TW: Weight, body image
One of my very first posts on this blog was about my chubby arms, and the awful, toxic, messages that Trinny and Susannah aka. The Devil Women pushed onto a teenage me, and millions of other women, worldwide, in the late 90’s and early 00’s. I know that we still live in a culture of unrealistic beauty and body standards, but it’s getting better. I’d like to think that had they tried to break through in 2017, the likes of Trinny and Susannah, with their poisonous words and ideas, would get taken down by the angry voices of Twitter before they could even make it to our screens.
Getting to a point of body acceptance is hard work. I’m not going to lie. It’s a daily battle. I can write all the empowering words, post all the selfies, and eliminate all talk of diets and weight loss from my life, but it doesn’t mean I don’t still have days when I wake up, look in the mirror, groan, and let those old voices creep back into my head. The ones that tell you you’re not good enough, or that all of lifes problems would be solved if you just dropped 10kg. It still happens, and it’s been a solid 5 years of daily, continuous, work. I’m realistic – and I know it will probably always be that way. There will always be moments of doubt. It’s how you handle and process those moments that count, and that’s how things are different for me now.
Summer in Christchurch has only just started but already it’s been a scorcher. With this adjustment to heat, comes an adjustment to ones wardrobe, and its own, vast, array of body related thoughts, confusion and frustrations. This happens no matter your size, shape, or gender. It’s hard to go out and look stylish, or put together, when you’re sweaty and just want to be lying around the house in your underwear and singlet.
The other day, it was 32 degrees, and I was roasting . I was really frustrated as I just couldn’t figure out why I was so hot, find a way to keep cool and what it was that didn’t feel right. It was like I was missing something. Then I looked in the mirror and something startling occurred to me: I could take my cardigan off. Yes. This was a totally possible thing. I. Did. Not. Need. To. Be. Wearing. A. Cardigan.
It wasn’t that I’d been keeping it on, over my dress, as a conscious move – I’ve gone sleeveless during the past few Summers – but you just forget over the cold months. You brain goes back to auto-pilot. Those things that I told myself in my teens and twenties about myself (and that I let others tell me) – about what I could wear, what I was ‘allowed’ – are so engrained in me, that I still have to remind myself that they do not apply, every year, when summer comes around.
It feels stupid having to say to yourself ‘I don’t need to wear a cardigan’ – but it’s what has to be done.
And so I took my cardigan off. And I went out in public to a social event.
For the first ten minutes I felt insecure. I was sure that everyone was staring at me and my arms. That they might raise their eyebrows and whisper ‘who the hell does she think she is? Her with the ARMS. Ol’ Army McArm Face’.
But do you know what happened?
Nothing. Nothing happened. No one stopped and tutted at me. No one ushered me inside, out of public view. No one arrested me. No one threw eggs at me.
In fact, I got complimented about four times on my dress. The dress that was now no longer covered by a totally unnecessary cardigan.
And I felt happy, not just because of the compliments, but because I was comfortable and cool. What a revelation!
I know it’s hard, when we’ve been told for so many years, that it’s not the acceptable thing, to go sleeveless in public. But for the sake of yourself, and your comfort, I urge you to try this Summer. Just give it a go.
Start small. Take it slow. Begin by going somewhere that you will feel safe – a gathering of friends, or family – or maybe somewhere you know you’re totally anonymous – whatever feels good to you.
Give yourself 30 minutes. And keep a cardigan or jacket in your bag just incase you feel too vulnerable. That’s okay. Baby steps.
But I bet that after ten minutes of feeling self-conscious, you won’t notice it anymore. And I also bet that no one will say a word.
Then. Reward yourself in your newfound freedom. Jump onto ASOS and buy yourself a stunning, sleeveless, party, dress. Something that makes you squee. One that you like just as it is, that you can wear by itself. Not selected on the basis of ‘I could wear a shrug over that’. It can be your Official Sleeveless Dress. The dress of triumph and glory over Trinny and Susannah, and every fashion magazine that ever told you that you were not allowed to show this part of your own body.
Can you hear how ridiculous that sounds? ‘Not allowed’.
So here, is my sleeveless ensemble, my first of many for the Summer. It’s amazing to be able to remember that I can wear my many sleeveless dresses just as they are.
It feels liberating to be able to post a photo on a public place and share it with you. In my 20’s I’d have never done that.
Take note of my chubby upper arms, the dimples, and the fleshy curve.
However they also feel really nice when I hug you. Comfortable, soft and warm. They are long. They are strong. I like their volume and the way they fill a jacket sleeve.
So go, be free, and release those arms from the confinement of synthetic cardigans and sweaty shrugs. Feel the breeze on them, and run your fingers over your smooth skin, and enjoy your own miraculous body.
If no one else cares, then why should you?
I’m taking back the upper arm.
I’m liberating it, I’m accepting it, and I’m sharing it.
Will you join me?
DRESS: Lindy Bop
FLOWER CROWN: So Long Marianne
BOOTS: Doc Martens