Sunday, 16 September 2007

Deep Sea


Sunday 9th September ‘07

Continuing on my little rant on feminism, I was walking down a busy street the other day when I approached a group of three boys coming the other way. They must have been about 17ish and were clearly trouble. They swerved towards me as they drew closer, so much so that I was forced to dart out of their way and the middle one said loudly to his mates as we passed only inches away from each other, “Will you look at the tits on that thing!” Wow, just when you thought things were improving.

This habit of men of referring to women as inanimate objects is not a new one, but it is something I am noticing more and more these days. It seems as though the more powerful women get in society the more some weak men feel the need to objectify us by referring to all woman as “it” and “that”, even to our faces. I don’t even know what that habit is called grammatically. ‘It’ is defined as a third-person neutral pronoun in the English language, but no-where can I find what it means to refer to a human as an object or animal. If I am to be insulted I would at least like to know how it is done.
~

Despite this year being the wettest summer on record I have yet again come up against my annual nemesis, sunglasses. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love sunglasses. If it didn’t make me look like a prat I’d wear them all year round. No, the trouble is finding the sunglasses in the first place. I seem to spend my life on an eternal mission to find the perfect pair, and my room is a graveyard of broken attempts.

I have often though it ironic actually when I look at Muslim women who are all covered up apart from their eyes, how they are actually displaying the most intimate and expressive part of their bodies. ‘The window to their souls.’ When I put on a pair of sunglasses I feel more anonymous and protected than if I’d shrouded my whole body in acres of billowing fabric. There is a definite reason celebrities wear them all the time. I love that no one can tell what I am thinking when I wear them, or even who I am really. I like way I can stare at people for hours with total impunity, and I love the instant aura or cool mystique they give you.

Despite the coolness, there is of course, a more practical reason as to why I love my sunglasses so much, namely that my eyes are extremely sensitive to light. My Mother is the same, so I can only conclude that it’s just one of those things. According to the optician, it’s apparently something to do with being blue-eyed. Even on a dull winter’s day I find myself squinting at the light. I worry about it actually; I’m probably going to end up with huge wrinkles through spending my life with my face unconsciously screwed up like I’m trying to see in a howling snowstorm all the time. Only I the dark can I ever truly relax my eyes. I can see well in the dark, really well if I do say so myself. I love the dark actually. When I was young I used to practice finding my way around my house with my eyes closed just so i could navigate better in the dark. And for the past two years I have had my bedroom on the ground floor. When I wake in the night (As I do frequently) I like the feeling of prowling around alone in the darkness, while all of my housemates are sleeping upstairs, mistress of my own private kingdom. I used to be afraid of the dark when I was little, but once you realise that fear of the dark is merely fear of the unknown, fear of the monsters that could be lurking in the dark, that soon goes. That’s one of the things I hate about this city, the lack of darkness. I can’t sleep in this damn half-daylight they’ve got going on here twenty-four hours a day. I do worry sometimes it might be turning me mad. My current bedroom is on the ground floor of the house and some inconsiderate bastard has planted a lamppost directly opposite. When I first arrived I had to sew blackout fabric on to the backs of the curtains because my room was lit up as clear as day all through the night. Because of the odd curve of the bay window though, and the miserly amount of material the landlord has used on the curtains, there are gaping holes in my impenetrable wall of darkness through which the light still pours. There is nothing I can do about the top and bottom of the window, but I have spent most of this week dreaming up ingenious methods of fastening the curtains to the walls on either side. The current method on trial is Velcro superglued to the wall and sewn to the tops of the curtains. It’s not working.

What would you be if you were an animal? What do you most resemble? I know what I would be. I would be one of those silent, amorphous creatures that lurk in the deepest, blackest corners of the ocean. And all alone down there, way down deep in the cold, inky darkness where no one could ever see, I would glow with a phosphorescent brilliance in all the colours of the rainbow.

Post Feminism



Thursday 19th July ‘07

Ok now, here’s the big one. Post-feminism. I have been putting off addressing this for a while now, not least because it is such a vast topic I don’t know where to begin. The nature of this project however, demands that I deal with it sometime, so here we go. I’m not gong to waste time going over the entire history of feminism, if you want to know that I suggest you read a book, but I can’t ignore my own stance on the matter any longer. Nowadays it seems to be a dirty word to declare you are a feminist. Many of the guys I knew at uni would make hundreds of dreadful misogynist and anti-feminist jokes, ostensibly just to wind girls up. I can take a joke as much as the next person, but in the end they did it to the degree that it ceased to become funny and you started to wonder whether they were doing it to conceal some sort of deep seated problem with women in general.

I myself have always been torn between two different attitudes to feminism. (Although I practically have two personalities anyway, so perhaps that’s not too surprising) There is, and always will be a part of me that is a militant feminist. I think the way women are still treated in this day and age is absolutely shocking. And while attitudes are not perfect in the West, they are nothing to the way women are treated in other parts of the world. It’s barbaric, and we often forget that in our assessment of how far we have progressed in our culture. This part of me is the part that wants a shining career. This is the part that lives in her jeans, cannot walk in heels and has a large panther tattooed across her back. She is modern, educated and can wield a power drill with aplomb. She shouts at the television, swears she will never have children and views men with a deep critical mistrust and something bordering between contempt and pity most of the time.

But poking her beribboned head up from the depths of my personality there is another version of me. This me is still waiting for her handsome prince to come riding in on his noble steed and whisk her off to his castle where she could live out her days baking, sewing and tastefully decorating the battlements. This me secretly thinks she would be quite happy as a housewife so long as she could be wealthy. This me probably suffered from far too much Disney at a young age. This person likes pink. She likes to buy pretty, pointless things for the home and expresses all of her emotions through food. This is the part of me that squirms with pleasure whenever men wolf whistle at me on the street or pinch my bottom in a crowded nightclub, shouting down the outraged protests of my saner self with the argument of ‘well, at least they noticed me.’ This person, given the chance would live in Pleasantville forever and ever with four children, a dog, and some nice man to take care of her. I don’t know which part of me I am more ashamed of. I am deeply ashamed of my fifties self, it goes without saying, but that persona is more socially acceptable to admit to in public. Wrong, I know but there we are.

Then of course we have post-feminism; an ideology that should, by rights appeal to my mixed up little brain. I have always taken the view that the problem with traditional feminism is that women end up denying their own femininity and turning themselves into men, and thus sending out the message that it is wrong to be comfortable being a woman. It is sad but true that men and women tend, as a generalisation, to be good at different tasks and so there should be no shame in portioning out the domestic roles accordingly, so long as each does an equal share. If I stayed at home to look after the children while my husband worked it would be only fair that many of the domestic chores also fell to me, as long as I received equal recognition for what I did. And therein of course, lies the problem. Staying at home and ‘keeping house’ is dull and exhausting work that never receives the same statues and praise that going out to work does. What is also not fair is the way women are made to feel guilty for choosing either a career or family and are now expected not only to take care of the children and the house, but to have successful high-powered careers as well. We are burning ourselves out and I still don’t see any reasonable solution to the problem unless society’s attitudes change.

Last week the men of my acquaintance went to the pub to partake of few beers and the pub quiz. As it was clearly a lad’s night out, that left one of my female housemates and I at a loose end for the evening. The boys joked that we should stay in the kitchen and bake for them. We toyed with the idea of going out too, but eventually settled on that old favourite of staying in and watching the telly. About half way through the evening we got peckish and having nothing in the house, we decided to make some biscuits. Realising what we were in fact doing, we laughed and said it was ok because we were making the biscuits for ourselves and anyway, we were post-feminists and therefore comfortable with it. But what does that mean exactly? And does it even matter? When the boys returned from the pub we presented them with a pile of heart shaped cookies in a pink tin.

Another thing I have a problem with is the way that because we are all supposed to be enlightened post-feminists nowadays; young girls and even older women who should know better are acting like common sluts in public. Sexual liberation is all very well and good, but at the risk of sounding like a prude, if you don’t treat yourself with respect, how do you expect men to? All right, so you are pole dancing in a self-conscious, semi-ironic, post-feminist, kitsch way, but do the men drooling at your feet know that? Whatever your opinions on this subject are, I think we all have to agree that Playboy merchandise for little girls cannot be a good idea. It astounds me, actually. Have people just forgotten what Playboy is and what it stands for? It’s not liberation it’s vile. It’s sending out the impression that being a brainless piece of arm candy for lecherous old men is something to be aspired to. And I don’t care if this view is not the correct or cool one to have these days. I don’t know why I hate Playboy, I just do. I hate it and everything it stands for. I especially hate the way it has become seen as harmless fun. I don’t care if the women involved are intelligently exploiting the system or merely playing to their strengths or whatever, hasn’t anyone ever heard of sleeping with the enemy? Just because you know the symbolic ramifications of what you are doing when you put on a playboy t-shirt doesn’t make it any better, if anything it makes it worse. The trouble is, I don’t think most women even think about it at all any more. They are not doing it to be ironic, or to make some sort of post-feminist statement. They are simply buying these things because they are fashion items and they want to have them. So does that mean that our culture has degenerated once more to such a level where female exploitation has become so normal and the symbols of that exploitation so drained of their meaning through overuse and repetition, that women have become willing accomplices in their own oppression? “But what about post-feminism and freedom?” you might say. “What if there exists a particularly daft woman whose ultimate ambition is to become a playboy bunny? Isn’t that her choice?” It’s a very valid point, but I can’t help but think that a woman who feels that she can only be happy and successful in life through being the object of teenage boys’ and dirty old men’s wank fantasies has been very badly let down by society. And besides, just because I accept that there are such moronic people in the world and acknowledge their right to exist and express themselves in whatever way they see fit doesn’t mean I have to like it.

The second weird thing I have noticed recently brings me on to the very sticky and unpleasant subject of unwanted hair. All those of a nervous disposition might well do to skip the following paragraph. Some things are better left undiscussed and believe me, it is as much as I can do to write this, but I’m confused and I want someone to help me with this. Over the past few months, I have had many varied and heated discussions with my girlfriends on this subject and I have noticed a worrying trend that seems to be going on. Now call me naïve if you want, but up until recently I had always been under the impression from, oh I don’t know; men, my mother, Jilly Cooper novels, that it was sufficient to keep oneself generally neat and tidy downstairs. I mean that’s why it’s called a bikini wax isn’t it? But on asking around it transpired that a lot of my girlfriends were horrified by this idea. For them it appears, everything must go. And I do mean everything. When I asked them why they feel like this, they all universally replied, “Well it’s what men want isn’t it?”

And it’s not just women who seem to think this. A friend of mine has a mother who works in a sexual health clinic and she has reported that all the young girls these days that she sees are feel the same way. They are barely old enough to have pubic hair and then they wax or even shave it all off because they think that this will make them more desirable. I mean, everyone has their own particular preferences on matters such as this, (Personally I think the idea of total hairlessness is a bit creepy and much too pre-pubescent looking for my liking, but whatever floats your boat) however feeling you must look a certain way because men demand it can’t be good, especially at such a young age. And you know what the worst thing is? When my friend’s mum asks these girls why they think they have to look like that, do you know what they say? They say that that’s what the girls in men’s magazines look like. Anyway, I would like people’s opinions on this. I don’t know where everyone seems to be getting the idea that men demand that you shave completely, but I would like to know if it is, in fact true. I have certainly never met a man who expressed this desire. Am I right, and is this trend just a lot of needless pain, faff and itchy stubble, or am I missing something important here? Tell me.

So far as myself goes, I am still undecided about the whole post-feminism thing. Is it ok for me to wear clothes that I think make me look good? Of course it is. Is it ok for me to wear clothes that make me look attractive to men? Of course. But is it right for me to consciously base my appearance on what men consider aesthetically pleasing? I don’t know. But it helps. That, my friends is the sad, sad truth underlying all of this; we all want someone to love us. Yes, it is better to have someone fall in love with you solely on the basis of your shining intellectual capabilities, but lets face it, when was the last time that actually happened? The only possible scenario in which that would work is if you had known the person for years first. And even then they have to find you at least slightly attractive. When was the last time you went into a club, scanned around the room and said to your mates “ooh, look at that person over there! They’re hideously ugly but I’m going to chat them up anyway because they might just have a lovely personality!”

A kilo of gold glitter



Sunday 24th June '07

So that’s it. I am officially a real person and no longer a student. What do I say now when people ask what I do? “Um, nothing…” I sold two paintings. Does that make me an artist yet? I’m scared. This was never supposed to happen.

At the private view for our degree show I reached what was I feel was my finest moment yet in terms of vintage fashion and this project. I wore a black lace bra and fifties style black pants, with the black lace underbust girdle, sheer black stockings and suspenders. Over that I wore a dark grey beaded twenties-style dress, black round toed heels and a vintage fifties glass bead shawl. Topping it all off were some ridiculous but very lovely head feathers.

Now pay attention all you fresh budding young artists out there. When planning work for an exhibition, make sure it all adds to your own comfort and happiness. A friend of mine had to take a freezing cold bath naked in some liquid clay for several hours whilst being filmed. My work was an installation containing some paintings and a ‘performance’ which basically consisted of me sitting in a chair, dolled up to the nines, listening to David Bowie and drinking Moet. It was all about mythology and decadence and so forth, even I don’t really know any more, but the important thing is I got an excuse for an entire new outfit, some very expensive chocolates, five bottles of champagne, two haircuts and a kilo of gold glitter.

In order to complete the look, I had my hair curled at the hairdresser as all my kind friend’s attempts with Carmen rollers and buckets of hairspray had only lasted an hour or so. It clearly needed scorching into shape if it was going to last a whole evening. While I was at it I had my usual four or five inches lopped off. This was my first real visit to a proper hairdresser. Before it had just been the little village salon or the lady down the road. It was quite scary looking actually: a shiny, monochrome palace of wonder, staffed by shiny, monochrome attendants. It all just struck me as a massive waste of time. The hairdressers flapped around, swapping places and disappearing into back rooms for hours assuring you that they would be ‘back in just a sec.’ My hair took about five minutes to actually cut, but they spent about an hour blow drying it, strand by tiny strand. I wanted to grab the hairdryer from the dopey girl and do it for her in the end. (My hair normally takes just a couple of minutes to dry) Although not exactly the style I had envisaged, by the time the hairdresser had finished though, I was enraptured. I wanted to keep it like that forever and ever. I looked like a Victorian doll, with perfect glossy blond ringlets.

Getting off topic a little bit, but it is still vaguely relevant I think, is number 3622 on my list of general complaints and grievances against humankind. (Shortly to be published in a ten-volume format) It is the fact that no one ever believes a word I say. Now don’t take this the wrong way, I don’t mean to sound vain or churlish, but I have always felt vaguely resentful that things such as hair dye, straighteners and sunbeds were ever invented. Had I been born a hundred years ago my colouring would have been considered rather unusual and interesting. Nowadays people, if they think at all, just take one look and think ‘bimbo.’ A year or so ago I went on a trip to New York with uni. On the second morning, after observing me wash and dry my hair, the friends I was sharing a room with said to me “wow, your hair really is straight. All this time we just thought you were lying.” I think that says it all. It’s the same with my skin. I have naturally very fair skin and cannot so much as look at the sun without burning. I never sunbathe because I just burn and apart from anything else, it bores me to tears. But I like to be outside and busy during the holidays (Rain or shine) so I am left with no option when it is hot but to smother myself in factor 40, hat up and go chasing patches of shade all around the countryside. As a result of this, I often end up with a very nice unintentional tan and then have to put up with lectures from everyone I meet on the dangers of sunbathing. No one ever believes me. Even when I got my tattoo one of my housemates maintained for months that it must be a transfer. Just for the record, so we can have this absolutely straight once and for all, I would like to say that I have never dyed my hair. I have never straightened my hair. I have never used fake tan nor been on a sunbed, and yes, they are real.



Remember what I said about being a jungle woman, about not wanting to sit indoors all day long? Well that brings me to yet another of my guilty little secrets. Trailer Trash: I love it. Not all trailer trash, admittedly. More the kind that probably only exists on catwalks, and not the English kind either. That’s far to chavvy. No, it’s a very specific look that appeals to me. I don’t know why exactly, I guess it’s because it seems a little exotic, and there is an element of freedom involved that really appeals to someone who grew up in middle class, conservative Sussex. I just love the idea of some feral fourteen-year-old hellcat, with a southern drawl, bleached hair and long, skinny legs, running wild around the countryside in tanned bare feet and denim hotpants. She would be a carefree, happy little slut and would wear pink lip-gloss and a contemptuous smile. She would cuss, smoke, cheat at cards and just generally do all the things I wish I had the guts to do. I know this is a fantasy born of far too much Hollywood and pulp fiction but I hope she does exist somewhere, I really do.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Jungle Woman



Monday 28th May '07

I was in the pub a few nights ago talking to a friend from college. He is from Japan but has been in England for several years studying art. He mentioned that even though he has been here a while he just can’t fancy English girls. They don’t even register on his sexual radar. When questioned as to why he replied that they were all just too big, in every sense of the word. I guess he is right. By Western standards my friend is very small and slight. He makes me look like a hippo, and is dwarfed by the majority of English men I know. But in Japan he is well above average in terms of size and height. It must be strange, thinking about it; going from a country in which you are normal into what must seem like the land of the giants. And the difference is not only physical. English girls these days tend to be, well how can I put it; loud, brash and heavy drinkers. By stereotype Japanese girls are quiet, petite and refined.

It’s a funny concept, bigness, and one that has so much more to it than mere weight. I have always been big, even as a child. Standing next to some of my more petite, elegant friends I often feel like some great big overblown peony that got unexpectedly planted next to a row of neat, pretty little pansies. I have always longed to be cool, elegant and chic, but my body and my personality just won’t let me. No matter what I wear or how hard I try I always look like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards. I am always ruffled, always flustered, always in a rush. I am weighed down by hundreds of bulky, mismatching layers, cardigans, umbrellas and bags of pointless stuff. I am usually dirty or covered in paint. I have always described my look as the cosmic bag lady, or just plain old lady. I am neat and I am hyper-organised but I like to be busy. I like to be doing a hundred things at once. I am bored easily and can be diverted easily, so I keep myself constantly occupied. I hate being indoors. I like grubbing around in the dirt and climbing things. Above all I detest authority, and there is just something about my body that will not be constrained either. Despite habitually buying clothes at least a size or two too big, I always seem to be bursting out of them. Ties come undone, tops ride up, trousers fall down and shoes fall off. I have a mass of hair that is impossible to tie up or do anything with, and even my features are big. Despite being a naturally shy person, everything about me and especially my clothes just screams for attention. I have a remarkable talent for sticking out like a sore thumb wherever I am, which while being interesting, is not always a fun or safe experience. But in spite of all this, I don’t think I would really want to be any different. I think my body just knows it wasn’t designed for sitting at a desk in a suit all day long. I would make a great wild jungle woman. Now where did I put that furry bikini?

~

In other news, I finally went ahead and bought something from the lovely lingerie website. It is a full fifties underbust girdle by an American company called Rago. (The picture shows a white one but mine is black)It looks terrifying but is weirdly sexy on, although I haven’t had a male opinion on this yet. It does wonders for my figure; I look about two stone smaller. I’m not sure what would happen if I were ever to get into an intimate situation while wearing it though. I suppose it’s like wearing a padded bra, but in reverse. What would a man do when you remove it and he discovers you are a good deal fatter than he thought? I suppose in the olden days you would exit the room to slip into something more comfortable (Or be married anyway before you even thought about getting into a situation like that) and that way he probably wouldn’t notice, but surely he couldn’t help but notice if he was to pull down the zip and you were to splurge everywhere. It’s worth some consideration I feel.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

The primeval male and bin bag porn


Saturday 12th May ‘07


Last night I was walking to my friends’ house at 6 in the evening. It is only a short walk but our area is not the safest in the world and there are always an inordinate amount of creepy men just sitting in parked cars at all hours of the day and night and gangs of kids who shout lewd comments. If it is late I usually prevail upon my very nice and understanding friends to walk me home, but as it was light and still technically daytime, I thought I’d be pretty safe from the creepiness. As I walked along I passed a parked car with two men in it. I had gone a few steps beyond it when one of the men opened the door and leant out. ‘Hey fatty!’ he shouted after me. I just ignored him and carried on as he continued to shout it all the way down the road, but it made me angry. He wasn’t just some stupid kid; he was in his thirties at least and should know better. I know I am no sylph, but I am hardly morbidly obese. You would think that in the whole of Birmingham you could find a fatter person to taunt. What is wrong with people? Have they nothing better to do?

~

Just before the Easter holidays I finally showed this project to a few people. (It also exists in book form, with lots of pretty pictures) In the book were four photos of me in my underwear, taken at the beginning of the project as sort of ‘before’ photos. I had no make-up on and was trying to look as fat and frumpy as possible - the idea being of course, that you were to be wowed with the ‘after’ photos at the end, which are as yet not taken. Now, firstly I gave the book to a couple to read, one after the other. I handed over the book without a second thought to my female friend, but then I was suddenly struck with the thought ‘oh god, I can’t let her boyfriend see those, he’s a boy,’ and I made my friend fasten those two pages together with a paper clip. Now I’ve known the gentleman in question for a while, he is good friend and I am pretty sure he has seen me at about the worst I can look on many an occasion, so why then, couldn’t I let him see these pictures? I’ll tell you why. Because I was in my underwear, and ‘you mustn’t let boys see you in your underwear’. Ridiculous isn’t it?

It is even more illogical when you think that if anything, showing pictures like that to girl is far more dangerous than showing them to a man. A man would just look at them, think ‘oh, right’ and turn the page. A girl is going to compare and criticise. A girl will see your cellulite, whereas I don’t think a man really would. And in our twenties, shouldn’t we be beyond worrying about a boy seeing you in your underwear? I’m quite happy to wear a bikini on the beach, and there really is no difference. Although I don’t at the moment, I have lived with guys for two years. I even have a brother for god’s sake. There was never any question of inappropriate thoughts ever entering their heads, so why was I totally comfortable in all states of undress in front of my female housemates, but would’ve rather died than let the guys see me like that?

All I can conclude is that these thoughts must be so drummed into us at school and whatever that we just think them automatically now. We are perfectly happy to let strange men see us totally naked if we’re going to sleep with them, but we won’t let our closest friends see us in our bra and pants. It’s so silly. I don’t know, but if I was a guy I reckon I’d be pretty insulted. Or is it just ingrained in our culture? Is it right to maintain modesty at all times, even in defiance of all logic? Why can’t we ever seem to get past sex? And does everyone feel the same way? So many questions... Opinions anyone?

~

After my friends had read the project, I asked them for their opinions. One interesting point of view was one I had never even considered before. It came from a friend whom I have always considered to be extremely attractive in an elegant, understated way. She is of average height, with soft, brown curly hair, blue eyes and fair skin. She is also very slender. She can wear all the clothes that I can’t, and I have to confess that whenever I see her in leggings and one of her many mini dresses I am consumed with bright green glowing envy. ‘Damn her and her perfect legs!’ is my usual automatic response to anyone with a figure I covet. I think that these girls must be happy and that if they are not then they are just being neurotic, but the other day I heard the other side of the story for the first time. Well that’s not quite true, lets say I have heard it before, but I had never really believed it until now.

Now this particular friend, let us for now call her Kitty, is slender. But like so many slender girls, and certainly all the skinny models we aspire to, she has not got a very large chest. But her size suits her. If she did have huge breasts it would look weird and out of proportion. In the past I have always had a low tolerance level for friends who complained about their lack of cleavage. ‘If you are slim, let alone slim and pretty’ I thought, ‘then you should just shut up and stop complaining. God gave us fatties big boobs as compensation for not looking like you do.’ I know this is an incredibly narrow-minded and selfish thought, but I am human, and I defy anyone to say that they have never secretly thought similar mean things. Talking to Kitty however, was an education. She said that she identified a lot with most of the things I had written, however in her case, it was all in reverse. Where I worried about being too fat, she worried about being too skinny. Where I complained that I was never taken to be anything more than a sexual object, she complained that she was never taken to be one in the first place.

It is a well-known fact that you should always try to emphasise your waist. Men are apparently attracted to hourglass figures because the smaller your waist is in relation to your hips and chest, the more fertile you are likely to be. This is because pre-pubescent girls are yet to acquire hips and boobs, and post-menopausal women put on weight around the middle. In cave man terms, we seek out partners who will be the most fertile and healthy. Therefore, being too fat gets you mistaken (somewhere in the primeval male unconscious) for being too old. But it works the other way around too. Being too thin gets you mistaken for being too young. Kitty gets this all the time. While women may think she is enviable, sexy and stylish, this apparently counts for nothing with men. They have their own criteria. She tells me that she often feels invisible to men. They treat her like a little girl – patronisingly, maybe fondly, but she never gets to feel like sexual temptress. She said she envied the power women with large breasts and hourglass figures have over men. She envies the choice we have of whether to be attractive or not by removing a cardigan and the ability we have to turn the frumpiest of clothes into something potentially sexy. Kitty could wear a bin bag and make it look hip and stylish, whereas I could wear a bin bag and turn it into porn.

The other problem that skinny girls face is that unlike larger girls, they get no sympathy when they complain or say they are unhappy with their bodies because people like me never really believe them or think they should just be quiet and be grateful. I have to admit, I would rather be too fat than too thin, because at least I can lose weight. And being a little overweight often endears you to other girls. It’s like being in some sort of special club. We can all sit around giggling and eating cake and happily moaning that we are too fat. It’s sort of a hobby. It’s automatic, and like the happy English pastime of complaining about the weather, complaining about your body is a good female bonding activity. It’s a way of saying ‘yes, I too am not perfect. I am no threat to you. In fact, I understand your plight and sympathise’. Which is something everyone wants to hear.

I guess we all just want what we can’t have, but I have to say, Kitty has a point. She also makes me feel a hell of a lot better about myself. The other night I was dragged out to a club against my will. I thought, ‘oh it’s ok, I’ll just wear the black strapless dress, that’ll do the talking for me.’ It is very nice to be able to say that, whatever that might do to the cause of feminism. On the other hand, it makes me feel just a teensy bit sad. Here we are, all of us feeling bad about our bodies, each of us living in our own private hell, envying others and thinking that they at least must be feeling happy. Logic would say that if that is the case, why can’t we all just accept that everyone hates at least one part of their bodies and get over it, but I think by now we have established that this is never going to be the case. That is why I decided to make this project into a blog actually. I have now spoken to quite a few normal, attractive, only mildly insane friends about this and we all feel the same in one way or another. If we can all talk to each other about it then maybe we can go some way towards feeling better. I know I do.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

Square One

Monday 30th April ‘07
Last night I watched yet another fat program while eating a big tub of ice cream. You’d think I would have better things to do with my time.
I must make some more excuses now. As is always the way, after months of cosy hibernation I suddenly acquired a life out of the blue at around the beginning of March. It seemed as though everything (Good stuff and bad) all seemed to happen at once – both at work and play. As a consequence, after living on cider and pork scratchings at the pub for about two weeks solid just before Easter, I was a physical and emotional wreck. The irony of this is that I actually lost a lot of weight, all of which I then proceeded to put back on over the Easter holidays. So now I guess I am just about returning to normal, back at square one.

Size 0 (I know, I'm sick of it too, but it had to be in here sooner or later)

Monday 23rd April

Last night I watched yet another program on the size 0 debate. This time, two journalists who were both a size 12 attempted to get down to a size 00 in six weeks. Yes, you heard me correctly, double zero. That’s a UK size 2. Not only content with fitting into the clothes of a ten year old, these women are now fitting into clothes a six year old could wear. Where, precisely, is this going to end? The point of this, as with all the other similar programs I have seen is to show the awfulness of dieting and eating disorders etc, etc. (Which it doesn’t) But on the official website for this program, right above the official blurb about this ‘hard-hitting’ program’s exposé of the horrors of dieting, is a whole string of weight-loss ads. Great.

Watching programs like this I always have mixed feelings. I am addicted to them for a start, although mostly this is because of the freak show element, I suspect. On one hand they make me feel great – “oh, so dieting is awful and I am a normal size, yay lets have some cake!” But on the other hand I have to confess something awful. Something I never thought I would ever have to say. I envy them. I think they look, if not good then not too bad. I’m surprised they don’t look thinner, and I look at the diets they do and think, hmmm…maybe.

I know, I know. That makes me seriously fucked up, right? But think about it. There is a twisted logic somewhere in there. Anorexia works. Horrible though it may be, you never see a fat anorexic. When I was younger (About 14 or so) I actually tried to catch anorexia, as if it was some kind of virus. I started skipping lunch and throwing away food in the hope that somehow, if I could just get anorexic for a few months, I would lose weight. (Thankfully, I didn’t succeed) Then I figured I could just shake it off, like you would a bad cold and everything would be fine again. Don’t you just love how invincible you feel when you are young? I guess now you’re all going to think I’m completely mental and eligible for some sort of psychiatric help, but it was just an adolescent phase that I am well over, I promise. And you know what? I bet there are more ‘normal’ girls than you’d think out there who would identify with me, those journalists for example. I am noticing a suspicious amount of these programs around and although they maintain that they do it out of journalistic dedication etc, etc, there has to be a tiny part of them, on whatever level that secretly wants it. You would have to in order to agree to it in the first place. If I had any, I would put money on it.

I feel a little shamed actually. Here are these journalists putting themselves through all sorts of physical and mental trauma for the cause of their art, and what have I done? I have not exactly been extreme in my weight-loss attempts. In fact I have not lost any weight at all, nor have I been on anything remotely approaching a diet. All I've done is whinged about how I have not done it yet. All this shows if anything is my extreme lack of willpower. Although very probably that’s a good thing.

I also found a very interesting article on vanity sizing by Nick Afka Thomas for the Guardian (Thursday August 10th ’06). Here is an excerpt.

“What is particularly frustrating is that size 0 is clearly a marketing concept. Over the years, vanity sizing has ensured that standardised clothing measurements have become less reliable. The shopper who finds that she can fit into a "smaller" size is more likely to buy the dress, even if it is not actually smaller but has merely been labelled as such.”
“This particularly affects the very smallest dress sizes, where the frightening competition to be ever thinner is at its peak. As a result, the gap between normal women and super-waifs appears to be widening. But this is an example of the numbers being trusted, without being questioned.”
“Are women who are a so-called size 0 really 12 sizes smaller than a size 12? Size 12 (or American size 10) is roughly designed around three measurements: bust 35in, waist 28in, hips 38in. And then, for every one that you remove from the size, you should remove one inch from each of the measurements. Therefore an American size 0 would have a 25in bust, an 18in waist and 28in hips. A five foot tall, corseted Victorian might just about have a waist that size. But for most women nowadays, it would be tantamount to death.”
“Size 0 is a misuse of numbers. It does not exist, nor should it. The British representative of size 0 is Posh Beckham, and there have been recent reports about her 23in waist. This would make her an American size 5, British size 7; not a size 0. Misnumbering her size sets a new unattainable standard.”

Sunday, 29 April 2007

One Year On

Friday 6th April '07. 71kg – Now I’m really confused

It has been a year since I started this project. Wow, when you say it like that… Actually, I’m slightly disappointed that I have only managed 21 pages; somehow it doesn’t seem that much for a whole year. But it’s probably a good thing. As this is purely an account of events and thoughts relating to the project it would be a bit worrying if it had run to three volumes. Also (Surprise, surprise) I have not lost any weight. When I started this project I told everyone that its point was to show the difficulty involved in losing weight and the impossibility of becoming perfect, but who am I kidding? I wanted to become perfect. I wanted to become Kate. I knew I never would - I know me far too well for that - but still I feel just a little sad. Because of this, and because of entreaties from my friends who have read this, I have decided not to end it here, as was my original intention. I have even turned it into a blog. Isn't that nice? Besides, I am starting to grow quite attached to this little diary of mine.

Accessories

Sunday 25th March '07. I don’t want to know. Probably about 40 stone by now.

The other day I went out to see a friend and his band play guitar in a pub after uni. Knowing this in advance, I wore a low cut brown dress over jeans and trainers and shoved some accessories in my pocket for later. During the day, stripped of all jewellery and with my hair tied up I chatted to a (male) friend in the workshop. Before going out that evening I donned some long beads, earrings and a hairband and re-applied my make-up in the loos at uni. When I got to the pub my friend looked at me in surprise. “Have you been wearing that all day?” he asked, clearly puzzled.

When I had read in magazines about the awesome power of accessories I had always laughed to myself. As if anyone would be fooled into thinking you were wearing a different outfit purely because you’d changed your necklace. But it would appear that it really does work. Letting you hair down and putting jewellery on really does change your entire look. I have never been all that interested in accessories before. I could never justify buying them, and they all seemed so pointless but now I’m not so sure. I have always just done the opposite of the given advice; I wear the same jewellery every day and just change my clothes.

The new version of Northhanger Abbey is on tonight. My god I want to live in a Jane Austen novel. Now there are some flattering clothes for you: in under the bust and then poof! And so very, very pretty. Crinolines are another fantastic invention; “No, I haven’t got a huge arse, it’s just the dress.” I have to go corset shopping this week actually. Can’t wait. It’s a cruel twist of fate that the only clothes that really thoroughly suit me are only suitable for the eighteenth century. Or possibly porn movies. Now, if you will excuse me. I have an important appointment with some ice cream…

Pirates and Pistachios

Wednesday 14th March '07

I have just eaten a slice of cake and half a tub of pistachio ice cream. Then I went on the exercise bike for half an hour. Pointless, pointless…

I was talking to a friend the other day who told me that she’d been speaking to someone I’d met once over the summer. This girl apparently mentioned that she really liked what I had been wearing, (My red 1954 dress and stockings) and remarked that I must have a lot of self-confidence to do that. I laughed and said ‘or no confidence at all’ as for me, this whole project has contained a distinct element of cowardice. This sounds self-contradictory I know, but although my attire attracts attention, it is more like a disguise for me than anything else. It is dressing up, transforming myself into someone else and hiding away from the world. No one gets to see me, uncut as it were, and when I am pretending to be someone else, in a roundabout way it allows me the confidence to be more myself. I have always been very strong minded, and have always worn exactly what I want to regardless of what people thought, but that is a different kind of confidence, more like pig headedness in my case actually. I wonder whether this element of dressing up applies to all fashion. People say we use our clothes to express who we are, but sometimes I think it has more to do with expressing who we want to be, which is a very different thing.

~

My approach to clothes has always been to buy one or two expensive, good quality items and then wear them to death rather than buying one hundred in Primark and having them fall apart after one wash. Not only does it work out cheaper in the long run, it is ethically sound and better for the environment. Recently however, it seems as if my entire wardrobe is falling to bits. I have holes in just about everything, especially my coat. Now this coat is my pride and joy. My mum bought it for me last September from my favourite shop Noa Noa and it cost £125. It is by far the most expensive item of clothing I own and probably ever have owned. It reminds me of a sort of highwayman’s coat, or a pirate’s coat, (despite the fact that it is eau de nil) with detailed edging and a flared back. Not really owning another wearable coat I have thus worn it to death. Despite my best efforts at keeping it nice, it has been through the wars somewhat. Before Christmas my drunk friend even decided to jump in a few muddy puddles, showering me with black, oily filth and prompting me to get it dry cleaned. This ruined the diamante brocade edging, leaving me with about 30 new diamantes to sew on. This week I have noticed two large worn patches on the back, which are rapidly becoming holes. I’m not sure how they got there, but they are definitely going to need mending. On reflection though, I almost like this new, ragged look. It is somehow more piratey, even more decadent looking. Maybe this could start a whole new fashion trend, grunge for the uber rich – get some nice clothes and ruin them.

~

Fifties patterns - tight waist and full skirt



A while ago I went to visit a friend in London and she took me to this huge vintage warehouse. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Amongst my many other purchases I bought two old fashioned hats that sit on the back of your head. I was however, at a loss as to how to keep them there. Elastic looked silly and hurts your chin anyway, so I asked my Nan. She informed me that hatpins really are the only way. You get you hair into a chignon and stab it through with a pin. This started me on a three month long search for hatpins, which was only resolved a few weeks ago when I found some in an antique shop. I still haven’t tried them yet. To be honest, I haven’t been dressing up much at all recently. Of course it has been the very depths of winter, which is quite enough to put anyone off, and I have been painting, but dare I say I am a little bored of it? I also love my new twenties style tops and beads that I got in the January sales so much I can’t bear to be parted from them. I am so confused as to what looks best though. All the magazine and tv advice is to go for tight waists and full skirts if you have my figure, but my mum says that fifties style clothes make me look really fat, whereas the twenties ones (Usually a huge mistake for larger girls) look slimming.

Problems, problems. I am also very aware how trivial this all sounds, and it is. I feel like a traitor to intelligent women everywhere. It is starting to take over my life though. I have always been treading a very fine line where appearances were concerned, and now I think this has pushed me over the edge. I am odd really, I have always been obsessed with fashion and very concerned with how I look but have never actually done anything about it, and was quite content to look like a tramp for most of my life. Now I am actually being forced to be proactive I am getting addicted. Maybe I am just making up for all those years spent wearing leggings…

Twenties dress - dropped waist and flat chest

Cats, Comfort and Calories



Tuesday 13th March '07. 73kg (Mis-read the scales last time, still lighter than when I began though!)

It’s funny isn’t it, writing stuff down? I never intended for this to become a diary, never intended for it to get personal, but the more I write here, the more I feel the increasing urge to pour out my heart to it. I look back over the previous entries and I am not best pleased with the style, it seems amateurish to me, but I guess that’s what you get with a diary, just a continuous line of thoughts. As you have probably guessed I have not been feeling myself of late. I have been feeling a bit low recently and without wishing to sound melodramatic; in times of need food is my first port of call. It’s a funny thing, comfort eating. If anything the guilt associated with doing it just makes you feel worse. I guess it all stems from childishly equating food with love, and craving the cheap sugar rush I get from my kind of comfort eating. The trouble is, once you then get into a pattern of eating lots of nice stuff for a day or so, it is hard to break out of it, as I am now finding out. Right now I am feeling fat and frumpy and just downright ugly. Cramming my face with chocolate-based products is not going to help matters but diet and exercise is the last thing you feel like doing when you’re low. Tricky, tricky…

~

Despite my current (And momentary, I promise) lapse, I have actually been doing really well recently. I am trying to eat better and am even keeping a food diary. It’s amazing actually. I always thought I was pretty much on top of my daily food intake, and couldn’t see the point in writing it down, but it really does make a difference. I am highlighting any bad food I eat in red, and have been astonished to find that even when I think I have been eating really, really well, I still haven’t had a single day without any red in it. So far this hasn’t actually prompted me not to eat the naughty items, but it does make me feel bad about it afterwards, which is something I have never done. I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or not, but still, baby steps.

In addition the food diary I have also been trying to do half an hour a day on the dreaded exercise bike. Unless I am going out or am really busy that is. Half an hour is exactly 300 calories, but instead of uplifting me, I just find that demoralising. Ever tried counting calories? 350 constitutes your average healthy sandwich. It is also a pint of cider. Considering that I will generally consume about 5 of these (Pints, not sandwiches) on an average night out, it’s no wonder I have been putting on weight. Despite the exercise, I am not losing it either. Pounding away on the bike the other night, I just couldn’t help but think, wouldn’t it be easier if I just skipped lunch instead of going to all this effort? That can’t be a good thing. But when something like a fat-free yoghurt or a healthy oat bar is 100 calories, in order to lose weight, you’d have to eat practically nothing. (Which judging by my food diary, is something that I would find impossible)



It is a worrying thought though, the fact that food means that much to me that I cannot have even a single day without eating more than I should. I loathe those people who can forget to eat. I think about it all the time. Lunch is the high point of my day. Is that my life? Am I so sad that I have nothing more to take enjoyment in other than eating? I hope to god not, but I suspect I may finally be edging closer and closer to the truth here. When I have been on holiday in the past, I have not thought about food at all. In fact whenever I go on holiday abroad I lose tons of weight because I am just too busy and happy to think about it. My life at the moment by contrast, is in a gigantic rut. I get up, I go to uni and paint all day, come home and collapse. That’s about it. Now while I resigned myself years ago to the fact that I am going to become a sad old cat lady and die alone, I do not want to die due to chronic obesity. Something has to be done. I have asked other people though and we all agree that there is just something about painting that makes you want to eat. Maybe it’s all those calories we burn up thinking so hard. My theory is that it’s because it gets so monotonous. But never mind, it’s not like I could even go out and have fun on a diet anyway. Not at 300 calories per pint.

Cakey Favours

Wednesday 7th March '07. 71kg

Well, I am pleased to say that I now finally weigh less than I did since starting this project nearly a year ago. I am also pleased to say that this got a first in the last assessment, so I must be doing something right. (Personally, I think it was the free cake) I am also having a bit of a bad week and my body is reacting the way it always does when I’m upset - by twisting my insides into a tight little nauseous tangle, thus preventing me from eating very much. Yay for me.

Historical re-enactment society

Wednesday 24th January '07

Last night I came up against an interesting problem. In a conversation with my tutor at uni a few months ago, we decided that in order to perpetuate the myth of myself effectively I would need to be dressed up at all occasions at which I would be on display - private views, meetings, tutorials and so on. The slight obsessive streak in my brain being what it is, I have amassed quite a substantial fifties section in my wardrobe for just these sort of events. Of course, me being me, as soon as I had acquired all these fifties clothes, I fell desperately in love with the twenties. Last night I was desperate to wear a beautiful twenties style dress and hat I had just bought to a friend’s private view. The dress being very short, and my legs being rather on the ample side, however, I was forced to wear it over jeans. Not that that mattered to me, it simply gave it a bit of a twist. It was only when I revealed this outfit to my friend the night before the show that she raised the interesting problem in question. “But if you wear that” she exclaimed “you will be negating the whole point of dressing up fifties all the time.” “But I like it.” I replied sulkily. “That doesn’t matter” she said “I thought the whole project was about sustaining an image, whether you felt like it or not.”

I thought about this dilemma a lot. The trouble is, if I say I have to dress up fifties for every important event, or even (As my tutors think I should) all the time, then I will never be able to wear any other clothes again. And I do so love those twenties, not to mention my jeans! But then again, I thought, since when did this project become exclusively about the fifties? It was about turning myself into a myth. It was about acquiring a mysterious image of perfection and projecting myself as an artist. The fifties look was just one that I was particularly fond of. So I have made an executive decision not to limit myself exclusively to the fifties. As long as I am turned out to perfection my outfit may range from any era from 1900 to 1959, and I may add modern touches occasionally it the look requires it. Vintage is one thing, historical re-enactment is quite another!

Britain's Next Top Model



Sunday 21st January '07. 75.5kg (Last time I checked)

Again, it has been a while, but what with the exhibition, Christmas and the forthcoming assessments I just haven’t had the time. The show went off without a hitch thank god, and it has given me a lot more confidence in many areas, especially with ‘displaying’ myself, as it were.

The show featured several photographs of me dressed up in fifties and twenties regalia. These had been taken last summer when we went to visit my Nan who lives in Devon. One of my Mum’s ex boyfriends (Who has remained a good family friend) lives not too far away so we went on a trip to see him one day. Now he just happens to be a professional photographer. He used to work for EMI but had moved down to Dorset to set up his own photography business and get away from the rat race. Shortly before our trip to my Nan’s he had requested doing a photo shoot with me in order to advertise his new business. Not being one to pass up an opportunity to dress up, I obligingly arrived with a whole suitcase full of clothes. The shoot itself turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. It may not sound like much, but for the first time ever I felt genuinely beautiful. I was a little nervous at first, but he soon put me at ease and I took to it like a duck to water. Now don’t laugh, but I will confess that one of my secret, secret dreams has always been to be a model. When I was young I used to dream about it all the time. I knew I never could be, even when I was a size 8, due to a huge scar running across my stomach, (Being 5ft tall at the time didn’t help either) but it never stopped me secretly believing that maybe, just maybe… I used to sit there filling out all the modelling competition forms in my teen magazines for hours. I just somehow never got around to taking a photo and sending it off.

I don’t know why exactly, but I have never in my life felt pretty. Of course, there was the scar, a remnant of the accident I had when I was four, but as it is hidden most of the time, it never usually bothers me that much. I was pretty monstrous as an early teen (Glasses, braces, bad hair, overweight – the works) and had all the attendant teasing you would expect, but it was nothing too out of the ordinary. I do have a Mother who is very honest in her opinions on my appearance. I appreciate it actually, and I do love to regale my friends with the fact that I alone had a Mother who, on seeing me coming down for breakfast one morning when I was about thirteen exclaimed “Are you wearing make-up?” “No” I hesitantly replied. “Shouldn’t you put some on?" she said. The only problem with total honestly is than it can lack tact at times, especially when you are young and insecure. She has also been very vocal on the subject of my weight, always has been. I get the definite impression that she is slightly disappointed in me for looking the way I do. But she means well, and I don’t think she has warped my tender young mind too much! So all in all, I can conclude that there have been no significant events in my life to make me feel this way about myself, I just do. And so therefore, must many other women. As we women are so fond of saying, it’s just all the little things that build up over time.

The only problem with the photo shoot was that I got into it so much I actually started believing it, so to speak. I felt like a beautiful, mysterious twenties starlet. I felt, in essence like somebody else. When I finally saw the photos they came as quite a shock because there, resolutely staring back up at me was me. I was dressed up, made up and attractively lit, but I was definitely me. I don’t know what I was expecting, a miraculous transformation perhaps, but to say I was disappointed would be an understatement. I am ashamed to say that the only thought running through my head, over and over like some kind of sick mantra, was “god, am I that ugly?” It took me a good month to finally get used to the photos and start seeing them, and myself, for what they were. Now I love the photos, I think I look great in them, even god forbid, pretty.

A pictoral history

Me at about 12ish

My 14th Birthday. That dress is a size 8.

My 15th Birthday, probably. Here you can see my school uniform and the de rigeur beads we all used to wear.

At christmas during a goth moment. I forget when.

My year 11 prom. That's me on the right, in front of the vintage Cadillac we drove to school in that evening. That dress is a size 10.

My brother and I on the beach. I would have been about 16 or 17 at the time. You can see my then uniform of hoodie and flared jeans (rolled up here)

At christmas. I'm probably about 17 or 18 here.

My 21st birthday and all my lovely tea and cake things

Exhibition

Tuesday 14th November '06

I’m writing this, post beans on toast with two fried eggs on top. Ah well. In four weeks time I shall be holding a show at uni. It is essentially a fake exhibition – a retrospective at a generic and unidentified ‘Museum of Art’ featuring me as if I was a famous artist. There are no dates or indication of whether I am alive or dead, but there is an elaborate fictional story of my life. This includes such golden nuggets of information as the time I won the Nobel peace prize, and received a damehood from the Queen. Intended as a playful critique of the fake and mercenary atmosphere of the art world as I see it, and the unnecessarily competitive attitude of some of my fellow students, the show will be a play on the myth of the artist as genius and how that can be manipulated to one’s advantage. In it will feature a self-portrait in oils, and several photographs of me dressed up in my fifties attire. It feels such an alien thing to do, promoting myself like this, even if it is intended as a joke. Doing a self-portrait is also a strange thing to do as you have to study your face in such minute detail for extended periods of time. Hopefully all this will help towards the transformation of myself into a myth.

Sweet temptation




Friday 13th October '06


Over the summer, as I just couldn’t stomach the attempt to run, I decided to take up yoga. In the face of astronomical prices at the local gym, I brought a video off the internet. My god, it’s harder than it looks. I actually did a year of yoga classes when I was sixteen, but I don’t remember it being anywhere near as painful as this. The trouble was, in the absence of a handy mirror or instructor to tell me if I was doing it correctly, I didn’t know if the pain was a good thing, brought about by healthy exertion, or a pulled muscle. I soon gave up. I keep meaning to start again, but never seem to get around to it. I am also being repeatedly harassed as to why I am not running around the park at the crack of dawn every morning with my housemates. I just can’t do it. The few times I have, I just lacerated my feet. They came back bruised, blistered and bleeding every time. I could of course go and buy some super, high-tech shoes, but somehow I never seem to get around to that one either…

~

Dieting. God, I hate dieting. But I also hate exercise, and as I seem to be essentially short on time and will power, it’s rapidly becoming my only option. I don’t hold with diets. I think they’re stupid. The only diet you will ever need in my opinion is this one; eat less, eat healthily, and move more. So why can’t I take my own advice and lose weight? In my case it’s really, really simple. I just love food. Not all foods, mind you. To be honest it pretty much is exclusively desserts and savoury nibbley bits that get me. The rest I could take or leave. The thing is, I really hate salads and pretentious health foods. I just don’t like the taste, I’d rather go without dinner than eat a salad, I really would. Despite the odd binge or two, the food I eat on a regular basis is relatively healthy and good for you, (Certainly compared with some people I know) but it just isn’t slimming.

When I was four I had a serious accident that nearly claimed my life. Thanks to emergency surgery I am still here, but I was left with a condition called adhesions. This involves (Amongst other things) a highly sensitive and quirky digestive system, random attacks of excruciating pain, and an inability to digest my food efficiently. Due to this, or maybe just because nature made me that way, I have always been of a somewhat weak constitution. Just like some sort of sickly Victorian maiden really. You know the type; pale, fleshy, a little bit anaemic looking. Always riddled with a variety of minor complaints and allergies that never seem to have any definable cause or cure. Definitely in want of some good fresh air and vitamins, your grandmother would probably say. I always have to be careful with what I eat, and seem to be constantly craving something or another. I will always go with what my body craves. I trust it. Lunch today was sushi, a whole bunch of grapes and a blueberry yoghurt. The other day it was two pints of strawberry milk. (I know, I know, all probably loaded with sugar and chemicals, but that was a minor hiccough I promise). I guess I’m just making excuses really, but the point is food is a lot trickier for me than most.

My other big problem with dieting sees the most elementary really, I get hungry. Really hungry. My stomach rumbles loudly, I get shooting hunger pangs, I feel faint and weak and am unable to concentrate. And its no use telling me to just fill up on healthy snacks like carrot sticks or celery, I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work, believe me. There is also the drinking. Now I don’t really drink that often, it probably averages out to once a week I guess, but it is probably the biggest source of my rogue calorie intake. Here come the excuses.

1. I get really thirsty in hot, smoky pubs and bars, especially when I’m dancing. 2. You can never sneak in your own bottle of water, and in the places we frequent, soft drinks, and sometimes, even water is more expensive than beer. 3. Peer pressure, enough said. 4. Spirits (The lowest calorie option) are expensive and generally disgusting, even in mixers. The nicer ones, and for me that pretty much only encompasses gin and tonic, keep you stone cold sober until about three hours later when you suddenly vomit and fall over. They also don’t solve the thirst problem and leave you without the social comfort of having a drink in your hand. 5. I have absolutely no self-control, and once I’ve had one drink, I’ve had five. 6. I’m shy. Painfully shy, and frankly I’ll take all the help I can get.

I guess the only other barrier is the psychological one, namely my extreme love of sweet foods. I don’t know why, but I have the sweetest tooth. Nothing makes me feel sick. No amount of sweeties can ever defeat me. Savouries can, but never sweets.

Jamming



Sunday 1st October '06 74kg

I feel bad for not having updated this in such a while, but not that bad. I have had a blissful summer at home, doing nothing but shop, eat, paint and go for long walks in the countryside. I even made some jam. This, perhaps, being a good illustration of the slight obsessive-compulsive streak in my personality, as you have to wonder why I would spend several full weeks totally absorbed in the sticky and exhausting intricacies of jam making - eventually turning out approximately 15 jars of the stuff -when I don’t even really like jam. I normally have the attention span of a small kitten, but when something grabs me it really grabs me if you know what I mean. I am one of those annoying people who will play a song over and over until it makes myself and everyone else around me sick. Speaking of which, I brought a lot of fifties music over the holiday. I first acquired some a while back as a sort of joke, but it has kind of grown on me. I can only listen to it in a certain mood though. Now I know why everyone was so depressed in the fifties, having to listen to that crap all day. It’s just so militantly cheery, even the so-called blues. If you were at all down to start with that’ll finish you off, I swear.

~

It feels really odd to be back in the city after four months at home in the middle of nowhere. I have just gotten so accustomed to going out in public everyday with no make up and an outfit comprised of anything I could find on the back of my chair. No-one bats an eyelid at home no matter what you wear. The only situation in which they will is if you go out in a fully thought out and co-ordinated outfit with jewellery and make up to match, then they stare. Cagoules with a summer dress and wellies? Fine. Three mismatched jumpers, baggy shorts and socks with sandals? The height of normality. And you know what? I love it. Before I went to uni my general uniform was my brother’s old t-shirts about ten sizes too big, huge, baggy boy’s shorts that came well below my knees, and gigantic, boy’s black skate trainers with white socks. Now I have clothes coming out of my ears and never anything to wear. Welcome to womanhood.



Picture - me at the beach over the holidays - t-shirt, 2 jumpers, duffel coat, cagoul, wooly hat, wellies...

Something I have noticed recently is how much nicer people are to you when you look attractive. This works for both sexes. Whenever I go out looking good, often dressed up in my fifties gear, I have so much of an easier time of it with people. Being a naturally shy person with one of those miserable faces when I’m daydreaming that people just love to say “cheer up love, it might never happen” to, I have never done all that well with people. When you are dressed up pretty and cute and unthreatening people are just so much more accommodating and responsive. Without meaning to sound belittling, this effect can usually be achieved with men by getting your tits out, but girls can be a tad more difficult. There is one particular dress I own that illustrates this very well. It is a bright magenta nylon vintage number with tiny white dots on it. It has a high slash neck, short puffy sleeves and reaches to just below my knees. It resembles the party dresses I used to wear as a child in the 80s and could not in any sense of the word be described as sexy. It is cute though, and stylish, although not particularly flattering. Every time my one of my friends sees me in it he bursts out laughing. Every time I wear it out I receive no male attention, (Although frankly, the way I am going, this could be nothing to do with the dress at all) but girls just love it. I get complimented hundreds of times on it. People just walk up and start talking to me, something that never happens in real life, ever. I’m not entirely sure what point if any I am trying to make here, except the one I have made before, in order to get on in life you need to be attractive enough for people to like you, yet no so attractive as to pose a threat. Being cute helps, people think you are innocent and delicate and need protecting. People around here always assume that about me – that butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth. It’s always a good indicator of how well someone really knows me if they can see past all that. So far no one here has.

~

A while ago I was watching tv and flicked onto the second half of one of those ubiquitous makeover shows that seem to be everywhere at the moment. “Take a person and see if we can’t transform them from a perfectly nice, friendly looking (If a little frumpy) Mother figure to a false, frumpy chav in half an hour.” Only this was one with a twist. It was for men. Te basic premise of the show was that they took three obviously ugly men, one fat, one short, one tall, (Rather like Boggis and Bunce and Bean in the Fantastic Mr Fox) took them out, and tried to convince them that there was nothing wrong with the way they looked - they could have any woman in the room falling at their feet – it was just a matter of self confidence. Now when was the last time they did that for women? Even the best shows in which they actually do try to make a half hearted stab at rebuilding their shattered self confidence, (Probably ruined in the first place by all the other shows in which they ritualistically rip women to shreds as if nothing else in the world mattered apart from the bags under their eyes) they still focus most of the show on a makeover, surgical or not. It just makes me so angry. The message we are given by the media is that nothing about women matters except that they look young and sexy. Never mind their personality, it is all negated if they don’t measure up to some impossible standard no one knows exactly who set, flatter men’s egos and end up looking and sounding exactly like all the other brainwashed automatons out there. Whilst simultaneously being berated by the very same “fashion gurus” for not having their own definitive signature style. Men on the other hand can look and act how they want, but so long as they believe they are god’s gift (Not usually a difficult feat in my experience) all women will fall for them. And you know what the sad and awful thing is? It’s true. Even on the program itself they proved it. They took these hideous men with absolutely nothing interesting about them other than the fact they were pathetic enough to actually go on national television for help picking up women, put them in a room full of attractive, normal women and guess what happened? The women fell at their feet. It makes me sick.
And yes, I am aware of the ironic ramifications of this project.

~


You would not believe the hassle I have been through trying to get heated rollers. In order to complete the fifties look, it appears that in addition to the side parting and slightly shorter hair, it needs to be gently curled. Not only that but you just cannot get the size heated rollers I need anymore, which is ridiculous because I’ve seen them on tv. You can get non-heated ones, but not heated. I actually tried the non heated – a disaster of course, but it was amusing that the sweet little old lady in the shop in rural Devon that I brought them from didn’t bat an eyelid at me coming in, in a full fifties outfit and buying an armful of gigantic rollers. She probably hadn’t noticed things had changed since the fifties in the first place bless her, she probably thought that that was a perfectly normal and respectable way for a young lady to dress. Which of course it is, ahem…

Nails

Tuesday 18th July '06

I cracked. I bit one of my precious new nails off. To be fair, I think I did admirably well holding out this long anyway. I can’t stand them. I don’t know how people live like this. I cannot perform even the most basic of tasks without them breaking or bending in a way the sets your teeth on edge. Even typing this is excruciating. The trouble is, having come this far, getting rid of them seems like a failure of sorts. I have turned into that creature I have always hated, a woman who actually cares if she breaks a nail.

What Men Want?



Thursday 29th June '06

My Nan came over last night with a car full of old things she had cleared out and thought we might like. Amongst these treasures was a large brown leather vanity case that had come from some old and wealthy relations in America. I don’t know exactly how old it is, I’m guessing it dates from sometime at the beginning of the 20th Century. I don’t know, the twenties perhaps? Anyway, this case is the size of a small overnight bag and contains two compartments. The bottom compartment is empty, but the larger top section holds a mirror, compartments for jewellery and cosmetics, and many glass pots and bottles for your lotions and potions. I’m not sure what the bottom would’ve been used for, gloves or hairbrushes perhaps, but certainly not clothes. This comes from an era in which people sailed the world on huge cruise liners and took half their households with them wherever they went. If this large case was meant exclusively for cosmetics, I would’ve loved to see what they used for clothes.

It is fascinating to think how times change. Back then the more ‘expensive’ a woman was perceived to be, the more she was admired. Nowadays you are accused of being too high maintenance if you order a drink that costs more than one pound fifty. Women like the one who owned this case were supposed to be beautiful mysteries, to be treated respectfully and impressed by manly shows of door opening and bag carrying etc. Or at least that was the idea. The price you paid for that, of course, was the reason why you had so much time to spend on your beauty routine in the first place! Nowadays in our supposedly more enlightened times things have changed, but not necessarily for the better. Chivalry is dead but men’s attitudes toward women have not improved. If anything they have gotten worse, now they don’t have to treat us like delicate flowers. We are now expected by men and women alike to be strong, capable, self-sufficient and practical while still maintaining an aura of womanly mystique and femininity.

We are supposed to be as good as men at performing any task, but not too good unless we make them feel threatened. We are told by dating books to flatter men by asking for help screwing in light bulbs etc, but not to seem pathetic and useless. We are ridiculed for being too girlie in our tastes of movies, décor, drinks etc, but warned not to be too masculine either, lest they find it off-putting. We wouldn’t want to become old maids now would we? We are expected to hold a full time job whilst juggling a family and still doing the lions’ share of the household chores. In short, we appear to be suffering from some sort of massive identity crisis.

The truth is that although men say they want a strong modern woman, when actually faced with one they appear massively threatened. I have a theory that in his heart of hearts, most men wouldn’t say no to a nice little fifties wife to cook and to clean and to massage his fractured male ego. The world seems to expect us to be some sort of superwoman who has an effortless sense of style without ever going shopping, will appear expensive and desirable without costing a penny and will be powerful without being threatening. She should look beautiful without cosmetics, well groomed without any time spent, sexy whilst being oh so practical, and will absolutely not pack too much luggage!

The theatre



My pattern. I have so far made the dress in red and blue.

Monday 26th June '06

Well last night I wore my full compliment of new underwear out to the theatre. I didn’t even ladder my stockings. I wore it under my scarlet dress I had made last summer from a ‘Vintage Vogue’ 1954 pattern and felt absolutely ravishing. Until, that is, I actually got to the theatre and observed all of the other people in jeans and t-shirts.

The Knickers of my Dreams



Picture - 50s frilly Knickers from www.whatkatiedid.com - sadly not the ones I loved, but beautiful none the less.

Thursday 15th June '06

After over a year of searching I have finally found the knickers of my dreams. Well, not quite, the knickers of my dreams were beautiful a beautiful fifties style pair of French knickers in black satin that I found on a website. Everything on this website is beautiful. It is a whole site devoted to reproduction fifties lingerie, called ‘What Katie Did’. I had been coveting these knickers for months, but when the time finally came to buy them with lots of lovely birthday money, they had stopped stocking them.

These knickers on the other hand, were discovered in a random trip to Debenhams with my mum. They are fairly high waisted classic fifties knickers with a lace trim. A bit scary and Bridget Jonesey but they look gorgeous on. I was so pleased I got several pairs in cream and black with matching suspender belts and seamed stockings. I can’t get over the difference. I look about a stone lighter, and even sexy. The stockings are so much more comfortable than tights, and with these knickers you don’t even know you’re wearing the suspender belt. Not quite sure how you’re supposed to go to the loo though…

So much younger...



Pictures - Me at about 12ish
Tuesday 13th June '06. 75kg

I tried a side parting today, just for a little variety. Somewhat discomfortingly, it looked really good. It made me look perkier somehow, less haggard. My mum said it made me look younger, and by god I was actually genuinely pleased! So it has come to this. I really am old enough to be complimented with “It makes you look so much younger!” I think I will keep the side parting anyway though. It is one small step towards the fifties haircut I dream of. I have booked my annual haircut for a few weeks. I can never wait to get it all cut off. At this time of year it is like a warm blanket on my back and has now gotten to the length I describe as the depressed hippy stage. I just need to get some big heated rollers and I will be ready to go.

It makes me wonder why I never did anything to my hair before. I’ve never even had a proper parting as such, a wiggly line running roughly down the centre of my head was just where my hair fell. Being simultaneously blessed and cursed with shiny, springy, healthy hair, I have always just let it flop, as it is impossible to pin up or style. It is just too heavy and slippery. A half-hearted ponytail is about the best I can manage. I still have to get my mum to plait it for me in hot weather. I just can’t do it. As for anything more permanent like colour or styling, you can forget it. As I am again blessed with poker straight blond hair I am also terrified to screw with it. Much as I have always dreamed of raven curls, any dyes, perms or radical haircuts are right out of the question. I hope heated rollers will work because up until now, all my best attempts to curl it with irons and tongs have failed miserably – it just falls out after five minutes. Still, I need those curls if I am to complete the look.
My worst, and only real, hairstyle occurred when I was about eleven. My mum had just had her dark blond bob violently layered into a sort of shaggy, bedhead mop, which looked so great I immediately wanted the same done to my hair. What the tactful hairdresser neglected to point out to me was that what looked good on my slim, tanned, high cheekboned mother, might not look so good on a pale, chubby eleven year old with huge glasses, a brace and developing acne. When it was all done, I looked in the mirror and wanted to cry. I cannot even think of a decent way to describe how I looked, so I will just say that at least then I was doing the geek thing properly. The worst part was that despite my initial despair, in my general cluelessness regarding anything pertaining to my appearance, I actually kept it like that for several years.



In other news the unthinkable has happened, I have fingernails! All the vitamins I have been pumping myself with must be working as this small feat was formerly impossible. My nails are as soft as butter and bend at the slightest touch but they are there after only a week of not biting them down to bloody stubs, as has been my habit for the past 21 years. Maybe if I have the willpower to keep them like this I will be able to lose weight too?

Spring is definately in the air

Monday 22nd May

It has been raining solidly for about 4 days now. With nothing much to do, and virtually confined to the house, I am going slowly crazy. Taking advantage of the first short break in the clouds, I shot out of the house and into the park. It was as if nature had exploded. The whole place was like a rainforest. The warm air was damp and heavy with the scent of rain, earth and hundreds of flowers. Fat raindrops rolled off the leaves of the drooping trees, splashing into the puddles on the flooded grass. The path was slick with the pulp of fallen blossom. Walking further out of the park proper, and along the cycle path I noticed a tiny snail crawling across the track. Its ivory shell was gleaming in the light, and bending down closer, I noticed its shell sported a perfect spiral of gloss black, as if someone had just painted it on. As I continued, I heard a bike approaching behind me. I stepped over to one side of the narrow path and continued walking. After a while, wondering why the bike wasn’t passing me, I slowed down and looked over my shoulder. As I did so the young man on the bike pulled alongside me and caught my eye. “Hi,” he said. Confused, I assumed he must’ve been a music student, one of Becky’s friends I had been introduced to at some distant party or another. Racking my brains to think when and where, I replied “Hi” back. “I’m Chris,” he said, holding out his hand. Realising with surprise and amusement that he was actually a complete stranger, I shook his hand. “I’m Robyn.” I replied. I felt a little awkward, but I was sure he was just being friendly, and he didn’t look particularly threatening. He looked not much older than myself, and his slight frame, curly hair and sharp, elfin face reminded me more of some sort of street urchin out of Oliver Twist than a dangerous assailant. In the instant I was contemplating this, he kept hold of my hand, and saying, “come here,” pulled me towards him, and tried to kiss me. Shocked and a little scared I pulled away, an incredulous expression on my face. Not knowing what to do I just stood there and looked at him. Taking my expression of horror as a definite hint, he laughed and turned his bike around, cycling off a little way down the path. Still standing there like a lemon, I saw him stop and turn back. “I have a boyfriend you know, sorry.” I blurted out still a little scared. (I don’t, just for the record). He smiled at me. “You have very nice… you know,” He said, motioning to his chest. “Um, thanks?” I replied, and he cycled off.
I’m still not exactly sure what that was all about. I wonder if he does that to all the girls he meets in the park? I don’t think he was particularly dangerous, although I do think he was probably after a quick tumble in the shrubbery. I didn’t know whether to be amused or scared. I suppose I was ironically, looking at my best – I always do when I’m out walking, guess I must just radiate happiness at being out in nature. I’m ashamed to say I quite flattered. I’m even more ashamed to say that had he been more attractive, I probably would’ve kissed him.