot on Derrida’s gender constructs and Game of Thrones conspiracy theories but it knows nothing of what I want to eat. I will continue to go the gym but instead of trying to lose weight, I’ll do it to avoid a medieval serf’s mid-30s death. I will stop comparing my body to every woman I know and encounter in my life. I will let my thighs touch. I will protect their soft siamese twindom and refuse to allow a gulf to exist between them.
And I will be happy.