My mother tells me I need a haircut because even she understands that, in this day and age, she can no longer instruct me kindly how many rolls from my stomach I have to lose before I am finally pretty.
I know, I know – it’s very tempting to consider my mother the villain of this story. It’s how stories work, after all, and the harder I insist that she isn’t, the more convinced you will be that she has been the villain all along. So I’m just going to say this once: my mother is no villain, and I need you to get over yourself now. I’m not here to set up a punchline for your entertainment.
Not that I’m not tempted. You see, I quite like the way I feel when I tell people stories. I imagine that, in those moment, I look like a sleek and ephemeral cello player, all flowy hair and swift fingers, definitely not in need of a haircut. It’s all artistry and confidence, and I am as ginger as a proper pre-Raphaelite painting, but you don’t really care about this, do you? You are here to hear about how a fat girl learned to love her belly rolls and large thighs, and how she flaunts them in summer heat, indifferent to what anyone might think. Here, now. Have your story:
I once got terribly drunk on measly four pints of beer, and joked afterwards about how it’s true what they say about hangovers only starting properly after you hit thirty. In reality, I’m afraid, I had those four beers on an empty stomach, because no one else was eating, and the rule is that when I’m with people, I can’t say I want to eat unless someone else says it first.
Shit, I’ve done it again, didn’t I? I built up tension, and now you’re expecting a story about something very sad; about surviving days on one half of a grapefruit, or throwing up while alone in random bathrooms. But I’m not here to tell you about eating disorders, and really, you should be grateful – didn’t you see that nasty caricature I painted in the last sentence? Seriously, I have no business talking about this. Let’s leave it to the people with more finesse, and go back to my body. How about this:
I decided to go to the swimming pool, so two days before, I shaved my legs meticulously. I’ve now had razor burn on my inner thigh for two days, and it hurts as much as it annoys, but the worst part is, I missed a few hairs, and it’s oh-so-tempting to go back to the shower and fix it. I finally convinced myself not to, by saying that only a complete and utter creeper would look at me closely enough to notice a hairy spot so close to my vagina. If we go again on Sunday, though, I’m definitely going to shave again.
If you’d like to give me some advice on how to embrace my natural hairiness and love myself better, save your breath. All winter long, my girlfriend strokes my legs with gentle fascination, and tells me about how it feels, and how nice I am to the touch. We then jump into the shower with razors, both of us, and this particular hypocrisy, we do not discuss at all.
So here is your last story: I jump into bed with my girlfriend, and we spend an hour watching Hannah Gadsby talk about how, being who she is, she spent her life learning how to diffuse tensions. Her stories, now, those are some proper stories. Hannah talks from the heart, no punches pulled, telling her stories from the inside out. She is cruel and raw, and she shocks me by saying, with baffling confidence, that she has meaning, and she will no longer put herself down. I want to be inspired, I really do; but Hannah is forty now, to my thirty one, age of wisdom juxtaposed with age of one bitch of a hangover, and see what I did there? I just put myself down to make you feel better, just like Hannah said she used to do.
Truth is, I am here to tell the story of my body; of textures, and feelings, and terror, and shape. My body is what I have, and I live with it every day, and yet, instead of taking the chance to look, for once, at what I feel about it, I just wasted seven hundred words focusing, instead, on what you might think.
In the first draft of this story, there was a different ending here, and to be completely fair, I think you would’ve liked it better. That ending was about my mother, in an effort to link the last paragraph with the first, and make a proper frame, because I am crafty like that. Trouble is, that ending was also completely wrong.
After finishing the first draft of this story, I went to see a doctor about something going wrong with my body, and my doctor told me, in very kind words, that unfortunately she can’t treat me in any way until I at least try to lose weight. I don’t even have to lose much, and if it turns out I absolutely cannot, we will think of alternatives, but before she bestows on me the grace of her prescription, I have to show some good will. Jump a hoop. Prove that I am a good fat person, the kind that suffers and sweats, and once I’ve done that, maybe she can take away some pain, all because she cares about my fucking health.
So tell me, my dear reader: if I think, somewhere deep in my head, that bodies are a spectator sport, and care overmuch about what you think about mine, maybe, just maybe, it is not the case that I need to get over myself.
Marta Zawieja is a recently-made Londoner who takes her writing seriously enough to keep talking about the novels she is going to write, but not enough to actually have any publications. Twitter: mostbeautifulb3
Image: drip by Amancay Maahs (Creative Commons)