Tonight, during my shift at the bar, I found myself discussing Nietzsche with a Harvard man. It was an interesting discussion, but, unfortunately, he drank his way through it. So by the time he asked me for my number for the third time, he was… how shall I put it?… shit-faced. When I, for the third time, turned him down (stating, again, my rule about never giving out my number at work), he didn’t take it so well.
“You think you’re too pretty for me,” he slurred. “But you know what? Your hips are too wide. Guys don’t like that. You’ve got a big ass. Your boobs are alright, but they’re not great. You should lose some weight.”
And all of a sudden, I wasn’t the confident, ambitious, accomplished girl who’d set off alone for foreign pastures and blossomed. It didn’t matter that I have four jobs that I love, a social life that’s full of excitement, a new band, a creative project that I’m devoted to, and a room of my own. I was back as the shy little girl who’d starved herself as a pre-teen in an attempt to hide the curves she developed before everyone else.
I had him kicked out.
And then I locked myself in the bathroom to try to get rid of the lump in my throat.
As someone who has always struggled with body image, I think I’ve done pretty well these last six weeks. I live in a city of stick insects, yet I’ve paced the streets in my dark colours and fur, feeling more confident and glamorous in my curves than I ever have before. But it’s like a crystal hourglass, body confidence. For as long as it lasts, it shines beautifully. Then, eventually, it runs out, someone flicks it to see if it’s still working, and it shatters, leaving you in a helpless heap of sand.
I’m currently waiting, post shift, for the first bus of the morning, and, alone, in this dark world before dawn, I’m trying to scoop myself up and put myself back together. I wish someone were here to do it for me. She’d tell me all the things I know, but sometimes forget I do. She’d give me the advice I wish I remembered to follow. Here’s some of what she’d say:
When someone responds, either positively or negatively, to the way you look, they’re not judging you. They are judging a tiny fraction of you.
Negatives are just as subjective as positives. If you know someone who finds Justin Bieber attractive, you probably know someone who finds Kate Moss unattractive too.
You know that expression: “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”? Whoever made it up clearly hasn’t stuck a spoon in a jar of Nutella recently. Go on; try it.
When you get a chance, stand in front of the mirror naked, and find all your faults. No, you don’t have to love them. If you can change them, make a decision one way or another: “Am I going to care, or am I not?”. If you can’t change them, give them a personality and make friends with them. If romantic comedies are anything to go by, our ugly friends are always the funniest.
Know that it is scientifically proven that the longer you spend with someone whose company you enjoy, the more physically attractive you find them. You don’t have to think you’re beautiful, and neither does everyone else. But someone will, and most people find that one person is all they need for a lifetime of happiness.
Remember, that if you’re not coupled up, it doesn’t mean you’re less attractive or have less to offer than those who are. This is not a school disco with the undesirable loitering on the sidelines, hoping someone will ask them to dance. Because we’re not all in the same poorly lit gymnasium. Finding a partner isn’t about comparisons, or status, or ranking. It’s about stumbling across that one person who happens to fit with your puzzle piece, and that usually takes more than sitting on a bench and waiting for them.
No matter what happens, wear nice underwear. Then, when that asshole tries to rupture your confidence, you can look him in the face and think: “You have no idea how good I look without my clothes on.”
Never feel guilty about taking pride in your appearance. It’s a facet of you like anything else. But keep it in perspective. Once in a while, roll out of bed, and do nothing – don’t put on make-up, or touch your hair, and only change clothing to put on whatever is most comfortable. Then go out into the world and see that, really, it isn’t any different. Assholes will still be assholes, and idiots will still be idiots. But your friends (if they’re any sort of friends at all) won’t disown you. People in the street won’t notice, and the hot guy who works in the coffee shop will still smile at you.
P.S. I followed the last piece of that advice. I am currently sitting, without make-up, in a plus-sized sweatshirt, using the wifi that came with my espresso, to post this blog. And the hot guy who works in the coffee shop did just smile at me. The world is looking a little brighter today.