Skinny Legend ≠ Skinny

So I started to rant about body image on Twitter earlier and then I thought, maybe I should write about it since it was turning into more than three tweets. Now, I’ve struggled with my weight since sixth-form. Up until the age of sixteen, I had always been skinny- about a size 6. Then one day I was in Miss Selfridge’s and I was in a size 10 dress that wouldn’t zip up. For an impressionable teenage girl, you can imagine the fear I had that I was getting ‘fat’.

This is already recognised as a common problem, for boys and girls alike. They say youth is wasted on the young and so is skinniness.

My mom said that it was my body changing into a ‘woman’. In that instance, that may be true. I unfortunately inherited the wide hips and shoulders, although the rest remained the same and so I was never really ‘fat’ at all. Yet, that fear was always there.

My family from both sides are not traditionally skinny and my own parents have struggled with their weight. There is some deep fear in me that I will become obese and that’s just my destiny because genetics says so. Most of that fear then was probably because of being a teenage girl, atop the usual rhetoric that being skinny is the right and correct way of looking. Who cares if you’re ugly, right? As long as that body is thin.

So, I went to the gym, I always walked home from the train station, I cut down snacks and I maintained my portions, all healthily by the way. There’s nothing wrong with looking at how you’re eating and establishing a healthy diet. This allowed me to remain the same weight I’d always been. In fact, I grew even skinnier once summer came around.

Although I had never been big body-wise up to then, I was never the skinny friend either (still at a size 8). Because I was curvy and my shoulders/hips were wide, I was always conscious that my body wasn’t right in the way it should have been. That whole time I was so sure that I was bigger when most girls were either the same size or bigger.

Having established I was skinny enough, I went to uni with a lot of confidence. I went out a lot and wore tight dresses. Lots of people took me on dates and/or told me I was attractive. People were more inclined to find me pretty because I looked so good, according to them.

Look at pretty, skinny Hannah.

(I did have really good cheekbones in fairness. I never had to smile either because that bone structure just really did it for me…)

But with all stupid decisions, new student finance, and no interfering parents, I piled on at least two stone within first year. When pizza burgers are a thing, who needs good health? I wasn’t completely ‘fat’ in that sense, but there were already a barrage of comments.

“Wow, you’ve never been that big before.”

“Look how much your belly sticks out.”

“Let’s be honest, you are bigger than other girls and you can tell.”

I was still a size 10…

Second year only got worse and I put on even more weight. By the time I was ready to start third year, I was the heaviest I’d ever been. People liked to let me know and if they didn’t, I noticed the difference from earlier years. As previously mentioned, I’d always been skinny, so this change in attitude was blaringly obvious.

I couldn’t go in half of the shops that are ‘fashionable’ and ‘young’. There just weren’t any clothes for my body type. I always wore the same clothes when I went out; I stopped wearing short skirts and stopped shorts altogether. I never wore anything that showed my upper arms at most and I couldn’t wear most crop tops. People noticed and most of the clothes that I wore were limited to all the jeans and baggy t-shirts I had. A difference to the clothes I had specifically bought for first year of uni.

If I went into the shops, I did feel that my presence was confusing to all those skinny, white girls with their equally skinny mothers. Compared to them, I looked a mess and I certainly wasn’t fashionable. If I ate in public, I looked unrealistic for eating healthy but if I ate something unhealthy or with large portions, then that was the reason I was big.

The difference from before was that I literally could shop wherever I wanted, if I had the money. I didn’t have to worry about which shops had my size or type of clothing that worked for me, nor did I feel like I was judged too harshly for what I wore. I mean, I was skinny so it was probably a fashion choice to look that shit. Nor did I ever feel like it mattered how much I ate. I ate two breakfasts then a burger king and papa John’s in one day, but jokes because I was still skinny. Recently, I couldn’t have eaten a burger without people noticing that’s probably why I was the size I was.

My dates dropped to zero and I never even got a second glance or spoken to by anyone. If that’s a correlation then I’ll let you know later.

Eventually, I knew that I was going to have to change something. My weight was piling on rapidly, so I did change my diet and I tried to do more exercise. No doubt I got looks at the gym because I clearly didn’t go there often.

Now, I know I’ll never be as skinny as I once was, neither do I want to be. There’s nothing embarrassing being the size you are if the lifestyle you lead is a healthy one. Yet, the difference in certain situations from when I was that skinny till now is quite clear. This is an acceptance that will always have to come from you, because even with body positivity on the move, people will always allude to the notion that being a lower weight is best.

When I turned up to my mother’s birthday party earlier this year, I had already lost a stone. I turned up in a tight dress with no body syncher, and I was reminded that although I’m already a stone skinnier, it will never be enough.

“I would wear something to pull that fat in.”

“Usually, tight dresses like that require something to pull your belly in.”

“That was a brave choice.”

I never noticed until now, but thank you, Sharon, for letting me know. It never occurred to me that wearing a dress with my belly showing could be so offensive and bizarre to so many people. Especially considering everyone who mentioned it was overweight themselves. I am sorry you’re not confident in your appearance but don’t pass that onto me.

I have lost even more weight since then and as I begin to reduce back to my previous size, I’ve noticed how much easier life is. Not because being skinny makes everything easier, but because there are available clothes for me, I can eat whatever I want, and people comment less on the clothes I’m wearing. I immediately seem to look nicer in everyone’s eyes, so it seems.

The amount of people finding me attractive seems to have picked up again and although I hadn’t been asked on a date since the beginning of last year, that has suddenly changed. Maybe it relates to the fact I was my biggest weight yet during that time, or maybe it was something else. Arguably, it could be anything but there seems to be some correlation there.

Being skinny in that sense is easy, but maintaining it isn’t. Continuing to lead a healthy lifestyle is all you can do and that is the size you will be, whatever it is. Most people who were bothered by me being bigger are people who are overweight. This internalised rhetoric of fat-shaming still runs strong and the faster you dismiss it, to become the best you possible, then the faster you’ll be unashamed of your own image.

Part of being human is being dissatisfied, particularly with your own image, but there’s always power in not allowing yourself to be miserable for the sake of everyone else.

Young Carers

The forum of young carers is a topic which I have wanted to address for some time. In what way and the tone that it would be set was debatable. It needs to be expressed in the finesse and delicacy that it deserves and ultimately, I did not think I could bring that. Yet, I have found a reason in these past months as to exactly why I should write this post.

To those who know me well enough know that I have two younger brothers who are both disabled. This immediately sets me in the category of a young carer. At the age of six, I became hundreds of thousands of children and young people across the nation who cared for someone.

I began a ‘scheme’, if you will, called Dudley Young Carers. This opened a world to me for which I will forever be grateful. I met people who understood and didn’t judge. We never really talked about who we cared for or why we were there. It was to make friends and to socialise out of those usual social boundaries.

Most of the people I know of seemed to have had harder lives than me and it made me thankful for what I had. There were children/adolescents from broken families or intact families, caring for their brother, sister, mother, father, grandparents… Whoever. And they still continued their lives without a fuss.

I find these people completely inspiring and courageous in ways I never felt.

Young carers rarely ask for recognition but a voice. They are some of the most under-recognised groups across the world and they go through hardships in their childhood and adolescence that some may never go through in their lifetime.

But this is the real issue here.

No matter how much these people deserve recognition and support for the lives they maintain, there is hardly any call to do so. You can tell me reason after reason why I could be wrong. National holidays for young carers, national charities, local services, and local support from professionals. But I stand by what I said.

Particularly after the cuts to services, there is a thin line between what is now a young carers’ service and complete extinction. I have sympathy for the volunteers, workers, and kids who cope with this system and still maintain optimism. Because to me, even with all this ‘support’, young carers are still brushed aside.

There are children/adolescents/young people out there who do amazing things and you can tell them that a nod of the head from a professional or MP or a charity is enough. Well done, kids. We admire you but we can’t help you. I don’t condone this whatsoever.

Tell this to the small child who watched someone die or their parents have died/left them. Or to the kids who get passed around by guardians/older carers. To the kids who are failing or not attending school. The kids who lose a sibling and still maintain household chores. Or to the kids who looks after their siblings and their parent/s. Those kids who go to school, help at home, and have a job. Or those exact kids who will grow up battling emotional or mental illness.

Go on. Tell them.

You deserve this pat on the back but nothing more.

Am I upset? Yes. Am I disappointed? Yes. Am I angry? Yes. But am I bitter? No. Because this is not the right way to explain how I feel about this. I was privileged to be part of a service that thrived in the past and left before it truly went downhill.

See, I’m not speaking ill of the people who help run this service as they have the best intentions, so I salute you. But the people at the top who tell them that these children- our children- don’t deserve the support they need. That they can stay at home without any help whatsoever and make the best of what they have.

And for those adults and professionals who allow some sort of recognition and yet still trample you to the ground. Letting you know that no matter what you do, there are people who can receive everything in the world on a silver platter who deserve more than you ever could. For those few, I hold you in the lowest regard.

To see something treasured by those families and children- not just the service but the additions it brings- be slashed into something minimal is heart-wrenching. Not only is this the fault of the government for the lack of debate it brings to these issues, but some people lower down who agree with the government. That this is not an issue to be taken seriously.

This is nothing if not serious.

These amazing children/adolescents/young people are more inspirational than I can bear to say or write down in so many words. There are lists of reasons why they deserve endless praise. And they should, above all, be respected as the human beings they are.

From,

Someone Who Knows.

 

 

The Establishment

Recently, all of my social media outlets have been full of political posts, mainly generated by the inauguration of Donald Trump. For the most part, I am delighted at the reaction. So many people had become numb to political news. But the past year or so has triggered an incredible response. Why? Because of the amount of shit that has accumulated.

Brexit, ISIS, refugees and migrants, rising of political groups such as Black Lives Matter and feminism, the increase of racism, inauguration of Donald Trump, triumph of the Conservatives in the general election, the appointment of Teresa May, rights of LGBTQIA especially trans awareness, media coverage of hate crimes…

I could go on. Yet, this political climate has assembled a fever where it has reached nearly everyone, whether they are interested in politics or not. The international protests that took place for the rights of women last week was exceptional and heart-warming. This is the response of a society that has become tired of their repressed rights. Rights that should be available by birth.

However, as important as it is, I’m tired of talking about Donald Trump. It’s all well and fine making memes and listing everything that he’s done wrong on Facebook but it’s not enough. People ask me about my opinion on the Presidency and on Brexit and are surprised when I divert the topic.

Why?

Because this isn’t the time for talking. It’s the time for action. Yes, talking is a vital process in communicating our opinions and beliefs, to understand one another, but all people want to do is talk. No matter how angry they are, the best some can do is to share a post online or mention how much they are annoyed. People have become stuck in this idea that ‘this is the way it is’ and nothing we can do stops that.

Well, no. If you believe that life will always be this way then it will be because you never did anything to stop it. There is so much we can do. Peaceful protests can be a wonderful platform in numerous ways, still I feel that it is not enough. Not now.

So many events have spiralled out of control and people are angry. More than branding a witty sign needs to be done. Now is the right time to do it. A vast majority of the population are angry or dissatisfied in many ways, but are hesitant to actually do something to change it. Think of what could happen if we rallied together in more than a protest.

Social media is an important advantage in this process, particularly Twitter. It is fast-paced and relevant. People can share opinions, videos, photos, and facts, all in a short time period. This is an extraordinary way of sharing what is happening right now. It’s a way for people to communicate as they haven’t before.

Perhaps this will be an unpopular opinion but I stand by this. I stand behind protests and discussion, except we need more than this. All of this anger for injustice can be used in positive ways, but I fear it will eventually fade and people will return to their indifference. Our rights are more than a shared post.