Thursday, 20 May 2010

A Highly Personal Rant about Books and Body Issues

I have been re-acquainting myself with 18th century English literature these past few weeks, partly because I needed to start prepping myself for the thesis writing and partly because I just simply love it. Yes, I freely admit it. I'm a Bronte Sisters fan. Not to mention Austen. Have been since the first time I had the pleasure of meeting these wonderful women on the pages of their novels somewhere in the early 90's. I have lost the count of how many times I've poured over their works, there was a time when I had read them so many times that I could actually recite entire passages from memory. Entering the University and my subsequent times in Britain obviously introduced me to the rest of the Victorian crew and my poetry love Christina Rossetti. Oh, but I do love books. There's no way I could ever convert to online books, no matter how practical they might be. I-need-my-books-in-paper. And I always, always carry at least one with me everywhere. Books and a recent addition, a sewing bag. Wow. I manage to sound so much more peaceful and retiring a person than I really am. Seriously. But the thing is, both reading and sewing are to me wonderfully relaxing, mind-clearing activities that manage to distract me from the hassle and demands of a regular day-to-day life.

This image was tagged as ' The Perfect Working Place' and I could not have put it better myself.

Image courtesy of fraegdegjevar at flickr.

And as is fitting, I've been not only thinking about the women at Victorian times but also in the world we live in right now. And especially concerning the female body politics. While I'm not going to delve into a seriously academic discussion here, I am going to share some thoughts with who ever happens to stop by here. And I believe I must warn all potential readers now that this is going to be a highly personal rant and feel free to drop out anytime. I'll be back with cakes and sewing tomorrow. But today I'm going to kickstart this with this...


                                        Tapeworms, anyone?

Today I went shopping for pants. Trousers. Slacks. Whatever you call them. Shouldn't have bothered. While I have a perfectly good, made-for-me pattern for pants I just thought maybe I could find something ready-made that for once would fit me. Cue laughter. And I must ask, who are the ready-made clothes actually made for? You see, I was not always this shape and size and these clothes have never fit me. As a girl I used to dance ballet and was a competitive gymnast. All muscles and sinew. And a late, late bloomer so to speak. And did I find clothes that fit me? Nope. Then I quit competing and developed, ahem, a figure on top of the sinewy muscles and yet, did I find clothes shopping easy? Hardly. I was curvy yet slim and tall to boot so finding clothes was a nightmare, or so I thought. And then I got sick. And was put on a medication that made me gain almost 20 kgs ( or 44 pds) in a matter of a few months. And even though the medication was eventually stopped, the weight did not just magically disappear. Whereas before I had always been extremely active, even teaching dance and aerobics classes, I was now unable to do much anything. And trust me, when somebody says to you 'Not to worry, you'll soon get back to being normal' it doesn't exactly do wonders to your self-esteem. No, really, a relative of the Husband's once said that to me. And, no, I don't have anything to do with that person anymore, thank you very much. And if I had thought getting clothes that fit me was difficult before, I can only say that now it was darn near  impossible.


                              Lane Bryant, you've come a long way.

In the end it took years and some major changes until the weight eventually came off. And then I got pregnant. And lost more than 10 kg/22 pds in the first couple of months due to severe hyperemesis that put me in hospital for weeks on end. Not to worry though, from the month 5 onwards I gained back everything plus an extra 19kg/42 pds. Talk about weird. I have been told by a doctor that the medications I've been on have messed up my system to such an extent that it doesn't really know what's what anymore. Bloody brilliant, that. Well, we got a beautifully brilliant little baby girl in the end so sod the weight gain. And sure enough, the weight just seemed to disappear by itself  into thin air. Aided by some serious ballet-type classes and other dance-related activities I soon found myself being again slimmer than ever. And boy did people comment. Again, one of the most notorious ones for me went along the lines of " You're so lucky you got rid of your baby-weight so soon, very good of you. Now you're normal again" What? Good of me? This time the comment came from a woman working at the baby club I went to with my Daughter. Talk about sensitive considering there were women all around us in various states of pregnant and post-baby body.

And then my body just said no. My knees gave in, one by one. Then my ankles. And the rest of me followed. I got really sick. All of my joints started aching and I had no strength left in my wrists. Carrying even the Daughter became difficult if not downright impossible. I did not sleep and could barely move. So surprise surprise, the weight, all of it and then some, came right back on. And now my body is changed by not only the pregnancy and breast feeding but also the enormous weight fluctuations of the past four years into something completely strange and new to me, not to mention the effects of the meds.  And it is likely that things are going to stay this way. I've declared a truce with my body. No diets, no gruelling exercise, and certainly nobody telling me that I'll soon get back to normal. This is normal. This is how I am. I am still a vegetarian after all these years, 20 and counting, but I've always eaten milk products and eggs, so no problems on the baking front then. And as for anything else, I eat what I want when I want. I will never restrict myself to another weird food fad again. Point taken, somebody may say that about the veggieism but I was thinking more on the lines of


since it seems that this is what practically everybody is telling me to stop doing.

On the exercise front, I have been physically active my entire life, but I feel it is time for me to find gentler, calmer forms of exercise since I no longer think you need pain to gain.  I still love to dance, and ballet will forever hold a special place in my heart. Now that the Daughter has set her little heart on entering a ballet school next autumn I am having mixed feelings about it. On one hand I don't mind her going there to dance her heart out, but I also know first-hand how screwed up the world of ballet and gymnastics, especially my form, rhythmic gymnastics, can make your body image and I do not wish that upon her. But will I let her go? Yes. To dance is a beautiful thing and I will just keep my eyes and ears peeled in case she starts showing signs of serious body image issues. And I will also do everything in my power to teach her to think that she is beautiful however she looks and whatever she wears. And the clothes shopping? From difficult through impossible to screw-this-I'm-making-my-own, I'm waiting for the day the shops decide to cater to what a friend of mine once kindheartedly called An Amazonian Woman. Yep, that would be me.


 Lovely little feet in lovely little slippers.
The Daughter.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, A great rant. The only thing I can really say is, "I know." I was also a dancer and body image is such an issue. I don't know why we (women) have to suffer with this. There were times that I was so under weight and I always thought I was heavier than I was. I remember how I loathed feeling fat after my son was born. Why couldn't I just be forgiving to myself. It really should only be about being healthy and feeling good and accepting that weight can go up and down and bodies come in all shapes and sizes. I'm really great at accepting others just not myself. What a challenge to bring up a little girl and try to give her a positive body image. I feel kind of relieved to have a son although the other day he was jumping rope and then stopping every few minutes to see if his little baby belly had any muscles yet. It was so bitter sweet.