one size does not fit all

Trying to define beauty, and the headache that it gives you

Something a little different today. It’s not about beauty products or teas that are good for you, but it’s something I felt like writing and wanted to share.

Once, while waiting for a train at Cambridge station, a drunken football fan came up to me and said the following.

“Listen love, you need to eat more meat, and drink more Guinness to get your legs thicker, because you’re not very attractive.”

With that he stumbled off with his friends and I was left feeling slightly bewildered. Despite my overly sensitive personality I didn’t feel too offended. Perhaps because he was drunk. Perhaps because what he said was so random. Perhaps because he was pretty repulsive both physically and mentally so I wasn’t too bothered that he didn’t find me appealing. But mostly because I finally realised then and there that there was just no pleasing everyone when it came to body types. Strangely, I felt relieved.

I’m 6ft, and a size 6-8. From a young age most of the compliments I received from strangers were about my weight. They would gesture to my waist and say how they wished they were that size, how lovely and slender I was, and I would just smile awkwardly and try to change the subject.

As I got older I began to feel slightly nervous about changing my diet or overeating. I felt that if I gained weight then I would lose the only
appealing feature I had. I was the tall slim girl. Sad as it was, it had become my identity. At the time I was suffering from terrible acne that covered the whole of my face and most of my back. My once straight hair had turned dark and frizzy as puberty started to hit and I had no idea at the time how to control it. The only thing I felt was vaguely acceptable about myself was my size. TV said it was good to be skinny, so although I felt hideous and mentally unstable, at least I was thin. In my naive state I felt that had to be something.

I’d look at people who were bigger than me and all I could think was how lucky I was that I wasn’t that size. It’s hard to admit that I ever inwardly shamed people like that, and that I had such a narrow view of what was beautiful, but I truly felt that a body that was slender was the most attractive.

When I finished university and started my first job working at a canteen, I was suddenly interacting with dozens of people everyday, all with different body shapes. Soon my opinion on what a beautiful body was changed drastically. Women wearing size 12 up to 16 bodycon dresses seemed like angels to me, with their curves and shapely bodies. I felt twig-like and prepubescent. In my unflattering ‘one size fits all’ uniform my small chest was even less noticeable and I began deeply dislike the way I looked.

Rather than feeling slender and elegant I felt gangly and uncoordinated. Because everyone and everything was so much shorter than me I would constantly hunch over (and still do when I’m not concentrating) giving me sloping shoulders and a curved back. I yearned to look like the women around me who looked so glamorous, and was always surprised when they said they wanted to lose weight. To me they looked perfect. Why would they want to change that?

I began to see a battle of what was seen as attractive online and in films, and what was attractive in real life. What women saw as attractive and what men saw as attractive. I couldn’t work it out. In the media it was fairly simple. Big boobs, perk butt and skinny waist was the body ideal. For men there was a little more leeway, but a toned chest and arms seemed most popular. In real life, well that was where it got tricky. What was universally attractive? I couldn’t seem to work it out. It was beginning to make my head hurt.

And then I had the comment at the train station. Perhaps because it was directed at me it finally hit me harder than all the articles I’d read online, all the comments I’d seen, all the self loathing speeches I’d heard.

I realised on the long train journey, that I just didn’t care anymore. I was tired of feeling I had to be every type of beauty. It wasn’t possible. I couldn’t be black and white, and chunky and thin, and tall and short. I just had to accept what I had, and work with it.

Some people would find me repulsive looking, and others would find me beautiful. And then there’d be the people in between who would just shrug and go, “meh”.

Nowadays I try to eat healthily, but not to maintain a standard of beauty that a section of the world agree on, but because it’s important to look after yourself. If I choose to exercise it’s not to get an ass like Beyonce, it’s because I’ve been the computer too much and I feel like being active.

It’s taken a long time but I’m finally able to look at all types of healthy body shapes and honestly see the beauty in all of them, including my own. Perhaps it’s because I’m lazy and I can’t be bothered to nitpick on what I dislike, or perhaps it’s because I know that confidence and a sense of humour is more attractive than any six pack or toned thighs, but mainly because I just don’t know what makes a person specifically beautiful anymore. Victoria’s Secret models with toned bodies, skinny women with delicate frames, tall men with bulging muscles, thin guys with a smooth elegance to them. I tried so many times to pick my ideal and I just couldn’t decide on one, so, like a greedy little kid I’ll just pick them all.

Oh and for any of you who care to know, I love a pint of Guinness from time to time, but I guess the football supporter didn’t know that.

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