I was absolutely delighted to discover that my waist was only 28 inches, until I realised I had started at the wrong end of the tape measure!!

This week I have made numerous trips to the kitchen to open the same fridge and the same cupboards in the hope that they will have magically had their contents refreshed with something delicious for me to eat.

 

Alas, since I have not been shopping, their contents remained pretty much unchanged (apart from the bits I ate). It got me thinking about the magic wardrobe in the Chronicles of Narnia and I sat and imagined how satisfying it would be if I could just pop into my wardrobe and instantly be at the supermarket. I know it’s not exactly the most wondrous use of a portal between kingdoms but I’m really lazy and I hate going shopping. 

When frequently eyeing the chocolate that we keep in the house for the kids and desperately trying to refrain from polishing it all off myself, I have taken to having a small bowl of Chocolate Rice* to stave off my chocolate pangs (*much like Coco Pops but a generic supermarket brand that is desperately trying to sound and look like Coco Pops all the while trying to remain on the barely legal side of trademark infringement).

Now I have of course heard the slogan “so chocolatey they even turn the milk brown” but I was quite unprepared for the fact that they would,  how should I put this delicately,  have a mildly laxative effect!  What on earth do they put in them?

For years I have partaken daily of a bowl of bran flakes in the hopes of keeping myself moderately regular, as, like so many other aspects of my personality, my digestive system is also a bit on the lazy side but had I known about the wonders of this chocolate cereal, I would have switched to them years ago, not only do they taste heavenly but literally just an hour or so after consumption they are quite effectively purged from the system. The sin free treat! Is it just me or has anyone else experienced this?  I have read every square inch of the packet and there is no hint or suggestion of them purporting to have these properties specifically.

How have they not made it on to the list of ‘superfoods’ along with such delights as Acai Juice, Blueberries, Edamame beans, Flaxseed, Canola Oil and all the other currently fashionable ingredients that probably no one would ever think to eat unless they were branded as a ‘superfood’ with their various additional health benefits.  Though, to me, a ‘superfood’ would be an ever replenishing tub of salted caramel ice-cream or a never ending bag of salt and vinegar crisps. They would be super indeed and surely the release of happy endorphins could medically be considered to be a health benefit? Alas, it would seem that only the most boring foods, we are told, seem to have any real benefit. Munching on a bowl of seeds or swallowing some revolting smoothie is not really my idea of fun, no matter how many times I am promised that after only FOUR weeks I will achieve my ideal BMI.  I just can’t help scoffing the odd croissant or cake, all the while looking in the mirror and wondering to which part of my body it will immediately add several inches!

Why are we so readily judged by the entire world if we carry a few extra pounds and just what is this constantly escalating obsession with ‘image’? Not just from a weight and shape point of view, that is sadly rather old news, but now it extends to a whole multitude of other ‘treatments’ and ‘preparations’ that we are supposed to feel shamed into performing regularly if we are not to be considered a lazy, frump who has rather let themselves go.

Back in my teenage days, getting ready for a night out (for me anyway) used to involve; having a bath, shaving one’s legs and armpits, coating ‘the standard issue permed hair’ with various applications of Extra hold hairspray, applying some makeup, putting on my new outfit from River Island, having a liberal spray of Impulse or whatever was the fragrance of the moment from The Body Shop and downing a bottle of Archers Peach Schnapps with friends!  That was what we called ‘ready’!

These days the list is endless:-

Hair –  must be ‘fresh out of the salon’ flawless and will often also involve clip in extensions, wefts or tresses.

Face – Make up has become so ridiculously complicated, with the advent of ‘contouring’ which is effectively applying three of four undercoats of foundation and powder, before you can even start on what I would actually call applying make up (eyeshadow, blusher, mascara and lipstick), false eyelashes, some very questionable drawn on eyebrows or semi-permanent tattoos, lip plumper, matte lipstick, vinyl lip gloss and perhaps a smattering of chocolate hundreds and thousands just to finish it all off….the overall effect is often that of a complete mask….Who is the woman (or person) hiding under all of that, it’s anybody’s guess!

Body – there is so much going on that this will have to be broken down into a sub-list

  1. Fake tan or just a slightly sun kissed look using tinted moisturiser but apparently just showing your natural skin is a big No, No!  Apparently smelling like a bag of two pence pieces or stale cake is more attractive than just looking pale and interesting.
  2. Even more contouring – believe it or not, I have seen videos on You Tube of people contouring their feet for the perfect summer “flip flop’ look, contouring ‘fake abs’ if they are to be wearing a short cropped top, contouring their shins to make their legs look longer and leaner. Is this really a thing? I just can’t believe it. I even saw a video of someone applying fake freckles! The only time I’ve ever seen fake freckles applied before is if you were going to a fancy dress party dressed as a ‘St Trinians’.
  3. A zillion different designs and options for sculpting your muff.  Fair enough, no one likes an unkempt bush and I certainly don’t expect my husband to have to leave bookmarks down there, but I do draw the line at glitter and jewels. Who wants one of them falling off and working their way into places that they really shouldn’t be.
  4. Body sculpting underwear if indeed one is fat and wobbly enough to need it, and shockingly by today’s standards ‘fat’ seems to mean anyone who is larger than a UK size 12!
  5. Nails – Acrylics, Gel, Shellac, with or without gems, nail-art, glitter, ombre-dip. Zzzzzzzzzz.

And if all of the above isn’t sufficient to make you ‘beautiful enough for this world’ there are countless Snapchat filters and apps for making immediate touch ups to your photo’s before you dare put them on social media. With one swipe you can get rid of that second-chin or that unbecoming spot! Crows feet and scowl lines can become a thing of the past. You can even nip in your waist if you feel it is too expansive. Though, apparently, care must be taken with regard to your surroundings as people have all too often given their door frame an hour glass figure as well in the process.

The overall result is that as a culture or society, we are becoming ever more brainwashed into what we are led to believe is ‘body perfect’ or ‘beautiful’. With the selfie-culture, we are becoming increasingly more fixated on how we look, and yet conversely I am now reading many more articles about an uprising in women who are actively trying to move away from this fixation and to concentrate on a far more natural, healthy look. One that is consistently achievable without the constant primping and plumping and photoshop edits. Many people believe that we owe it to future generations to turn this obsessive tide so that our children and our children’s children do not develop into adults in a society where the primary concern is ‘image’.

We are all painfully aware that these new ‘trends’ are foisted upon us in a ploy to sell ever growing lines of merchandise and the fashion and beauty industry is a veritable goldmine, one of the most lucrative industries in the world.

I am no complete slouch. I have standards, I am perfectly hygienic, I like to keep myself and my hair clean and fragrant, I like to wear a little makeup to enhance my features, I like perfume, I enjoy clothes that suit my shape, my favourite jewellery, I like to keep my legs, armpits and any ‘other’ areas stubble-free, I shape my eyebrows. I do take pride in my appearance, I just don’t believe that it should be an all consuming egotism or on the flip side a full-time concern that simply breeds anxiety and a lack of self-confidence.

It is not the right of a bombastic advertising campaign, whose primary aim is to ultimately sell you something that you neither want or need in your life, to tell you what you should be doing in order to be actively taking pride in yourself.

Confidence starts on the inside. Self-pride (dictionary definition)  a feeling of deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements or the consciousness of one’s own dignity.

I would love to believe that as a society we should feel it is more important what is inside of a person; their mind, their beliefs, their principles, their creativity, their humour, their intellect, their compassion, their imagination, their life experiences, than to be all consumed with how someone looks. I know it can be difficult not to be judgemental about appearances, I’m sure we are all guilty of this sometimes, we all have our standards and naturally we sometimes subconsciously judge others by those but this is as a direct result of the culture in which we live. We need to look beyond the purely aesthetic. We need to stop body shaming. We need to stop insinuating that only certain people have a right to wear a bikini, by stopping the cruel jokes about harpoons and whale ships. We need to stop condemning anyone who doesn’t socially conform to the ‘production line of perfect specimens’ to a life of potential ridicule, misery and rejection.

We need to stop admiring false images and start embracing souls.

There is nothing wrong with wearing makeup to ‘enhance’ one’s looks, to stay trim and fit and healthy if you so desire, to treat yourself to nice clothes, expensive adornments and to indulge in the odd pamper day.

None of these things should be frowned upon in moderation, it is of course perfectly natural for anyone to want to look their very own variety of dazzling on a special occasion to differentiate from how they look when they are simply doing the housework or pushing a trolley around the supermarket. We will all, naturally, want to look our absolute very best on our wedding day, or in some cases ‘days’, going to lengths that we would not normally go to in order to make a conscious effort to look immaculate. I personally believe and forgive me if I unashamedly reset feminism by about seventy years by just saying so, but it gives me great pleasure to look good for my husband because I believe that it is both respectful and admiring to do so, in turn, he equally likes to look good for me. I believe that is a perfectly healthy attitude.

BUT I don’t believe that the culmination of all of this garnish in life should extend to a full-time job or to completely disguise who we really are on a day to day basis and I don’t think it is helpful to promote such extremes.

I’ve seen little girls maybe only six or seven years old, having ‘spa-day’ birthday parties with Jacuzzis, fake cocktails, nail treatments and a beauty make-over. I know it all seems like harmless fun but seriously what are we teaching them from such an impressionable age?

I’ve seen some brilliant videos where professional makeup artists literally turn themselves into a wealth of different celebrities with a bit of clever contouring, a different hairstyle and an instantly recognisable outfit. To me, it was really quite a talent and I’m certainly not trying to put anyone out of business, I just think that techniques like that should remain the work of professional artists and not extend into every teen’s bedroom as a way of life.

Sorry, I just need to mention that ‘foot contouring’ tutorial just once more. I mean, is that not absolutely batshit crazy?

We should all be happy,  confident and proud and above all, we should stop trying to be like everyone else.

Go forth and be ‘yourself’ because there is only one of you. You are unique.

The Virtual Recluse