Tag Archives: Growing Up

Chapter Eight: Body Confidence and Me

Growing up, I had absolutely no issues with my image whatsoever; when my dad told me that Prince had written Most Beautiful Girl in the World about me, it was simply a given that he was absolutely and unwaveringly correct, so my incessant swaying whenever the song came on, purely made sense. I was thanking Prince through the method of sway-dance for writing a pretty accurate song about me. Every day, my parents would grab me in their arms, hug me and tell me that I was beautiful, something I accepted willingly – I guess I was really beautiful! I had no other means of comparing myself to anyone and I didn’t think of ever doing so and I don’t think that anyone ever compared themselves to me, it was just something that wasn’t done in the nineties, I guess; we spent more time playing games and deciding which Spice Girl we were, rather than worrying about who’s body was better than the rest. Truthfully, it took me a very, very long time to develop any form of body issues and think that it was my later teens that triggered the insecurities I cling onto now.

I was a teenager in the early 2000s and I’m not sure if something happened during this time that resulted in an entire generation of young girls suddenly loathing themselves, or if body confidence issues have been a popular bone of contention for every girl of every generation since the beginning and we were simply receiving the baton from those before us, but to me, it just feels like body confidence is a very modern issue affecting women these days and that my generation were truly the first to feel the bitter sting of self-doubt and loathing. I’m not sure about anyone else, but to me it felt like almost an immediate thing; one day I was simply me: a girl who wore clothes and did things with her time, wore shoes and sometimes wore a ponytail in her hair, and then all of a sudden, I felt that I was too tall, that my breasts were deformed; I felt dorky and plump, dreadfully awkward in my own too pale skin. I’m not sure where this idea came from, because I had gotten through the early part of my teenaged years quite easily and back then I had been covered in spots and my skin was greasier than a takeaway pizza, my limbs growing longer than the rest of me… I had no issues then. I still thought that I was simply a human, existing in society, maybe not the most beautiful girl in the world, because I found out that my dad liked to extend the truth a lot (like, who knew that dads didn’t give birth to boys?!), but I didn’t feel monumentally grotesque or anything else of the sort.

Growing up, role models were never really my thing and I never felt that I wanted to model my appearance on anyone in particular. There aren’t really many women from my childhood that I remember being obsessed with, other than potentially The Spice Girls as a collective and Ethel from The Worst Witch, who just so happens to play the bad witch making the protagonists life hell, but she wore really fierce boots and was top of her class at everything, a total teachers pet and I loved her. If you haven’t seen the film, you can find it all on Youtube and below is a picture of my favourite character from the movie:

Ethel_1986

In spite of all this, I didn’t emulate anyone in particular and this adoration of Ethel the bitchy witch didn’t extend further than asking my mam if I could have boots like hers for school… And I did:

1 worst witch phase

The same could indeed be said of my earlier teenage years; most of my heroes were male musicians from the punk scene or in some cases, incredibly pale, long haired, piercy blue eyes Finnish metal gods. I did love the screen sirens of times foregone, such as Doris Day, but not in the sense that I looked at my body and thought that I needed to change it, or that it was inadequate in some way. I can’t really pinpoint the exact moment, but it began to fester within me, I guess, when I started watching The OC. At the time, I’m pretty certain it was a cultural phenomenon and everyone was affected by it and loved it; I was so in love with Seth Cohen that I genuinely typed, Curly haired Jewish boys in Newcastle, into Google and hoped I would find him staring back at me with comic book t-shirts and great taste in music. When Anna was introduced, she could have been, arguably, the first person I ever wanted to emulate as a teenager. She was so cool and adorable; I cut my hair off to look just like her and for the first time, I began reading comics and fell in love with Betty White. All I really managed to do was look like a pixie boy and prove to people that I was a weirdo obsessed with old people, but she still embodied a lot of the characteristics I recognised in myself as a teenager at the time; I was quirky and wise beyond my years, or at least I thought so and her wardrobe was enviable to the point I began dressing like her too, much to the chagrin of my poor mother who had no idea what the fuck I was trying to accomplish.

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For me, I think college was the first step towards me becoming the big ball of insecurity and anxiety I am today. When I started college, my parents offered to buy me new clothes and whilst I was incredibly grateful for their offer, I really regret the entire day, even now. It’s one of those memories that burns in my subconscious like a perpetual, horrific flame intent on ruining my life. You see, my dad insisted on coming with me that day and he hates shopping. My dad insisted on coming shopping with someone who loved the likes of Topshop and complained at everything in there. I can’t remember where I shopped in the end, but I dragged him around the shops for far too long, until he and my mam began to tell me what college was really like, so I had a better grasp on what kind of fashion ensembles to purchase. Turns out my parents were remembering their college years in the eighties as though they had gone to college in America in the sixties and what I ended buying made me look like the perpetually bare foot, long haired, bearded, hand-held drum playing marijuana expert; I was basically dressed in a Jesus t-shirt and khaki green combat trousers that my parents insisted were super-duper cool and that’s why they weren’t in Topshop, but at the back of a shop AND ON SALE. I also ended up buying a turquoise blue golf inspired jumper with other golf related colours on, which I wore ON TOP OF a shirt with FLARED jeans. I am so ashamed to admit that, until I started my first day of college, I thought I looked okay.

On my first day, the entire college was awash with really attractive, well dressed individuals. Women who looked as though they’d been up for hours perfecting their hair and picking out all the right accessories to go with their skinny jeans, heeled boots and cinched at the waist by massive belt style tops. I wore pink trainers with cherries on them, flares and the dork ensemble that made me look less like Anna from The OC and more like my parents had banished me from our Amish camp because they heard me listen to rock music one time. I was mortified. Even more so when I saw that there were people wearing the band t-shirts I so desperately wanted to wear, with skinny jeans, Converse and studs. I owned pink Converse! I could totally fit in! All day, I internally cursed my stupid parents for having such an influence over my fashion choices, because of their free admission that I had shit taste in clothes. Now, I realise that we were partaking in the eternal struggle between teenager and parent and that, for the first time in history, parents won and I allowed myself to be controlled by their ridiculously misplaced love. Arseholes!

Eventually, I found my own style and wore a lot of brightly coloured tank tops with t-shirts underneath, a lot of black and I eventually started buying my own accessories that made me look like I was trying to perform an African wedding ceremony on a daily basis, but it still makes me think back with abject horror at how bad I looked, but I still had no real issue with my body. Just my fashion choices… Sorry, MY PARENTS FASHION CHOICES. I then developed a distinctively 60s style, but a better one that seemed to be because of my burgeoning obsession with Ms Edie Sedgwick, out came the dramatic eyes and the big old earrings… Gone was the dorky girl who listened to her stupid parents!

The first time I ever felt horrible about how I looked, I was going into Newcastle for a night out with my sisters and one of my nurse friends. I was wearing grey shorts with black tights and a black top that fastened at the top of my neck, for some reason, with a black cardigan (I always wear cardigans!) my hair was tied up and my makeup consisted of the white eyeshadow with black eyeliner as I was going through my Edie Sedgwick phase and bright red lips. I remember standing in front of my mirror looking at my ‘then’ ridiculously flat stomach, before turning my attention to my round, seemingly pert derriere and thinking I’M A FUCKING WHALE I HATE MYSELF. I cried my make-up off and made it clear to my sister and mother that I didn’t want to go. Unfortunately, my sister really did want to go, so I had no choice. So along I went, in the clothes that I hated, my make-up reapplied and I sipped a few cocktails. Eventually, we decided to go dancing and went to a bar I haven’t been in since. On our way out, something hit me on the top of the head and when my sister turned around to see blood pouring down my face like I’d just stepped off the Carrie set, she began pushing and screaming to get me to safety. Someone had dropped a glass bottle on me from upstairs and burst my skull open, as far as I was aware. I knew I didn’t want to go out.

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Now, admittedly, when I don’t feel that I look okay and have anxious feelings about leaving the comfort of my home, I think back to that night and realise that it was karma. I did look fat, I did look hideous and I should never have left the house. A broken head was my punishment.

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My Career Aspirations Growing Up.

Maybe I could be a telephone operator! No… I wouldn’t like to wear those things over my ears. I wish I had a guardian angel, you know like Debbie Reynolds had in Tammy? What do you think?

As someone who, at the age of twenty six, seems to be having a career orientated life crisis on an almost daily basis and is generally anxious about her future because she has no idea what she wants to do other than earn money and buy shoes, I thought it pertinent to add a post depicting my journey through desired career choices that I’ve had since being a small child. As you will probably be able to tell whilst reading, I had very little grasp on reality growing up and was constantly changing my mind about career choices, which is probably why I’m so cast adrift now. Thanks, child me!

Teacher – I think every girl wanted to be a teacher growing up. I wanted to be a teacher, because my teacher at the time had really nice shoes with bows on and I liked the sound they made when she walked through the classroom. Also I was persistently top of the class when I was a kid and liked being the favourite of pretty much all of my teachers and also I was always picked to read first and was colour-groups ahead of my classmates who I helped teach how to read. So really becoming a teacher was a natural calling in my life, at this point, as let’s face it, aside from the great shoes and the wages, I was a teacher. One of the career choices people constantly tell me to look into is teaching, but as I grew older, I realised that kids are little bastards and that the older they get, the more arsey they become. I genuinely don’t think I’d be able to keep a level head with some puberty ridden shit bag being a nuisance in my class. I’d end up on the front of all national newspapers as the woman who beheaded a little bastard for bad-mouthing Shakespeare. And I’d stand by it too, the little rat.

Vet – If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t think I knew what being a vet entailed growing up. All I really knew is that I liked watching Animal Hospital and loved watching the vets talk about the animals in great detail, soothing, calming tones lulling both me and the animal into a false sense of security. I would still like to be a vet today, but I wouldn’t want to operate on anything or euthanise anything either. Really, I guess all I wanted to be and what I would still like to be, is a professional dog and cat stroker, which according to my career’s officer at school, doesn’t exist and I should probably focus on a more realistic career goal instead.

Woman who walks around museum pointing at stuff and then talking about it – I don’t think that’s the real name of this particular career choice, but all I had in my head was a “curator” which is something different; I think that’s the name of someone who gathers stuff in the museum, rather than shows groups of school kids around. Anyway, I went on a school trip when I was little and this is what sparked my initial interest. An amazingly articulate woman showed us around and I decided that I wanted to be her, so when I got home, I presented my sister and mother with all of the things we owned in our living room and spoke proficiently and seriously about how all of our living room objects were from ancient China. Maybe guess what the exhibit we were shown around was? Ancient Chinese artefacts. I needn’t have gone, given my living room was bursting with the stuff!

Librarian – This career choice was generally a no brainer for me, given my passion for books and reading growing up, but really, at the time of deciding this, all I really wanted to do was own my own library and be Belle from Beauty and the Beast, however, given my abundant intelligence from a young age, I guess deep down I knew that girls didn’t fall for hairy-wolf-men that were made that way by magical white witches, so I thought that entirely ruled out the Disney Princess option, thus librarian became my only real option. I changed my mind during my first year of comprehensive school when I realised that our librarian was a mean, cruel woman who wanted to keep us away from all of the books by not letting us in the library at all, which not only negates the idea of a library, but makes all librarians absolute wankers, if you ask me.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – what? I did want to be Buffy. I liked the way she kicked and punched and I loved her snappy retorts to vampires and people in general. She was cool and confident, she was fierce and unstoppable and a vampire, one that filled my pre-teen heart with gooey feelings, fell in love with her! Then later on, a really bad vampire fell in love with her and become all soft and gooey too! It was very inspirational to, not only a hopeless romantic, but to someone who also grew up wanting to be the pink Power Ranger – at the time, even I knew a Power Ranger was inaccessible to a girl like me, but a vampire slayer? Totally realistic.

Singer/Songwriter or Britney Spears Impersonator – Stop judging me!! I am not at all ashamed that I went through a period of wanting to be Britney Spears. Did you see the video for Hit me Baby One More Time her loneliness was KILLING her and all she wanted was to play basketball. I may have misconstrued the point of the video, but regardless, she was a pretty amazing role model at the time. She kind of lost her shine a little bit during The Meltdown of 2007, but by this time I had already moved on to wanting to be both Beyonce and Marianne Faithful, so I really didn’t care. Anyway, at the time, I used to practice dancing and singing constantly, as well as doing my hair and make up to look like a little songstress. My parents were genuinely worried about me during this period and had a discussion with me that pretty much led them to crushing my dreams by telling me that I realistically couldn’t be a pop star/dancer. I’m not sure if it’s because they assumed it would be impossible for me to break into this world without compromising my virginity or because they didn’t think I was good enough. I should probably ask them.

Tennis Player – this was a constant one growing up, every time Wimbledon was plastered all over the television. When we lived in Holland we had this huge drive way and I would go into the garden and slam the ball against the wall, whilst making the best and not at all inappropriate for my age tennis noises. Admittedly, I did get quite good at slamming the ball off the wall and it did keep me fit throughout the summer, but I didn’t keep it up. Like all british teenagers once they get into comprehensive school and realise that doing anything leaves you open for incessant, cruel critique, so I gave up pretending to be a tennis player and put my racket down for good.

Lawyer – Admittedly, I might have only wanted to be a lawyer because I had seen too many episodes of Ally McBeal or potentially too many movies. But to me, I loved the idea of storming into a room and being like ‘OI, I have the evidence here that proves you’re all crooks! YOU HEAR ME, CROOKS!!’ or given the fact that I am really good at arguing and love giving self-righteous speeches whilst mounted steadfastly onto my high horse, that might have also been the reason that prompted me to want to be the voice of the law. Plus, again, I also really liked the clothes and shoe choices and the tap clap tap of court shoes as they bustled through full of law-like knowledge.

Fashion Designer – No, seriously. This was a genuine career desire of mine throughout school. I loved art and design and I wanted to take those as my options, go to college and take art, before applying to university to do fashion. I had it all planned out and I did have an abundance of talent in the old art department, so it made sense. An English teacher of mind found out and hauled my mother into school to beg her to force me to take more academic subjects, because my future lay with English and all the career choices that would leave me open to (all, Mrs Walker, ALL? I literally have done zero things with my degree other than starting this blog. I am foaming about it, in all honesty!) so they coerced me into taking French, Geography and History, which I aced, because I am brilliant, but didn’t really enjoy because all I wanted to do was draw and become the next Coco Chanel. But whatever, dreams are for rookies and kids, right?

Writer – In spite of all the fashion designer business, one thing did remain resolute: I was excellent at English literature and language and writing was another passion. I got a typewriter one year for Christmas when I was really small as well as a tiny desk and I would sit in the living room tapping away on the typewriter, even before I could write or form words. Then, as I learned, I would write stories and pass them onto my mam and dad, who would read them and tell me I was brilliant. So writing has always been something that I wanted to do and probably will remain with me until I’m an old lady, embittered with literary failure, making me become the type of old person who stabs knives through the footballs of local children who dare kick it near my property. I will also be the type of old lady who spits at the youths too, but that’s a story for a different time. Anyway, I’ve always written stories and still jot down ideas for short stories, novels, children’s literature, but have absolutely no motivation to do it, due to the fact that I am overwhelmingly terrified of being an even bigger failure than I am now, or being told that something I really want to do is something I’m not very good at. Just like fashion.

I think in this day and age a little despondency in one’s twenties regarding a career and professional future is pretty much resolute. I never wanted to be some phone monkey answering phones as a career… a stop gap, a way to pay the bills, maybe, but I wanted more and I think I always will be that type of person. So until then, I guess I remain a little bit like Frenchie, except with really shit hair.

 

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