Posted by: Debrah Martin | October 7, 2013

Less is more, more or less…

roly poly girl‘Ugh, feeling fat again – whether or not I look it.’

There must be millions of women thinking exactly the same as they stand in front of their mirror and regret succumbing to that last bar of chocolate. Nothing for it but dieting, I suppose, so I feel happier about exposing an expanse of flesh now party season is approaching … or should I ?

Why do we take such a critical view of our bodies? Cave women didn’t worry if their bum looked big. Whose bum didn’t look big in mastodon fur? Or maybe they did worry? Is it a modern phenomenon, or an issue that women have agonised about since they moved on from the mastodon fur trend ? For fellow fans of the hilariously wicked ‘Little Britain’, I remember laughing at Bubbles de Vere, roaming a supermarket with a vast shopping trolley of food  muttering the mantra ‘…must get bigger…’ because her erstwhile lover – who did have a penchant for larger ladies – had thrown her over (no mean feat !) for another even larger one. As funny as it was, what a challenge to our preconception of what is desirable – for he and Bubbles it was the very opposite of thin.

Is the presumption of the desirable just confined to our dress sizes or to our concept of ourselves generally ? My daughters and I have recently been watching the antics of the neighbours opposite with wicked anticipation. We have nicknamed the family Mr & Mrs 2.4 Kids because they are the epitome of the respectable average so any deviation from the norm draws our attention. Mr 2.4 always parks outside his house because it’s ‘his bit of the road’, despite his expansive drive only playing host to Mrs 2.4’s car, and his presenting a challenge for me to get past, and up my drive without adding to the selection of finest knocks and grazes on my bumper.

gatesMr 2.4 leaves home at precisely the same time every morning – I can reset our failing kitchen clock by him, and best of all, Mr 2.4 has installed 6 foot electric gates at the end of his drive, with integral letterbox , so not even the postman is allowed in without a password. The routine was broken recently with Mr 2.4 inexplicably disappearing from home and the parking spot for some weeks. After I’d revelled in veering all over the road on the approach to my drive, we began to speculate on the absence. Had Mr 2.4 transgressed from the norm or had it been Mrs who was the culprit ?  Had Mr 2.4 commented on the size of the mastodon fur bum and been banished forever ? Or had she changed their washing powder and thereby caused the rift?

Of course we will never know because I can’t get past the gates to ask, but it did remind me how we allow preconceptions and subliminal messages to trap us into the stereotypical viewpoint that advertising wants us to have. A well-known TV advert exhorts women to buy certain cosmetic products because, as the TV star says, alluringly ‘I’m worth it…’ Well we are all worth it, and that is precisely why we should be as individual as we like, without feeling the need to fit a norm.

Back to body image… The anxiety about what we look like even extends to the male psyche too. I was bemused the other day to be told by a mere acquaintance that he regularly uses face creams, and spends hours at the gym in an attempt to remain youthful and streamlined.

‘Well I don’t want to have to consider plastic surgery,’ he added.

So what is there to combat the insidious slide from slim to sloppy? Exercise is a favourite – the gym, aerobic sports such as badminton, netball, football, dance –indeed dance is a very popular form of exercise currently – particularly ceroc, salsa, and latterly,  zumba – all aimed at getting your feet moving and your heart pounding – as well as your body sweating – in the same way as struggling into those too small jeans from last year does ! I have my own slightly quirky twist on it all and belly dance – but the less belly, the better, works best! And then, there really are the wonders of dieting – with so many branded options to choose from – leaving aside the more drastic surgical intervention of a gastric band – I think I prefer a rock band please. Sadly, scientific research has proven that the older you get, the more difficult it is to lose the pounds – especially from the places you want them to go, rather than your wallet.

Does what we look like matter so much I wonder? And does it affect what other people think of us? We all immediately think of the happy symbolstereotypes. The chubby person, jovial through their many chins, cheerful and bun-like – we’re glad we don’t look like them. Then we juxtapose the glamorous; the thin images of film stars – female and male – against them, and think,

‘I’d rather look like that’.

But who is the happier? The chubby bun enjoying everything they eat or the super thin starlet counting every lettuce leaf ? Who’s the happy clown with the sad face?

I decided to undertake a ‘does it matter?’ survey,  and the results were fascinating. For women, it did. We want to look gorgeous as well as feel it, so size does matter … For men, ironically, although they claim to want to be seen only with a size 10 beauty, the nicest comment I got – and maybe most representative of the group of gentlemen who any lady would want to know – was, ‘maybe you’re a looker, but it’s more important you’re fun – and nice…’

So for the guys out there, well done for being blind to specific faults, even if the bum does look big in it, and for ladies… please just stop looking so hard!

More writing topics coming up next – I think we all feel good enough about ourselves for a little while, don’t we (?)

Find more about me on www.debrahmartin.co.uk

or on Twitter @Storytellerdeb

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