You know how I know how there’s no God? Comfort Eating. What a bullshit concept. There’s very little comfort in it, if you ask me.
Lads, I’m overweight. And I’m not happy about it.
Now before y’all start with the polite usually expected cries of “Would you goWAY out of it, sure you’re only a tiny thing, shut up t’fuck or I’ll slap the fringe off you..” (I have very colourful friends) and all that shite, let me say this: I’m not fishing for reassurance, or platitudes. Well, not this time anyway. The fact is; I’m very overweight for my height, and I know this because of science. So there’s that. Also, I’ve come to realise a few things in my thirties. I’m very aware of my mind, and my body, and how fucked up the relationship is between the two. It’s basically Sid and Nancy up in here, but without the stabbings and heroin overdoses. For now anyway. Fuck knows what’ll happen in my forties.
(Self-portrait. At least my arse is smaller here.)
I’ve never been particularly obsessed with chasing the Body Beautiful, unless it was on a 6ft plus hunky man-beast covered in tatts who had a thing for shorties with big bums (I’m sure there’s a magazine or website that deals with that). I guess when you’re as far away from society’s idea of female perfection as I am, it’s quite liberating really. I can’t try and dress the same as a woman who is 5ft 8in and 8 or 9 stone and still expect to look my best; all I can do is become the most happy, confident, sexiest version of myself that I can be. There’s no danger of looking ‘almost but not quite’.
(Tess Holliday – Goddess. I wish I had a tenth of her self-confidence. Click on the pic to find out more on how awesome she is)
I looked elsewhere for style icons and role models, and I found that my soul did little happy skips whenever I saw unbelievable looking women of all shapes and sizes rocking alternative styles and particular the 50’s and Rockabilly era. They mixed raven-black hair with shots of savage daring splashes of fantastically slutty fire-engine red lips, nails and scarves, or went cartoon-style with hair colour and wore daring, almost drag-style make-up, with eyebrows that should have had their own acting agent, so dramatic were they one and all. And the best thing? ALL shapes & sizes of women looked fucking awesome in this stuff. Curves were celebrated, as were slim figures. It was just about being a self-confident, striking, sexy woman, whatever shape you were. It was perfect for me.
Until I became uncomfortably overweight, then nothing felt right.
Apart from being only 4ft 9in, I was never skinny. It tormented the shit out of me during adolescence, as did my height, which I now realise was because at that age I always thought I was going to get a growth spurt and stretch like a string bean like everyone else on the planet seemed to be getting, the jammy bastards. That’s the kind of thinking that a lack of knowledge about genetics and general laws of physics will get ya.
I would grumble and grouch every few years about my shape without doing very much about it, and I was lucky enough that I didn’t digress very much from a certain point on the scales. When I entered my thirties, I really enjoyed my shape. I liked that I had curves, I joked about my sticky-out bum, but secretly liked that I had something to work with. I was smug as anything when the big booty craze kicked off and all the Kardashians ran around swinging their badonka-donks in people’s faces. I was totally fine with being both petite and plus-sized. But in the last year, there’s been a slow and very definite creeping up of pounds happening that I’ve only truly realised in the last two months. It’s not that I hadn’t noticed, it’s more that I was ignoring the changes that were happening because I didn’t care about what I was doing to myself. There’s that wonderful mind / body toxic relationship again.
Particularly in the last four to five months, I think I was probably in a bad depressive phase. Looking back on it with a clearer mind, I would eat lots of food at really odd times because my sleeping pattern was fucked, like I would cook a dinner for myself at 2.30 in the morning and devour it like it was my last meal on Death Row. I also developed a sweet tooth which I never had before; I could put away a Wonka Factory-sized amount of Kinder chocolate in a single episode of House of Cards, and not even taste it. All my serious stresses and anxiety and financial worries and personal issues all got drowned out by the sound of me chomping on carbs and sugar and cans of full-fat Coke. Who’d have thought that none of that would solve my problems??
I’ve found myself coming out of the fog of what was a pretty shit time, and not without some baggage. Unfortunately for me, that baggage was an extra 2 stone trying to find a way to get settled on a body that essentially had no room for it. Being under 5ft, every extra pound looks like 2. I took a good, long, hard look at myself cosmetically, and physically. I weighed myself for the first time in aeons, and nearly died of shame when I saw the number staring back at me. I’m not going to tell you what I weigh; that’s not important, and also it’s all relative. All you need to know is that it’s not a number someone of my height and build should be carrying if there was a history of heart problems and blood pressure issues in their family.
Suddenly lots of things made sense to me. My asthma had been a lot worse in recent times, which hadn’t been a problem when I first moved into town because I walked everywhere around town. Come March / April of this year, I was finding myself out of breath and needing to use my inhaler by the time I made it upstairs and in the door of my flat. I didn’t feel like me, like I was wearing a layered-up fat suit under all my clothes and I couldn’t relax in myself. I was overheating all the time, the slightest exertion had me sweating and breathing like Tony Soprano. I know – I’m a sexy fucker. Calm yourselves, lads.
When the opportunity arose to work in Dublin covering social media for the International Literature Festival, I went for it all guns blazing. However, I’d forgotten one very important thing. Dublin city centre is fucking HUGE, and all the festival events were spread out EVERYWHERE. Timings and street layouts meant that you could head back to Limerick on The Green Slug in the time it would take to try and get a bus from one place to another, so walking – correction, brisk walking – was the order of the day. Suffice it to say that I nearly collapsed and died a few times and arrived at various cool artsy events looking like I was about to go into labour. That inhaler earned every penny that week. It was also the reality check that I needed to be able to admit to myself that yes; I had gotten fat.
So here I am now, all pudge and no pride. I’m angry that I left myself go as much as I did, but I also know that I couldn’t do anything about it until now. My mental health is stronger than it has been in quite some time, so it’s a good time to kick my own ass and make small manageable changes to fix myself. My self-esteem is in the gutter at the moment because I don’t like what I see in the mirror, or how I feel physically, but I’m dealing with that. I find the whole process easier if I can treat it as a kind of project; taking the personal stakes out of it and looking at it from an outside perspective. I guess that’s why I’m blogging about it too. Like I said at the beginning, I’m not fishing, I’m very realistic about the fact that I’m unhappy with how I look and feel, and that I can look and feel better if I make a good solid plan…and revitalise my big sticky-out bum 🙂
I think I’m writing this in the hope that maybe a few months down the line, I’ll look back on this post as a shiny, upgraded, fitter version of myself and remember what it felt like to be standing at the foot of a mountain (already out of breath and sweating, I’ll bet), and getting ready to start the climb up to where I could be happy in myself and a whole lot healthier. I’m not looking to be skinny; like I said before, I LOVE being a curvy girl. I’m just not healthy or happy in my skin at the moment. I’m sharing these thoughts with whoever’s reading this in order to unburden my soul and take ownership of my current situation by laying down a marker for myself. So, in a way, this is my ‘Before’ snapshot. When will the ‘After’ one be posted?
Who the fuck knows – I mean, they still sell Kinder eggs in shops don’t they? Bastards.
Here we go again. Another twelve months down the drain, another twelve months waiting to take their place. Like the old retired cop, jaded from realising you can’t beat The System, 2012 has slunk away into the corner with its gold-plated clock and now defunct police badge stained with cheap whiskey and tears of regret for a thankless job now finally over.
The next morning he is already forgotten; for in his place, fresh from the academy, bounds a young fresh-faced young cop, ready to take on the world and save it from The Bad Guys. His haircut is all business, his uniform pristine, his badge gleaming, his voice just that little too high pitched and excited for the rest of the die-hard desk jockeys. He is 2013, and he is here to kick ass and take names. And God, I hate him already.
I’ve never been a fan of New Year’s hype. I’ve tried. Heaven knows, I’ve tried. I rang in the Millennium up in Belfast with a bunch of amazing people and had mad laughs while the fireworks went off – I even allowed myself a little frisson of dread during the countdown to midnight, and said a quick prayer for forgiveness just in case our world ended in a searing ball of white heat and crunching tectonic plates. I’ve made all the resolutions in the world, and kept none. Apart from writing more. As you can see, it’s done much for me so far. Here I sit, typing away, on an armchair made entirely of foldy money, drinking hot chocolate topped with gold-flake shavings while Frank Sinatra’s hologram croons ‘Seventeen’ and Wes Anderson films my every move for a documentary because my life is so awesome. SWEAR T’GOD.
Being the cynical soul that I am, I watched in amusement last night as my Facebook news feed filled up with New Year greetings fused with all sorts of corny generic ‘go-get-’em tiger!’ type ravings. It was as if my entire friends list turned into Tony Robbins, Dr Phil, Oprah or – in some unfortunate cases – Shane MacGowan. If I had cringed any more, I would have become the first living Inside-Out Human. Imagine the fun I’d have had with that on Instagram.
So why am I spewing venom and hatred at something as light-hearted and whimsical as New Year’s Eve, you ask? The answer is simple: I see it for what it is. It doesn’t fool me for a second. It’s like Ben Stiller’s guest character in the episode of Friends when Ross is the only one who notices he’s a completely psychotic asshole while everyone else loves him because he’s so nice to them. I AM ROSS GELLER. (In many more ways than this, but that’s a whole other blog post.)
New Year’s Eve has never been nice to me. It’s only ever been a disappointing non-event full of massive expectations, holding a magnifying glass up to all the previous unrealised hopes and dreams you had for the year before. Mind you, back when I was a teenager, I only had myself to blame for that. It’s hard to get the facilities together to resurrect Brandon Lee, keep him in his Crow character AND convince him to live with you in Limerick while living happily ever after, dancing to The Cure in Termights night club of a Saturday. So to be fair, most of the time my disappointment with my New Year’s failures have been my own fault.
However, nowadays my resolutions have become so mundane and depressing that frankly, I’m ashamed. When did it come to this? Once, I dreamed of worldwide fame & fortune; visualising best-selling modern classic literature and marrying the love of my life while at the same time being linked in the press to affairs with assorted Hollywood hunks, all while touring a Grammy-winning indie album and adopting a child from each country I visit.
This year, my wish is simple: To get glasses that stay on my head.
You may well laugh. The consequences for breaking this resolution will be tragic. For as sure as I will never see five foot in height, the following will happen:
Scene: A crowded pub. Me standing next to the potential love of my life. I turn to say the perfect thing to make him fall in love with me. Camera pans out to witness the crowd’s reaction when my glasses fall right into his pint as I trip up when running away, trying to suppress a snart.
And wouldn’t you know, there’s Wes Anderson filming it.
Happy New Year, folks.
Brain: “How are you Jen?? Been a while since we talked…”
Me: “The grandest. Apart from the nagging feeling that we are all essentially just lumps of carbon and water in varying shapes and sizes, bestowed with a limited number of days on this giant ball of crap. We struggle daily to engage – and compete with – other carbony watery lumps to leave some sort of lasting print on this pissy little planet before we all evaporate into an abyss of nothingness. We are forgotten in a miniscule amount of time relative to the existence of everything ever, only to be replaced by other lumps pretty much the same as us. And so it shall go on, ad infinitum. Hope, love, happiness…these are all man-made constructs designed by those above who seek control to keep us from destroying ourselves within seconds of becoming self-aware. For fear that we would gain even the smallest fraction of understanding that at the heart of it all, in the grand scheme of things, we, and all that we believe to be connected to us, are nothing.”
Brain: “Left the phone at home again did we?”
Me: “IT’S LIKE I HAVE NO HANDS…”
Normally I can be found sitting behind the laptop drumming up one-liners or little anecdotes to put up on my Facebook page for anyone who reads them, and I love that people get a laugh out of them on an otherwise dreary day. Sure, it’s a good ego boost, who doesn’t love that? Yet, what drives me mostly is the desire to be that one thing in someone’s news feed that might give them a chuckle or a laugh-out-loud moment that gets them strange looks on the bus first thing in the morning as they scroll down on their phone.
In among the countless bad weather updates or declarations of how hungover their friends are, I’m happy to share the fact that, depending on what shoes I’m wearing on any given day, there’s a fifty per cent chance I won’t be able to reach up and close down the boot of my car. Hell, it makes even ME laugh sometimes. After the fact, obviously. Laughing in the pouring rain at your own misfortune may look charming in ads and indie movies, but it only gets you odd looks and no help whatsoever.
In essence, I don’t see my personal Facebook profile page as any way personal, I think I look on it sometimes as an extension of my public persona, and I’m guessing a lot of people do the same. There are others who wear their heart and soul on their Facebook sleeve, using their status updates like a kind of mini-journal, not giving a flying fuck who takes notice and who doesn’t. In among those people, though, are people who care way too much about who takes notice. Some give thinly-veiled observations obviously directed at a particular person without mentioning names, some just put up an emoticon and hope that someone will ask what’s wrong. Inevitably, someone will always ask what’s wrong, out of sheer morbid curiosity if nothing else. However, if people are honest, it’s never the person they WANT who asks the all-important question.
I bring this up because at times, all I want to do is just that. I want to use my Facebook profile to rage and scream against the world, and tell people every day how miserable I am, that life sucks and at times I can’t even stomach getting out of bed because the list of ordinary mundane things that every basic adult in the world knows how to do just seems like a mountain of Herculean tasks to my messy, hectic, addled brain. (sometimes I do it anyway, mostly through the medium of appropriate YouTube song titles.)
Sometimes, life is fucking fantastic. Good things happen, I feel on top of the world, life is cruising along in the right gear, and I love all my friends, and they love me, and the birds in the trees are lining up alongside the squirrels and the mice like a Disney movie to sing about the lovely world we live in. That’s also stuff worth sharing for a few ‘likes’. People are generally very good-natured on Facebook, mostly because hitting ‘like’ on some bit of good news or other takes about as much effort as exhaling.
I wonder though, how many people would send a message to someone they saw on their news feed who seemed genuinely depressed or down? I include myself in this too. It may not even be welcome on the part of the person receiving it, but it would let them know that they have been seen and heard, and maybe, that’s all they wanted in the first place.
In a sea of mass activity such as that of Facebook, it’s easy for people to be lost and feel like they’re screaming into the wind, so sometimes they test the waters by throwing out a little emotional bait to see who bites. No harm in that. The beauty of social networking means we’re no more than a ‘like’ away from making someone feel good, the downside for people like me is that I’m on-line so much, nobody needs to text me to see how I am, they just log on and see what manner of shite is grinding my gears right at that very moment. Which is fair enough. It’s cheaper than a text…
In essence, I have no real purpose or agenda in writing this, it’s just something I’ve noticed as I look through my news feed. There’s a lot of unhappy people out there, some more vocal about it than others, some who just post a sad song or quotation, some will ask their entire friends list out to see if anyone wants to meet for coffee. For all our closeness with people we spend hours talking to day in and day out on our phones and laptops, there’s no substitute for a bit of face-to-face attention from someone who genuinely wants to meet up and see how you’re getting on in the real world. It’s a lonely, tough world – and everyone has a story. We should mind each other more.
At the heart of it all, we just want to matter.