When I first moved over here, the plan was that I was going to continue to work for 10 hours per week – 15 hours at a push. The last three weeks I have been doing nearly 40 hours a week!! And given that BC is only at nursery for three days a week, five hours a day you can imagine that the mornings are early, the nights are very, very long and the bags under my eyes are as black as the coffee I need to function each day.
Anyway, my 40 hours per week serve a purpose. A greater good. I’m doing it for the family. I’m doing it to build a life out here. I’m doing it for Botox. And nails. And good hair. You think I joke – I don’t.
I have moved to the land of the beautiful and if you’re not naturally blessed, it doesn’t really matter – there are plenty of people to help you get there.
I’ve always tried to make a little effort in my appearance – usually in ways that mean I can make less effort. Get my eyelashes done so that I save 2 minutes every morning putting on mascara and the 20 minutes it takes me to sort out the mess where I smudge it and ruin everything. Get gels on my nails to save the 10 minutes application time and 10 hours drying time that I have to do on average every other day because I smudge or chip it. Get my eyebrows done to save the 5 minutes it takes to shade them with a pencil. You know what I mean.
I’ve had to learn to watch what I say about appearances – and when I say appearances I mean when I’m being all judgy about myself. Whilst I’m certainly not happy with every bump and lump, when my niece was born (and now that I have a daughter of my own), I became very conscious that it’s not okay to fat-bash, hair-bash, skin-bash, face-bash yourself; that every little thing I now say or do with regards to personal appearance will be scrutinised and emulated, and it would break my heart into smithereens if I heard any of the small ladies in my world feel less in themselves simply because they don’t feel like they look ‘right’.
But out here, it’s a different game, everyone is immaculate – from doing the school-run to going to the gym – these are social experiences that you need to make some effort for. And every TV programme, film, and advert shows beautiful, shiny people.
In an effort to remind myself that the real world isn’t actually this smooth, bouncy, and glossy, I decided to catch up on the latest news (Mail Online – obvs), and I realised that therein the issue lies. Being out here hasn’t addled my brain all of a sudden, it goes much further back than that; over the years I have been slowly fed a diet (the only diet I’ve ever stuck to, I might add) of articles pretty much telling me that I’m not good enough and what I can do to make myself better. Not just me, but every female. From the age when you started reading seventeen magazine (never at 17 – usually 11), you were, quite frankly, screwed.
To illustrate, on the day when I started thinking about this, these were the headlines of the articles that had been published that day in the Mail Online:
Confessional: What your hairdresser REALLY thinks about you – oh good lord, don’t tell me they judge me too!
Secrets of an A-list body: How to get Eva Green’s slender waist – for those of you who don’t know, Eva Green plays Vespa in the James Bond film; Casino Royal – and she is a lady who is naturally very slender.
Getting mad or doing exercise can double heart attack – oh wait, so I shouldn’t exercise?
Atkins diet may help weight loss but doesn’t protect against diabetes – And I shouldn’t diet either?
Rich girls are more likely to be obese than rich boys – well I’m safe there then…. hence the 40 hour weeks.
The unhealthiest high street coffee chain pastries revealed – Thank you for making it so that I can no longer pretend that a muffin with the word ‘skinny’ in front of it is actually good for me
Why diet soda is NOT better than regular soda – WTF? Do NOT tell me this! The only way I have stayed off the Haribo is because of Lilt Zero
Struggling to lose weight? The 8 reasons your diet could be failing – Erm…. maybe because I thought diet drinks were okay?!?!?!
Why this picture is proof that Gwynnie’s bonkers regime works – she’s a Hollywood A-lister . She has a whole team of people around her making sure it works. Plus, she runs her regime as a business – she needs it to work to make money from it. Plus, she’s a Hollywood A-lister.
Woman who has spent £15,000 on plastic surgery says she wants MORE (their capitalisation – not mine) – how about woah now with the judginess.
Fussy eaters may have their genetics to blame for food habits – Really? Really? Nothing to do with, oh i dunno, maybe magazines and newspapers?
Want to live longer – eat Japanese. …. that’s not fussy. That’s not fussy at all.
Rejoice! Chocolate is good for your heart – okay, here’s something I’m very happy to be fussy about
Why lack of sleep makes us depressed – I think it’s a little more than lack of sleep that is making us depressed right now.
Why you get fat when your partner is stressed out – Thanks mate
Proof women fret more than men about their weight – No shit, Sherlock. You just told us they make us fat!
All of these – every single one – showed up in just one scrolling session. We’re screwed. We have no chance. Because amongst these articles I am sure that there was at least one moment for each of you when you thought ‘bollocks, bollocks, bollocks, oh wait…. I’ll read that one’
As a mum, and before that an aunty, you become very conscious of the messages that little ears and eyes get every day. My niece turned seven last week and I have loved every minute of watching her grow up to become the young lady she is now. But one thing that has made me so sad as she gets older is her awareness of fitting in, of looking the part. She gets anxious on fancy dress days in case no one else dresses up or else she’s dressed differently to everyone else. When I compare that to the adorable innocence of my two-year old who doesn’t give a flying f*#k what she wears, or what other people are wearing, or what anyone thinks of what she’s wearing, I wonder where it all changes.
Hey, I can’t be judgy – those who know me know that I’m hardly growing older gracefully. Because where does the line get drawn in these things? I’m here saying that it makes me sad that young girls grow up disliking parts of themselves and that they should love themselves for themselves, but what if what they dislike about themselves has such an impact on them growing up that it has a detrimental effect?
I’ve had boobs and teeth done. Both of which I have been saying since I wanted done since I was in my late teens. Both of which I didn’t get done until I was past 30.
The difference psychologically that getting these two areas of my body made ‘right’ (in my eyes) was astronomical. When I look back at pictures of me from before, my smile looked like I was in pain – it was the most awkward grimace in an attempt to not show any teeth. And I knew that. The boob thing, though? Blew me away. I’m not tall – I’m 5ft 0.5 inches (yes… 5ft and half an inch) yet I used to stand with my shoulders rounded, my back hunched to try to disguise an unconscious internalisation that on some level I didn’t think very much of myself. And I had no idea that I was doing this.
Please, please don’t get me wrong – I, in no way, think particular body shapes are more beautiful than others. And I certainly don’t believe that looks are more important than ideas, imagination, hard work or a kind heart. But there is a huge amount to be said for feeling good about yourself – we have all had those days where we put on the same old jeans that we always wear, but today you look pretty darn good in them. Or your hair does that thing where it goes where you want it to go and stays there.
I didn’t feel good. And, although I wasn’t consciously aware of this, my body language told the world that I didn’t believe in myself – and how can you instil confidence in you from others, when you can’t even see it yourself?
So was it a bad thing that I changed my appearance – judged myself, and decided that by making changes I would be happier? I don’t think so. You wouldn’t know I have had my boobs done – they just look like they fit me quite nicely. And my teeth aren’t glistening white and poker straight – but you can see them when I smile now. And I do smile now. I’m not ‘picture perfect’ and yet I am – because I smile now. And isn’t that the important thing?
This post doesn’t really have a long wrap up. I’ll be honest, it’s actually quite a messy piece, really – but I’m riding on a wave of non-judginess this time around, so you can have it as it is without too much nipping and tucking.
It’s more of a jumble of thoughts that recognises that we as the ‘grown ups’ have a responsibility. We need to make sure that – despite the multitude of messages and images that they receive – the smaller people in our lives know that the most important thing is always (and will only ever be) that they can wake up and smile. That they feel happy and confident in themselves.
And if they choose to go about it with a little help? Well…. hairdressing has been a profession since Greek times, so don’t tell me we haven’t always wanted a metaphorical ‘hair flick’ moment.