As you know, my day job is buying and selling pre-loved and vintage clothes. It is also about helping people find their style and their joy in what they wear. I have a Facebook page where I post about what I have for sale, what I like, what I find and what I’m wearing.
I don’t post what I’m wearing because I love having my photograph taken, far from it. I still struggle with this, despite the wonderful Matt Glover, who takes the best photos of me in the whole world and makes me feel like a goddess, helping me feel better about it. I post my outfits because I like to show people that I walk my talk. It’s no good me telling you to embrace wearing what makes you happy and live your best life if I’m sloping around avoiding the camera and panicking in a pencil skirt.
I am aware that when I post my photos, people aren’t always going to like what I wear. I am aware that when I post my photos, people might really like what I wear, but just not on me. I am also aware that some people simply don’t like me. That’s fine with me.
I wear what I like, not necessarily what suits me. I dress for my own pleasure and I hope that is really what comes across in the photos. I want people to see someone enjoying nice things without feeling like they have to look like Claudia Schiffer. It’s a good message to endorse.
In the past I have also written about how I post more photos of me now, because there was a time when I realised that there were so few photos of me around, and many of the ones that were were either formal or miserable or both, that if I died, the kids would forget what I looked like in no time. There was virtually no trace of me in their lives, and that made me sad. So I taught myself to endure photographs, and now I am much less stressed by the whole thing because I’d rather be remembered by my family than be invisible to them.
Whenever you put something of your life on the internet you run the risk of someone being hateful. I have to say that in the 12 years I’ve been using social media I have been really, really lucky in that respect, even in my blogging heyday. It’s a risk I understand and I accept it as part and parcel of this brave new world. Having said that, just because I accept it will happen from time to time, I’m not the sort of person who is going to go gently into that good night, so be warned. Don’t dish it, if you can’t take it. I’m trying to give up being a bitch, it’s not good for my blood pressure, but I will call you out if you start shit posting.
In the last few weeks I’ve had two women comment on two different pictures I posted, one on my page, one on a different group I am in. Both times the women decided that because I had posted my photograph, what I needed was their opinion as to my bodily shortcomings.
There are many things to unpack here. I won’t go into all of them, but my first response to this kind of thing is and always has been the thought: ‘For fuck’s sake, don’t you think I don’t know that?’ It’s like people who delight in pointing out that you have a massive pimple on your forehead, as if you wouldn’t have spotted it when you got up that morning, or been hyper aware of it ever since. I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t know every inch of her body and almost certainly rates it far more harshly than anyone sitting behind a keyboard at home. That ship already sailed love. NEXT.
Secondly, it costs nothing to be kind. If you want to comment on something, and nobody is holding a gun to your head here, find something positive to say, or don’t say anything at all.
I posted this on my Facebook page today in response to what a woman I don’t know decided I needed to know about myself. Someone in the comments asked me to turn it into a blog post so it didn’t get lost. Here it is. Some of you may have already read this bit. You do not have to read it again. There is no test. It is not compulsory.
‘As I write this, I am unapologetically eating my second bun of the day and enjoying every mouthful. Just to give you some context for what I am about to say.
I posted a picture of me on this feed earlier today. It’s me, wearing a clingy red dress. It’s moulded to my body. It hides nothing at all about my body shape and size. it’s all there for you to see.
A few years ago I would never have worn it. I would have felt too self conscious. I don’t have the perfect body (whatever that means) and as I have aged and grown, so has it. It droops and sags, wrinkles and folds. It is no longer taut. It has scars and stretches. It has curves and bumps where we are taught we should have flatness or better, concavity.
It’s a physical map of my life to date. It makes me feel vulnerable to show that. It’s raw and real in a way that other things about me aren’t.
It has never been the body I wanted. It was always just the body I got given, and my relationship with it has been ambivalent and at times downright war-like.
Of course, there are things I could do to it. I could starve it and exercise it, and feed it things that re-shape it. I could have surgery. I could wear restrictive, uncomfortable underwear. I have thought about all those things. I could wear clothes that hide my shape. I could become more invisible to myself and others.
In the end, for complex reasons I decided not to do any of those things. I decided that I would do something else. I decided that I would treat myself with radical kindness. I would teach myself to be nice to myself. I would teach myself to look myself in the eye. I would teach myself to look at myself in the mirror. I would teach myself to do what makes me happy over what makes me unhappy. I would teach myself that how I feel about myself is more important than how other people feel about me. I would teach myself to come to terms with the body I had been given and learn to like and then hopefully, one day, love it for everything it has given me. I would teach myself to take pride in this body and show it off any way I damn well want.
I would teach myself that I am not a film or a painting to be watched, or a morsel to be consumed by others. I am myself and it matters what I do to myself, what I say to myself and how I feel about myself. It matters that I am good to myself in the way that I understand goodness.
I’m still on that journey. It’s not easy. I say that in the full knowledge that I am, despite my feelings about it, very lucky that the body I have been given conforms more to modern beauty standards than many people’s. I’m not comparing myself to anyone else or minimising what anyone else feels. I’m just telling you my truth. I’m showing you my body.
Here it is. This is the body that offended someone on this page enough for them to comment that there were too many lumps and bumps.
What that says is that this person doesn’t want to see me. This person would rather that there was less of me. This person thinks that they have the right to police my body with their mind, their thoughts, their hang ups, their ideas of what is best for me.
We have all done this. I hold my hand up here. I have been a judgmental bitch. What I learned in a very hard way in the last two years is that what I say about your body is what I think about my body and what I say and think about my body is usually inherited from some truly fucked up shit that someone, somewhere didn’t want to carry themselves and gave to me.
I’m not doing that any more. Think whatever you like, by all means, but don’t give me your hang ups, your issues, your low self esteem. I have my own shit to work through and it’s heavy enough.
So, I’m not going to lose any physical weight to get the perfect body. What I’m doing is losing the mental weight so that I can finally learn to love the body I already have and understand it’s been perfect for me all along.
And here’s my lumps and bumps for you. Here’s the body that carried six babies and birthed three. Here’s the body that suffered with PMDD for decades, mottled with hot water bottle burns to scald away pain. Here’s the body with the stretched belly button from surgeries and babies. Here’s the body with ectopic scars and hysterectomy scars and severed muscles and stretch marks. Here’s the body that prefers cinnamon buns and cuddles to punishing gym routines. Here’s the body that chooses happiness and a life well lived.
Here’s my body. It’s beautiful to me. That’s all that matters.’