Monthly Archives: February 2013

Hey, Beauty Industry! I am not a cash cow!

Hey there Beauty Industry! Just thought I’d let you know, Milk Chocolate Hobnobs are currently half price in Sainsburys. 87p. I know this because yesterday I bought some. About half way through the packet, my boyfriend turned to me and asked “don’t you think we should stop now? This is not good for us.” I paused, mid mouthful. That fleeting comment, said out of care rather than out of malice, ripped open a barely healed wound. I am not overweight by any standard but like many women I am incredibly concious of my tummy. Through the tears and hysterical cries of “Why would you say that?! Do you think I’m fat?!” I realised how completely ridiculous I was being – how completely ridiculous the whole situation was.

Bliss magazine ran a survey in 2004 that looked at teenage body image amongst its readers. In 2004 I was 12 years old. Their findings were damning – of the 2000 girls they surveyed only 19% were clinically overweight. However, 67% thought they needed to lose weight. 2 out of 3 of those under 13 years old had already put themselves on a diet. I was one of those girls. It has become clear to me that my generation (and probably the generation before us, although of course I have no first hand experience of this) have a massively warped self image problem. This video, entitled Onslaught, perfectly summarises the issue.

Although the fact this is produced by Unilever (also responsible for those heinous Lynx adverts that do nothing but perpetuate the problem they claim to highlight here) is hypocritical at best, the point I’m making stands. I can very clearly remember sitting in my primary school canteen deliberating whether or not to eat the Jam Roly Poly in front of me. The dinner lady asked me whether I was finished. I sighed in that way that only a 10 year old girl can and said “Yes. I’m on a diet.” It was years until I realised how completely fucking ridiculous that was – not only of the 10 year old me to say no to Jam Roly Poly – the fact that the 10 year old me was already conditioned to feel that she was too fat. I also felt I was too tall (I was the second tallest in my year), that my hair was too curly, that my feet were too small. Of course it transpired I was just an early bloomer. I’m still slightly taller than average but of course, the problem does not lie with my 10 year old form. It lies with an industry that systematically pulls apart the confidence of young women by making them feel they are inferior before they’ve even stopped growing.

To this very day, what with Hobnobgate this morning and the squeezing in to size 10 jeans so I don’t have to admit I’m a 12, I am plagued by a chronic sense of inadequacy. Why is this? It is because from the word go, young people are plagued by advertising and media that paints being fat as a hideously terrible thing, aging as a sign of weakness, imperfections as disgusting. Don’t get me wrong: I love a bit of make up and have been dying my hair for years. But I know and acknowledge that the beauty industry is an evil one where companies point out women’s imperfections and make them feel like shit about them in order to sell a product. Let’s not delude ourselves. Women are being treated like cash cows. Stupid ones too. I for one have had enough of it. Beauty is a social construction, women need to learn to love ourselves a little more and care what others think a little less. You, beauty industry, need to give us a break. Go and bother the blokes for a while. How about a ridiculously patronising campaign for them, full of male stereotypes and buzzwords. Fatigue smashing super energizer quattro stab sex cream or something along those lines. I am off to have another Hobnob. Laters, you fucking arseholes.

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YOLO.

This story starts on my 21st birthday – 1st September 2012. I had a little shindig round my parents place, about 20 of my nearest and dearest in my back garden on a sunny late summer evening (dressed as Harry Potter, obviously). My dad popped champagne, we ate cake and drank irresponsible amounts of cider. My mum was shy but she always was since the surgery – she had had a malignancy behind her left eyeball and in order to remove it she had to lose her eye. We are all very thankful; she was facially deformed but she was fine. She was clear. The prosthesis was very convincing and we had finished that harrowing chapter of all our lives! We toasted to good health and happiness.

Then one day she didn’t go to work – her memory had been lapsing but my dad received a phone call from the nursery she worked at saying they were very concerned. She had sent them a very jumbled message that made no sense at all and had simply not arrived. My dad rushed home to find my mum in a state of total confusion.

Without going in to too much detail, it transpired my mother was ill again. Seriously. She had tumours on her lungs, her lymph nodes and – crucially – her brain. The situation quickly deteriorated it became clear to her doctors that this was going to kill her. Quickly. The tumour in her brain was completely inoperable, it was extremely aggressive and it was terminal. My world crash landed.

On February 4th 2013 – 5 months and 4 days since my birthday – my mum passed peacefully in her sleep. It is now February 22nd. It’s a funny thing, grief. I knew she was going to die. Life was cruel, and it was cruel to have her lingering. I know it would be completely selfish of me to say I wished she was still here; although of course I do wish she was still here. She was an extraordinary woman, renowned for her sharp wit and dry humour. She always had a twinkle in her eye, there was always tea in the pot and there was always gossip to be had. It has become glaringly obvious to me through the course of this experience that life is a very fragile and temporary thing; we never know when it could end. I had spent my days worrying about things that seem so trivial to me in retrospect. I panicked about what I would do when I graduate. I fretted and worried about my lack of extracurriculars – how would I possibly get a job when I had no idea what I wanted to do and have zero experience anyway. I have to laugh now – such little worries. A few months ago, an intensely irritating internet fad spread around; the acronym YOLO, meaning You Only Live Once. As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve had a bit of a YOLO realisation. There are so many evils in the world. Life is temporary, fragile and you really do only get one shot at it. I am not going to worry about trivialities any more. I’m planning to make a difference, travel the world and have a cracker. Here’s to my mum. I hope I do you proud.

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