June 1, 2009

Body Image and the Mind

My partner commented this morning that I had a long back.... and my immediate thought was "does this mean I have short legs?" I think we are conditioned from a young age to see the negative about ourselves and our life experiences make us convinced of things that are not really true or as bad as we think. The first time someone commented on my long back, he was a keen teenage suitor..... and I do remember it as a positive comment, with no negative associations... because he also commented that it was beautiful. Makes all the difference...

My first dissatisfaction with my body focused on my feet.... I outgrew my mothers petite and dainty shoes when I was 10 and finding shoes became the start of a lifelong seasonal panic. It meant that I had to start wearing adult footwear long before I wanted to... but I do remember spending a winter when I was 12 in the most perfect pair of long, lace up boots... we have a name for them now that never occurred to me then!

Gradually, I developed a dislike for my feet - and loved the 24" bell bottom phase of the 70's that hid them completely, while making us all look short, fat and strange! Over the years I have developed a knack for seeking out soft, expensive and comfortable shoes and boots, hunting early in the season while there is still something left in my size. Usually, it is pointless looking on the racks... far better to ask if they  have anything in the store in the right size first! Imagine my face last year when I visited a Wellington shoe store and was offered a choice from five pairs of my favourite shoes (boring black), all in my size and I liked them all! The credit card wilted but I stopped at one pair.. but I mourn the loss of the others. My daughter inherited this foot gene... occasionally she ferrets through my wardrobe and borrows a pair... but as I still occasionally use a pair of hers for formal evenings, I don't comment!
A dear friend of mine wears red shoes.... and our feet are only half a size different, hers being the smaller ones. I admire her confidence.. we wear similar clothes most of the time, and the shoes are usually lovely, interesting and ideal with her outfit, but here we differ... I can say with all confidence, that although my soul covets a pair like these, my mind will not let me wear the equivalent of distress flares on my feet, allowing all and sundry to stare...

One of the joys of boarding school is dorm life. Once, happily preening in front of the mirror as a skinny undeveloped 12 year old, I asked for advice on an outfit... and my bored room mate said, "nice outfit, shame about your bum" ....and 40 years later, after years of reading advice from Trinny and Susannah and Gok Wan... selecting clothes to hide it, minimise it, lift and conquer it, I can still feel that comment in my head. But you know what, I also realise it is not that bad... bootylicious is the in shape anyway, and the lingering remains of my phobia about it just means the world is spared the sight of it in white, tan or pale grey trousers... tough, sure they are fine with that as not many of us look like this!!!!!

My long back comes courtesy of broad shoulders, and judging by the number of clothes with shoulder pads, this feature is required for femininity!!! Yeah right. As I don't need the extra padding to fill out the shoulders, I have become a master at extracting them from jackets. After I progressed from a 10AAA trainer bra, I had my first real fitting. "Ahhh", she intoned in a superior tone... "a sportswoman... broad back and no boobs"... Already crushed at 14. On that front, I can say that four kids, breastfeeding, weight gain, less sports and good bras have left me in ok shape, many cup sizes larger than then, and happy with my lot! While searching for pictures... I did find this ad for a bra- quite sure they use these on tv.

So overall, I can moan about the road map of stretch marks, the post caesarean body look, the grey hairs and wrinkles, but I really am ok. It all works just fine for now....

Except for the thighs... did I mention them???????

Ps - to follow up my last post; the kitchen light works and the cat door has cardboard across it, which probably doesn't have the insulation rating that glasss offers but is better than a hole. The snow didn't arrive here - just for those further out of town; but it was cold and there was hail, so I spent a glorious day inside rewatching Harry Potter 1 (with my friend of the red shoes) and Lord of the Rings... eating hot soup and crusty buns. Off to see my parents... so good to have a long weekend :)


  1. That was a very amusing post! I love wild and wacky shoes, but alas those days are well and truly over, since falling twice and damaging my ankle, it's hush puppies and clarks sensibles now!!!
    Love Tracey x x x

  2. Great post hun, I agree with Tracey an amusing and well done blog! Glad you had an awesome day,

  3. I totally love red shoes!

    Thighs.....a whole other blog!!! I loathe thighs. They never fit properly into jeans and always require a sarong in summer.
    Babies have given mine a hellish time and I have narrow shoulders so at least I'll never topple over with squishy thighs anchoring me.
    As long as there is something interesting coming out of your mouth your feet will never matter!!! Keep the masses looking upwards. At least you've got a great rack for them to look at lol
    Jaz xxx

  4. road map of stretch marks!!! damn, i laugh so hard, hahaha!
    i am petite so there's nothing "long" in me and i don't own any boots, although i wish i had one.
    nice post!!!

  5. We're very seldom satisfied with our look are we! But nice compliments from kind partners usually make all the difference.

    CJ xx

  6. Ah, women! You - and I know it's a generality, so anyone it doesn't apply to, forget I'm talking - tend to get so stressed out over your bodies, while we men look at ourselves in the mirror, see a bit of gut, and hair, and something else not-quite-Hugh-Jackman, and we usually say, "Huh! Not bad for a (fill-in-the-blank) year old!"

    And, truly, most of us like all sorts of female shapes, too. Sure, there are societal norms, but I think you'll find that most guys actually LIKE it when they see some part of a woman is not totally symmetrical and looking air-brushed.

  7. Good point Suldog - and most women know that men appreciate their bodies regardless... any action is appreciated by men! We mainly despair because other women are so critical.... and we get fed a constant stream of perfection by the media..pointing out how imperfect we are...

    I do remember an ad for skin products - as someone said - the picture of the model had no skin pores at all - how can we ever compete with that!!!

  8. I came over via the comments on The Pedagogue, and I'm glad I did! Your post made me both laugh and grimace in sympathy!

    I love the bit about interpreting 'you have a long back' as negative - we DO do that, don't we? I always think of a long back as beautiful - perhaps because I don't have one. What I do have though, is feet just as awkward to fit as yours.

    My life has been spent in sensible shoes. I can never wear court shoes or high heels. The court shoes fall off me, and I fall off the high heels. LOL!


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