mardi 27 novembre 2018

In Bruges, and also in my head.

Yesterday I came back from the loveliest long weekend in Bruges. I ate waffles, drank hot wine, walked around all day, slept with a person I really like at night, and generally had a great time.

I’m terrible at taking photographs (I like to be so totally authentic and in the moment and shit, you see) but I like having them to look at when I get back. Fortunately, my boyfriend likes to take a lot of holiday photos.

As I sat at work yesterday, laughing delightedly as I watched the edited highlights come up on my screen as he sent them to me via Whatsapp, it struck me that my younger self would have deleted all of the photos that had me in them. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee I would have cried and also asked him to destroy all evidence.

I don’t look skinny or sexy in a single photo. I’m not doing any poses to make my arms look thinner or to make sure I don’t have a double chin. I look very, very happy in all of them. Especially the one where I am pretending that the guide rope going up the bell tower is a penis. Long story.

Conversely, there are a lot of very old holiday photographs in which I look pretty ‘ideal’. Not that I realised it at the time. I was young and skinny. I was all angles and eyes. I was also fucking miserable. There was the holiday in Spain where I refused to drink even a glass of wine because it was ‘empty calories’. The incredible opportunity of working in Hong Kong for the summer, where I painstakingly wrote my weight in my diary every single morning and it set the tone for my whole day. All the beautiful meals I said ‘no’ to. The days at the beach when I could have been swimming in the sea, drinking a beer and eating crisps, that instead I spent worrying about what I looked like.

I feel so sad for that girl. I felt a bit sad for all the girls I saw over the weekend, standing with one leg cocked and their head poised at an unnatural angle, Instagraming pictures of themselves with waffles on sticks that they looked a bit frightened of. I don’t blame them. I don’t want to be judgemental. I understand the feeling; I have been those girls. I’m not implying that I’m less vain than them and as such somehow morally superior. I’m not. I haven’t had some kind of transcendental spiritual epiphany.

I am also very aware that I am a pretty average-sized white woman and that posting ‘normal’ photos of myself on Instagram is hardly the most fucking radical move.

However, I do think that ‘normal’ is something we don’t see enough of any more. It does feel just a tiny bit radical. I believe that only seeing images in which we all do the same ‘flattering’ poses and fake faces and filter the shit out of everything is damaging. It does us all a disservice. Not only that, but it’s fucking boring. I am bored of it.

I don’t want to look like a model in my holiday photographs. Thankfully, that’s not my job. When I look at photos of myself now, I am delighted when I look a bit like myself as a tiny child – same face, same fringe, same joy, before all the bullshit. I am funny and nice, and I have a face that suits me.

I’d like to say my younger self would be impressed with how cool I am now. Sadly, she was so fucked up and so conditioned to care about things that don’t matter, I think she’d just be appalled by how old and fat I am. In the past year, I have gained weight. I have also written a book, had another published, started a relationship I could never previously have imagined, given up smoking, spent time with people I love, worked on myself in therapy, let go of some shit, been on some great holidays and had a fuck-ton of fun. I think I’m the happiest I have ever been. I genuinely give very few fucks at this point in my life.

However, I’m aware I might be adding to the pressure. I worry I’m neurotic about not being neurotic. Sometimes trying so hard not to care all the time is fucking exhausting. We are constantly told to be mutually exclusive things: to embrace ‘body positivity’ while also looking flawless. As so often, still – fucking still – the ‘cool girl’ monologue from Gone Girl springs to mind.

So I guess all I can say is, just do the things that make you as happy as me when I’m in a beautiful, historic landmark on a romantic weekend away with my hot boyfriend, slightly drunk and pretending that a rope is a giant penis.

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