Khloe: I hear ya girl

Image credit: @khloekardashian

This week, the press and social media have been set alight by a photo of one Ms Khloe Kardashian. I’m not going to include the image because Khloe’s made it crystal clear that she’d prefer it not be seen any further, so I want to respect that. Khlo was relaxing by the pool in a bikini on a hot day, make up free (as I do myself on holiday) when someone took a quick snap of her. Said snap found it’s way onto Instagram and the world and his wife have had an opinion about it ever since.

I guess by publishing this post, I’m now throwing my hat into the ring of this conversation. But it’s not to criticise or offer an opinion, it’s to offer a bit of perspective.

So, here’s the thing. Nobody gets to decide how a person feels about their appearance but that person. No matter how many people tell you “but you look amazing”, “you’re beautiful”, “don’t be so silly it’s not that bad” they can’t make that person feel it themselves. And (most crucially, I feel) if a person has gone through years of being criticised about their looks, constantly compared to others and have struggled to find their place within that, you can’t be surprised when they do things like photoshop/good lighting/flattering poses to look the best you can. So, if they freak the fuck out when an image unexpectedly comes out that could put them back into that negative public arena, that’s a pretty reasonable reaction.

Image credit: kiss.ie

I relate to this, like a LOT. I wrote this post a little while ago about how I’ve spent most of my life listening to other people’s opinions of my appearance – good, bad, unsolicited, from friends, from strangers, in admiration, in disgust, in insecurity. It’s confusing, exhausting and never ending. And I’m just a regular gal! I don’t have a TV show, millions of followers or get followed by photographers everywhere I go, so I can only imagine how much worse that kind of attention could feel.

I’m sure a lot of us have also seen a photo of ourselves that we’re not 100% happy with, but maybe your mum’s taken it and you think it’s going to sit untouched in an album somewhere, so what’s the harm? Until your mum forgets to delete it from her phone and it accidentally posts it on Facebook with all the others photos and you immediately call her up and be like “delete that RIGHT NOW”. That’s all that’s happening here, except my mum’s Facebook isn’t publicly stalked by ‘journalists’ looking to make a quick buck with the Daily Mail, so the impact is much less widespread.

Koko – you’ve always been my favourite Kardashian. I hear you, and I hope others take the time to really hear you too. I stan.

Thanks for reading,

J.


I don’t know where I fit in

*This post is about body image and weight loss. Please don’t read it if you feel this may negatively affect you.*

If you’re a long time reader of my blog, or you’re a friend of mine in real life, you’ll know I’ve been through a few changes in my life. We all have I’m sure.

What you may not know is that I still don’t feel like I fit in. I don’t feel like I know what my place is, or should be in the world, because of how I look. Or because of how others feel about how I look.

A bit of a walk through the past explains the why, but not the where. Please read with an open mind and an understanding heart.

Age 5-11

I had a distinctly average looking body for my age (I’m cringing at how awful that sounds to say, but this is where the mind of childhood Jenny in the 80’s/90’s went, as well as those who looked at her) in some photos you could even argue I was fairly slim. But, not as skinny as some of my classmates it would seem, even then. Girls at my school learnt very quickly that the best way to hurt someone’s feelings was to insult their size. I was told I couldn’t play leapfrog in the playground because my ‘bum was too fat’, when I started dance class I was called ‘elephant in a tutu’ both by girls who were supposed to be my friends. Once, I was even punched in the stomach by a boy in my class.

Age 12-16

So, things got better for me at high school? Did they bollocks!

Boys were interested in girls bodies, girls knew it, and girls had further refined their weight-related insults. When I was about 13, I was with a group of friends when one said “let’s all say how much we weigh” so we went round the table, and when they got to me I told the truth (which was about 8st and I was a size 10-12). After a few moments, one of them said “oh no, Jenny is the heaviest” and they all gave me a sympathetic smile. I knew for a fact some of them had lied but didn’t say, because I didn’t want them to be embarrassed, or to look vengeful myself.

It was around this time that my Grandad started to make regular comments about my weight and how I looked. He’d recently gone on a much needed health kick, gotten fit and lost weight, and I was apparently his next target to ‘fix’. Even my mum made the odd comment – once she said if I lost enough weight over the school holidays she’d buy me a whole new wardrobe and all the boys would fancy me.

Early 20s

Came out of a serious relationship, lived alone, thought nobody cared about me, ate what I wanted and partied hard. During this time I received probably the most horrific comments I’ve ever had, some from people I didnt know. At work I was described as someone’s before image, “she looks amazing now, she looked like you before”. Someone else asked why I was so fat when I ran around busy all the time, and an older gentleman who had health related weight issues told me “we have to to be careful, people like us, fatties”. This was around the time I was newly in a relationship with the man I’m now married to and I was so worried all the time thinking ‘why the hell does he want to be with me when everyone else clearly has such a low opinion of me??’.

Mid to late 20s

I was married, had an active social life, and was (now I can look back with a more objective eye) a pretty average body size. Because I consumed too many sweet and high calorie things, towards my later 20s I decided I had to change how I looked after myself so that I could feel more positive and less lethargic. I figured making changes before I hit 30 would be easier than making them later.

Early 30s

I’d made the aforementioned changes, feeling more lively and I looked different. Quite different actually. It was the first time I’d ever been considered a ‘slim girl’ in my whole life. I went through moments of being proud of myself for making changes I felt I needed and sticking with them, actually looking in the mirror and feeling aright about myself, yet confused by how other people’s opinions of me suddenly changed.

If I posted a photo on Facebook, dozens of acquaintances would comment calling me skinny minnie and asking for my ‘secret’. In the real world I had strangers come up to me to telling me I looked good, van drivers honking their horns at me when I went for a walk. One time, a car full of blokes stopped in the middle of the street and shouted things about my arse out of the window. I’d NEVER dealt with anything like this before and I felt overwhelmed and embarrassed by it. I wasn’t doing anything to invite attention, I was just out in the world going about my life.

People were still a bit rude to me about my size, but different to before. When I’d go to check my weight and measurements (I personally found this helped track my progress) I’d be tapped on the shoulder and asked “why are you here to get weighed love, you obviously don’t belong here”. There were points when my friends weren’t particularly friendly either. They weren’t impressed that I’d stopped drinking or chose meals more carefully when I went out, and they weren’t shy about letting me know. They’d make neggy comments to me, or say our other friends looked nice but would never say it to me like they used to. They told me I was boring or acting like “a bit of a pyscho” about my eating. Even now, if I bring up my weight or how I used to look, they ‘remind’ me I was not nice to be around .

My family, on the other hand, were bloody delighted with my progress. They’d never miss an opportunity to tell me “how much better” I looked and how worried they were before that I was killing myself but were too scared to say anything. So, they’d been judging me behind my back for years? STILL my Grandad wasn’t pleased – he said I hadn’t lost enough weight and was “too wobbly”.

Mid 30s

I re-entered the world of work (after spending 5yrs at uni) and had to deal with some very toxic people. The result? Started drinking again, eating more sweet/high calorie food, my clothes didn’t fit me anymore. I felt sad that I’d undone my hard work and angry that I’d let hateful people drive me to such a low and vulnerable point. By the time they exited my life (not nearly soon enough) the rot had set in quite severely. I’d been blogging about three years at this point, yet could barely even look at myself in the mirror and before taking smiley photos to put in my posts.

This was also the time the Facebook acquaintances reappeared. This time, their opening line was usually “so what happened to you?” or “you look different now.”

No neggy comments from the family, but don’t worry, they’ll make it back…

Late 30s

And this brings us nicely to the present day. Which, to be honest, isn’t that nice.

One toxic work situation ended but I somehow found myself in another about six months later. This time it was much, much worse and lasted twice as long. I comfort ate my ass off, got the biggest I have ever been, hated myself and the rest of the world for pretty much everything. And I must’ve fallen pretty hard into the depths of despair, as I had family and a couple of friends begging me to get help. When speaking to friends about wanting to lose weight and feel more comfortable again, the response I got was “yeah definitely, but don’t go crazy like you did before. You got too skinny and it wasn’t nice.”

I gained a few ‘Furlough pounds’ as a lot of people did, and that’s when my Grandad finally decided to pipe up and let me know how disappointed he was in me. I know it’s difficult when dealing with the older generation; they have no filter or concept of how their words can be perceived, and his cut deep. Phrases such as “we need to walk you”, “So what size clothes are you wearing now?” and “I’m trying not to hurt your feelings, but you really need to do something about this” have hurt my feelings a lot. I have a mirror; I know what I’ve looked like before and I know what I look like now. I know what my goals are and how to achieve them. Behind the scenes, I may even be quietly doing just that. But you think I feel like turning into Jane Fonda after someone has ripped my self confidence a new one? No I do not.

So after reading that, do you know where I fit in? I’m not accepted by society in body type; I cant make myself or anybody else happy. I’m fresh out of ideas on how to move forward and live my life to be honest.

Thank you for making it to the end of this post, and for getting here with (hopefully still) an open mind and understanding heart. I appreciate it lots.

J xx


The two things fashion brands do that tear people down. Why are we STILL accepting it?

I’ve had this post saved in my drafts for a really long time, but put off finishing it and publishing it. When I say a really long time, I think maybe a year or so.

Why? I’m not 100% sure to be honest, but my current theory is that I’m worried of how I’ll be perceived for publishing it.

At the moment, I’m probably in the ‘average girl’ category (albeit on the larger side of this group) – I’m not plus size, nor am I slim, just kind of in that middle ground that doesn’t have a defined identity (at least not yet, but ladies like Lucy Wood are doing their part to carve one out for people like we). So, there’s two reasons that make me a little uncertain about speaking out. A, because I don’t want the plus size community to believe that I’m speaking out about concerns that I have no business to speak about. C (and completely paradoxically) I’m scared it makes me look like just another girl who was once a size 10 gained a lot of weight and is bitter about that so is blaming everybody but herself.

But in reality, whichever of these camps you fall in, the concerns I want to talk about affect us all. The difference really is how it affects us – it could be sent to the self esteem, it could be the disappointment at no longer being able to shop at your favourite online store all of a sudden, or it could simply be the frustration in not being able to understand what the hell you’re meant to look for when shopping for clothing.

So, after this epic intro and no doubt overthinking justification, here’s what I think those issues are and you can judge what yourself…

  1. Size Exclusion

I don’t mean this as a straight “clothing brands should offer a larger size range to be more inclusive” I’m talking about those weird, sly sizing moves some of the brands (mainly the smaller brands) inexplicably make.

Picture the scene – you spot a nice top when your browsing an online store and the sizes as S/M/L/XL, you’re not sure which get so you hit the size guide page for some guidance. Size XL, the largest size offered, is listed as an equivalent of a size 12. Or, you check the measurements and yes, that’s my usual size so that’s what you order. But when your order arrived, it most definitely ain’t the size and measurements it said it was.

These are pretty confusing message for shoppers, and certainly for me it’s made a variety of things go through my head – am I wrong, is this the size that I should’ve start worrying about? Are they wrong, are they just not understanding women very well? Or….are these brands being shady bitches and making their range only accessible to people with body measurements that they think would look better in their clothes? As many of the brands I’ve experienced this with have been founded by young single men, I can’t help but think it’s likely to be a combo of the latter two.

2. Vanity sizing

This ‘trend’ comes around more often than than a Brexit deal vote, and this is where the sheer frustration and self loathing can really set in. Michael McIntyre wrote a whole set about this issue which means that not only have blokes noticed this is a thing, but that it’s so known that’s laughable.

For past two or three years I’ve noticed a steady trend of size guides increasing measurements, therefore the size you may have been in one clothing brand for years may not be what you are now. I actually noticed this more when I was on the smaller size – I’d lost a lot of weight to become a size 10 which I was for many years, and could comfortably order clothing on a regular basis knowing it would fit. All of a sudden, I became aware that my measurements had mysteriously been bumped up on the size grid. I hadn’t changed at all at this point, yet my favourite retailers were now telling me I had gained one or sometimes even two dress sizes virtually overnight. That simultaneously pissed me off and made me despair. Why had I put my blood, sweat and tears of effort into making my own body feel better to be told that in fact no, you’re in exactly the same position as you were before that journey.

I’ve experienced vanity sizing at the opposite end of the scale too – when I was smaller there were times when items of clothing would be a little too big in my ‘usual’ size so I would have to size down (usually things like dresses or skirts where the emphasis was at the waist. I’ve inserted a photo below from 2012 to show you a time when River Island was telling me I was a size 8, when it’s clear that’s not true). Unlike the other, I never felt flattered or in any way better about myself when this did happen. My head was clear enough to know this was a problem with sizing.

I know that size labels on clothing don’t matter and it’s how you look and feel in something, I know that, but we all have moments of vulnerability and vanity that mean sometimes these things do get in and physche you out. You can be as strong as you like but the fact remains that, if vanity sizing didn’t exist, it would remove the problem.

So, just why are we still accepting this?

That’s an excellent question, why do we? Because it’s been happening for such a long time and “that’s just how it is”. I can’t think of any other legitimate reason.

But, can we do anything about it?

Absolutely! I mean, surely?

The more society question why things are, and encourage the idea of alternative practices, the more likely change is to happen. But it has to be consistent and it has to be the voice of many, and we have to accept that it may take time. The most important changes often do.

This is a concern that goes hand in hand with diversity amongst fashion brands (and brands in general for that matter), social media vs Reality perfection and simply a person’s right to not have any more reasons to feel ostracised or disheartened by the world we live in.

Thank you for attending this impromptu and ever so slightly ranty TED talk; it’s an issue that remains very central to my daily life and one that impacts on me more than I should let it.

Let me know in the comments or on my social media channels if you’ve noticed either of these problems too and how it’s affected you.

Thanks for reading,

J xx