“Are you going to shave for the wedding?”
This is something I’ve been asked quite a lot recently. Sometimes repeatedly by the same person, which is a little annoying. One of my friends is not a fan of the face fuzz and clearly feels that I would look better clean shaven on the big day. This is fine, but as I’ve stated that my opinion opposes this the matter should be laid to rest now, right?
This is the first time I’ve really grown a beard properly. Prior to this I just used to occasionally let it grow for a while because I was too lazy to shave regularly. I am terrible at shaving, and would emerge smooth faced and bleeding like a character in an ’80s slasher movie.
As a student nurse I had to keep myself tidy while on placement, mainly because of the constant whining of my mentor. However, since I decided nursing wasn’t for me, I’ve not shaved in about a year and a half.
I’m not sure I should share that as it highlights just how patchy and crap my facial hair growth is. Seriously, look at the above photo. There’s enough hair there for me to rock a decent moustache and chin beard, but it’s all spread out across my face, meaning that my beard isn’t the best. I wish it was like one of those old magnet and iron filings things where I could just move the hairs around my face until I had a decent full beard.
I’d love to boast a full on Grizzly Adams beard, but alas, my hair grows in a stupid pattern. At least it now looks like an intentional beard, for a while it just looked like laziness.
This is a downside of having a beard at the moment. I get the sense that people see it as me following the current trend for hirsute men. This isn’t true, it’s just a coincidence that beards are “in” while I’ve grown mine.
The reasons for my beard? Simple really;
- My hatred of shaving
- Laziness. It’s one less thing to do during my early morning zombie state.
- MWF likes the hairy look, so making her happy is an additional perk.
- The last time I did shave, for a job interview, I looked really young. And stupid. So, I’ll stick with mature and stupid for the foreseeable future.
I’ll give the beard a trim before the wedding, so that I look a little smarter than normal, but I don’t think shaving it off would do much.
Besides, it doesn’t matter how tidy I look at the start of the day, sooner or later I’ll spill food or drink down myself and shatter the illusion of being a smartly dressed grown up.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
I don’t think it was deliberate. I don’t think a child that small is capable of such casual meanness but unknowingly the five year old was trolling every single member of Chub Club.
As we queued nervously to be weighed or flicked through our books realising treats would have to be sacrificed this little girl danced happily in the centre. The focus of all the group’s envy.
Firstly, she was happy and comfortable in a way that had abandoned her elders present. Her dancing was untempered by self consciousness, boundless enthusiasm making up for any ability or music. But more than this, and the real reason for the jealousy was that she happily are a Cadbury’s Wispa without any remorse.
I’m not saying nobody else present has eaten chocolate recently, but I doubt any have done without a twinge of guilt or lack of thought.
I’d eaten a pack of M&Ms with the Superbowl and had regretted it. As I queued for the scales I felt distinctly pessimistic about how I had done this week. The M&Ms had followed a pepperoni pizza and been followed by a small stack of ginger nuts.
It was barely a drop in the excess of Superbowl weekend globally, but it was still a mistake and a moment of greedy weakness, under the flimsy excuse that it was a special occasion.
So I wasn’t feeling confident.
I paid my membership and then emptied my pockets, removed my shoes and hoodie and rechecked my pockets. I neared the front of the line, the scales looming and my spirits low.
I’d followed the new regime, but there had been a few wobbles and there was nowhere to hide. I hadn’t given my all and I was about to reap the consequences on the display.
Stepping into the scales I watched the number climb. And climb and then stop.
I gaped in surprise.
I had lost 4.5 lbs.
I was pleased with my slightly undeserved success and decided that I needed to steady myself. The wobbles must stop and I had to fully commit. Stock to the rules and not go over my treat allowance.
I prepped a salad and healthy snack for my shift the next day and watched TV.
But as I lay in bed awaiting sleep the voice of greed started to whisper.
“I could murder a Wispa right now.”
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
I balanced on one leg like an overweight, graceless flamingo. I managed to get my leg free of my trousers and placed it on my empty trainer.
This had to be one of the most awkward changes in my life. I felt uncomfortable, for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, there was the smell, which was rather unpleasant. It was a toilet, and recently used, and being a toilet I didn’t want to touch anything more than I had to. I especially didn’t want to put my socks on the floor. If you’ve ever stood in anything wet wearing socks you’ll know it’s a deeply unpleasant experience. Hence the drunk flamingo bit.
The other reason I felt awkward was because it was a disabled toilet and I felt a bit of a heel for possibly depriving someone of the only toilet accessible to them. I prayed to the gods that nobody was waiting outside.
Luckily there wasn’t and completely changed I left and headed for the bus home.
So why was I changing in a toilet?
Well, I’d finished work and it being a warm day was a little sweaty. My uniform is uncomfortable, and I didn’t fancy wearing it on a warm, full bus. But this meant finding somewhere to change.
We have a staff changing room but it has zero cover. No cubicles or corners.
You have to change right out in the open. This means waiting until it’s empty and praying that nobody comes in because as soon as the door opens they’ll see you.
Just writing that makes me feel on edge.
I haven’t had to change in a public changing room for years. Not since school. And if I can avoid it for another 15 years I’ll be happy. I have no desire for anyone except for MWF to see me half naked. And of course that won’t be until after our wedding.
But anyone else? The idea makes me nervous.
I’ve been this way since primary. When I was in year six we used to have swimming once a week. I can distinctly remember there was a time when changing after didn’t bother me. We were all 10-11 so it was before any adolescent insecurity crept in.
I can remember goofing off. Wrapping a towel around my head and doing an impression of Whigfield, who’s “Saturday Night” a year or so earlier.
It got some laughs and I kept doing it for a few weeks.
Now I was a chunky kid. I had what we called “puppy fat” and I think part of me honestly thought that it would all fall off during my teens and I’d emerge like a ripped butterfly, able to realise my dream of playing for Wales and Swansea.
Of course, this didn’t happy and my puppy fat grew into full grown adult St Bernard fat.
But back in the mid nineties none of this bothered me. I was chunky bit didn’t think much about it.
Until it was pointed out by some of my schoolmates. And not politely. It went on for a few weeks, and I came to dread those swimming days. I was a crap swimmer anyway, so it wasn’t like it was massively fun to begin with. But being called names afterwards soured it even more.
It got worse in secondary school and all the enjoyment I’d got playing football in primary evaporated. I started “forgetting” my kit on a regular basis, and PE became my least favourite lesson. I wasn’t the only chunky kid. Or the chunkiest, but when I did have to change I just did it quickly, quietly and as closely to the corner as I could.
To be fair I never got any grief at comp. Well, aside from once when two kids who I did PE with tried having a go. For sports two classes were teamed up and my class was put with one of the classes that was for less academic kids. These two in particular were knuckle dragging morons of the lowest order. Think Crabbe and Goyle but without the charisma.
Now one of them was about the same size as me, so when they had a go bout my belly and budding mannaries I was surprised. I then told him that it was a bit rich as he wasn’t exactly slim and to get out of my way, as I needed to get to English and I’m sure their teacher had set up some colouring in for them to do.
Being a gobby, sarky git paid off and the surprise of me actually firing back meant they didn’t bother me again.
But even without outside influence my insecurities over changing grew like an unattended plant that soon takes over everything.
I was starting to get interested in girls, and starting to realise this was a one way street. And that I didn’t look a thing like the slim, toned celebrities they fancied.
On a family holiday to Jersey I wrecked a beloved Superman shirt leaving it a weird purple-pink colour because I refused to swim in the pool shirtless.
I’m more comfortable with myself in a lot of ways. I voice my opinions, speak out for myself and don’t worry about my looks that much. But hopping about in that disabled toilet I realised that I still have those old hang ups.
I need to get better. In Sri Lanka I sweltered in the sun, only taking off my shirt when I knew nobody was about and keeping it within reach at all times. I went in the sea a couple of times, running in and out to avoid being spotted.
I haven’t swam in years but with Florida coming next year I’d like to be a bit more comfortable, so that even if I can’t quite summon the courage to take my shirt off I can at least go in the pool and risk a wet T-shirt moment. If I want to cross “swim with dolphins” off the bucket list I need to do something.
Hopefully the weight loss (which has stalled of late) will help and maybe getting a bit fitter again will make me feel more positive too.
I really appreciate and respect all those who promote body confidence and self love, but when it comes to myself I’m not quite there. I would love to be able to strut down a beach or go swimming without feeling self conscious and hating how I look, worrying what people think. I’d love to be comfortable and confident.
I’ve gotten better, and don’t worry about looking stupid as much. I’ve quit running from cameras too. Hell, I’ve even started putting selfies on Instagram.
But I still need to get to the stage where I don’t look in the mirror and hate what I see. And where I can change clothes without having to find the most secluded spot I can. It would just make my life a lot easier and happier if I could just do my changing in a room where I wasn’t worried about touching anything.
Sorry, this kind of turned into a ramble.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
I’ve written before about the fact that MWF and I watch a lot of wedding shows on TV (here and here) and while we took a break after getting a bit of a wedding overdose we still stick on Say Yes To The Dress from time to time.
They’ve added another spin-off recently (joining Atlanta, Bridesmaids and Canada, with a UK based version on the horizon too) and we caught our first episode today. The show is called Say Yes To The Dress: Big Bliss.
The difference with the latest offering is that it exclusively features plus sized brides. This is kinda cool as it shows that a perfect wedding isn’t just the preserve of thinner women and it’s probably inspiring and reassuring for the curvier ladies out there.
Also the staff featured are lovely, and treat their customers with kindness and sensitivity.
These are all good things, and I’m glad to see that body diversity is being addressed and celebrated. Both here and on the other TLC show Curvy Brides.
While I applaud this there is something that nags at me about these shows.
Why do the plus size brides have to be exiled to their own little boxes? Why couldn’t Say Yes just feature more body types on their original shows?
It feels like while it’s a step forward in acceptance of body diversity it’s not a massive one, and it still sets curvier women on the outside, as being “different” and not letting them join the party properly.
I’m glad the new show exists, but it’s kinda sad that the “mainstream” show doesn’t include different body types. Still, a small step forward is still progress.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
A few weeks ago I saw a lot of stuff about American Eagle, a fashion company launching a video for their “Aerie Men” range, which seemed to be following the company’s steps towards using more diverse body types in their advertising and avoiding Photoshop. This was widely celebrated as the body positivity movement has thus far been largely geared towards female bodies.
This campaign, following shortly on the heels of Zach Miko being the first plus size male model signed to IMG was good news. It felt like finally different male bodies would be shown, and this would be an interesting new step towards body acceptance and a weakening of traditional beauty standards.
Unfortunately it all turned out to be an early April Fools gag and there was no new range for larger men. American Eagle tried to say they were still for body positivity and would stop retouching their models but it still felt like a massive kick in the teeth.
Female body positivity has been a growing and admirable trend, with women arguing that there is no one form of beauty and that all bodies are beautiful. It’s been a long road, with several wins along the way, but still far to go.
The group has benefitted from a large online movement spearheaded by bloggers like Bethany Rutter (Arched Eyebrow) who have shown that style has no size limit and models like Tess Holliday AKA Tess Munster, who is vocal in the “eff your beauty standards” campaign. As detailed in the show Plus Sized Wars (more here) this can have a massively positive impact on women who finally have people like themselves to look at.
The other key is that plus sized brands treat their customers with respect. Their curves are never a joke, they are not the target of parody, they are shown to be beautiful, glamorous and sexy.
That’s what American Eagle got wrong, they made male body image a joke, suggesting that men don’t need it. That body image issues and positivity is something exclusively for women.
And that is bollocks. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed that 18% of boys surveyed were “highly concerned” about their weight and physique (here). It showed that many young men were worried about losing weight and toning up.
Young men have the same pressures as young women. The images we see in the media are rather narrow and the implication is that the average Joe just isn’t good enough. It could be said that public attack and criticism of larger men lacks the intensity than that geared at female celebrities, but it is still there, and it still has a detrimental effect.
The problem is that men are traditionally less engaged in fashion and stuff than women, so while fashion bloggers have gained a toehold to fight for body diversity among women, a male blogger is unlikely to gain the same following as men are less likely to seek out a body image hero in the same way.
This is a shame, and tied in with the fact that for a guy to say another dude looks good is still considered shaky ground for many. Kelvin Davis, who featured in the Aerie Men campaign and who may have been unaware of the joke, is a blogger and Instagrammer, (his blog is Notoriously Dapper) but he is one of a small group and doesn’t really have the platform that his female counterparts have access to.
But while the men of the world need to raise their voice and push for change in the way that female body confidence campaigners have, some responsibility lies on the brands and the fashion industry. While Zach Miko’s signing is a step in the right direction it could be criticised in the manner some women voiced in Plus Sized Wars, he’s an improvement on the traditional male model but he isn’t exactly representative of the average larger bloke.
Even brands that cater to larger men are guilty of sticking with the stereotypical slim and toned model. Take Jacamo, the online retailer who cater to up to size 5XL, but who use images like this to sell their goods.
I mean, the dude looks good in the hoodie but it’s hardly going to help the chubbier customer. Will that suit a larger body type? If I use myself as an example of what a Jacamo customer might look like, it’s not really a good fit is it?
The male ideal of body and the body image issues men experience is a real concern and can cause serious problems for individuals. But it is still something that is not discussed or being addressed enough, because of old fashioned ideas of how a man should be and the toxic idea that discussing insecurities and fears is somehow a bad thing.
We need to encourage boys to talk about how they feel and we need to help change our idea of what is attractive. Men come in different shapes and sizes and there is beauty in them all.
It’s something that needs to be properly handled, not turned into a punchline. American Eagle really dropped the ball on this, and it was a very misjudged April Fool.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
So at the start of the year, like many others, I made resolutions for the coming twelve months. Top of the list was to lose weight, something I’ve wanted to do for a while.
Since going back to uni in autumn ’13 I’ve steadily gained weight, cancelling out the benefit of the regular running and walks to work I was doing before.
I try to eat fairly healthily but I admit that I am guilty of snacking too much and taking the easy option of takeaways. This along with stints of unemployment means that I knew I was getting heavier and decided that 2016 would be the year to make a change.
Luckily this year I have MWF to help me, as she wants to lose a little too. MWF has found us a plan to follow which will help a lot, rather than me just trying in ignorance. It’ll also be good having a partner to help me keep going and as we eat together it makes sense.
At this point I just want to make it abundantly clear that MWF and I have decided to lose weight because both of us want to be more comfortable. It’s a personal choice and I appreciate that different people are comfortable at different points.
Do what’s right for you.
If you’re big and happy and comfortable with yourself, then keep doing what you’re doing. If you feel you’d be happier a little smaller, then do that. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do or what size you have to be, when you feel good about yourself, you feel good and that’s the main thing. Love yourself.
With the plan starting this week I decided to see just what the situation was. I won’t lie, I’ve avoided the scales for quite a while. The thing is having a hard numerical value attached changes how you look at things, or at least it does to me.
I mainly want to lose weight so I’m more comfortable with myself and how I look, and that’s an abstract. Recently I’ve felt more self conscious and awkward, not liking what I see in the mirror or how my clothes fit. I want to get somewhere where I can look at myself without feeling bad, or go to work not worried that my belly is going to make a guest appearance.
You can’t measure self acceptance and comfort. I can’t tell you what weight I need to hit because I have no clue what it is. I could feel great at x or I might still want to lose some more and get to y.
Someone might tell me I need to hit z, but perhaps I’ll feel less comfortable there. Or I might find it too hard to stay there, the constant food obsession and worry cancelling out any benefit I get from it.
So, with some reluctance, I stepped onto the scales.
It was worse than I thought.
I’m not delusional, I know that I’m heavy. I know I’ve put some on, but looking down at that number was a surprise. How had I got that bad? I really needed to make an effort, as this was worse than I’d expected.
I don’t want to feel like this. I don’t want to feel guilty or ashamed of my body. I need to make this change so that I can feel better.
I’m a big believer in accepting and loving yourself, that there is no ideal and the main thing is to be happy. I applaud and love those people who seek to encourage body confidence and change our society’s narrow view of beauty.
Every time I hear someone talking about loving their body and being happy in the face of negativity I can’t help admire those people, and share their stories to help others.
Turns out I need to help myself. I need to lose a bit of weight, because I have let myself go and more importantly I feel bad about myself. I need to make this change, for my own well being.
I’m going to keep looking at the scales, so I know I’m succeeding. But I’m not setting a hard target, because I don’t want to get too obsessed with those little numbers.
I will stop when I want to. When I feel good about myself, when I am comfortable. Not when a scale tells me to.
Sorry, a bit of a ramble, I know, but thanks for sticking with me. And I’ll keep you posted on how I do and feel.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Last night I took MWF out to see a show. She’s been stressing with uni assignments and a comedian she liked was coming to town so it would be a nice treat. The comedian was Luisa Omielan who was performing her Am I Right, Ladies? Show at the Glee club.
Omielan is doing alright for herself even if she hasn’t quite broken big yet, but I think that might happen soon as she is a real comic talent.
It was obvious that it was going to be a unique show as the warm up act was Omielan herself on stage dancing to the DJs music and taking photos and hugging audience members.
The show itself is a pacy 75 minute set that flies by and is powered by Omielan’s energetic performance. MWF says she kinda reminds her of Russell Howard in the sense of the vibe and energy and it’s not an unfair comparison.
Her show deals with various issues such as body image, slut shaming, getting over an ex and depression, which sounds heavy but Omielan keeps the laughs flowing and pushes her message for female confidence and being happy with yourself in an entertaining way.
I really dug the show, with and laughed a lot, applauding as well. Omielan is an unconventional performer in some ways but she does a fantastic job of making you laugh while making valid points. She clicked well with the audience, apart from two at the front who annoyed her and she got moved back, and worked the crowd well.
I also enjoyed her use of music throughout the show and her honest, open nature during the show.
I would definitely recommend one of her shoes and will keep an eye out for her in the future as she’s a likeable, funny and engaging presence on stage.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
At the weekend MWG and I watched Plus Sized Wars a Channel 4 documentary about the plus sized fashion industry. It’s available on their on demand service All 4 and I recommend checking it out.
We decided to watch it because one of MWG’s friends is off to work for one of the companies featured and had mentioned the show.
It was interesting to watch as it dealt with the challenges facing both sides. The plus sized brands (Yours, Evans and Taking Shape) had more customers but especially in Evans’ case, they had to struggle to look fashionable. My Mum once described Evans as “the fat lady shop” (she shopped there at the time) and it’s clear this was the brand’s image.
The companies needed to address what their audience wanted, and to do this they enrolled a group of plus sized fashion bloggers, to advise and model their collections. This was something MWG really liked because it showed that the company was interesting in using real women and listening to them.
It was cool to see and the bloggers seemed a nice bunch of ladies who got on well and who were pleased that finally the fashion industry was trying to cater for their body shape. It was wonderful to see these confident, stylish women talk passionately about their bodies and their acceptance of their differences.
Body positivity and confidence is a big deal, far too many women (and men) struggle to be comfortable in their own skin. Constant comparison with the narrow view of beauty the media puts forward is damaging to self esteem, happiness and can ruin lives.
The bloggers were doing good work in changing this, in showing that you can be confident and stylish regardless of your size (one of the designers interviewed said that he wasn’t there to talk about size, but style and said simply “style has no size”). The bloggers showed a different path, a path of acceptance and happiness. They argued that fashion should be for everyone and that bigger women shouldn’t be left out, pushed to the side and given dull, shapeless outfits.
Hear, hear I say.
The bloggers’ online popularity meant that the fashion world had to listen. If there are thousands of people saying one thing or following these blogs it was simply good business to try and cater to them. The bloggers were actually changing things, being involved in the process and helping these companies move forward.
MWG, a voluptuous girl herself, thought this was a very good thing, that “real people” were used as models, replacing the previous use of slightly bigger models who still didn’t really reflect the customer. And she also liked that the people interviewed were respectful and that the show’s tone mirrored this.
Of course, with documentaries like this the real strength and interest comes from the personalities involved and their own stories. The bloggers, including Bethany Rutter (Arched Eyebrow), Callie Thorpe (From the Corners of the Curve) and Danielle Vanier (self-titled) were engaging, vocal and charming in their interviews.
Yours decided to call in the big guns for their new range, hiring American model and social media phenomenon Tess Holliday aka Tess Munster. I’ve mentioned Munster in a previous post and am a fan, especially of her #effyourbeautystandards movement. She appeared to be a force to be reckoned with and it was interesting that the doc captured the changing attitudes of the fashion industry with Holliday signing for a major agency.
It was further evidence of the power of social media, as her large following helped open doors but its hard to argue that she didn’t deserve it or that it wasn’t a big step forward. Bethany Rutter celebrated the decision particularly as Munster was vastly different from anything that had come before. She was a true plus size woman, who many could relate to more than any other model who’d been put forward.
Munster’s trip to the UK also included a meet and greet with fans, which showed the positive impact she and her body confidence stance can have. Nervously on route to meet her heroine was Hannah Boal, a UK based blogger (Fabulously Fat Fashion). Bullied for years it was clear that Munster had inspired her and helped her learn to love and accept herself. Their meeting was sweet, moving and you couldn’t help but appreciate the positive effect Munster’s success has had on young women and how they view their bodies.
The other story followed was that of blogger and model Georgina Horne (Fuller Figure Fuller Bust), who joined others for a photo shoot and who highlighted a problem with the plus size community. Horne was like many of the others in her passion for fashion and belief that the plus sized woman has been ignored, however she differed in one respect. She was trying to lose weight and get in slightly better shape.
It was here that she encountered problems. Like Dylan going electric she was viewed as a traitor by some. I felt this part of plus sized community was mistaken.
Horne was still proud of her body, and confident in it, but she wanted to improve herself, for herself, and I think that’s fine. You can be happy and confident and still feel there’s room for improvement without being a hypocrite or betraying the cause. Horne wasn’t talking about losing tons of weight and becoming a size zero, neither was she hating herself or other larger women, she just personally felt as though she’s be happier if she got in slightly better shape. And isn’t that what the whole movement was about, women being happy with themselves?
It was a great doc, well made and engaging and it’s good to see the plus sized woman finally being treated with respect and catered to on the high Street, and to be introduced to some fabulously confident women. I’ve included links to their blogs because if you’re into fashion and are plus sized I think they’ll be a positive thing to see, and they all seemed quite nice, with no bitchiness.
If anyone knows any male plus size fashion bloggers let me know, so the young men can get the same thing.
I think the show was good and I think it’s great that the internet and social media allows women to express themselves and find a community of people like them and to realise that beauty is a varied thing. This can help them gain more confidence, accept themselves and generally be a bit happier, and that is most definitely a good thing.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.