On Wednesday, 24th February, a video opinion piece I had filmed with the Guardian Newspaper went live on their website and Facebook page. It was the video accompaniment to my ‘Modern Day Poverty‘ article.

I was excited.

I had managed to (finally) grow out the ridiculous haircut I had done last February, an entire year ago, which was a treat, supposedly, after not visiting a hairdresser for close to a decade. After looking in the mirror at the new ‘style’ I remembered why I hadn’t been for a decade and wished I’d stayed away. But anyway, my hair had grown back, and I’d even used some straighteners on it. It looked good.

I had watched make up tutorials and managed to conceal, contour and powder away my strawberry-red skin. I was happy with the result. I looked a normal human colour instead of like an extra from Attack of The Killer Tomatoes. My skin condition (an allergy to one of my medicines) had cleared up, so I didn’t look like a tomato pizza either.

And I had bought a nice top from Select for the occasion. In a size 14, if you care. Not because of any massive amount of vanity, but honestly because my wardrobe had come down to three T-shirts from Primark and two pairs of jeans. If I was going to be seen by thousands, maybe millions, then I owed it to myself to make an effort.

And here’s the thing. You don’t see my body in the film. At all. You can see the width of my shoulders, my neck, and my face. My face, which was bloated, because on a day when I will be spending hours travelling to and from London, across our great Capital, into Guardian offices, filming, I was not going to take my usual two water pills and be stuck without a toilet.

Oh, yeah. Let’s be blunt about it, as no-one seemed to have issues being ‘honest’ about my weight.

Each morning, I wake up between seven and eight pounds heavier than I weigh when I go to bed. My heart is too weak to effectively stop water building up in my body, and the tablets I take allow me to, frankly, piss away the excess. The water gathers around my ankles and my calves…and my face. It makes me look bloated. It makes me look fat. It gathers during the day, and again through the night. My pills stop it building up, because oedema, especially around a heart as strained as mine, is dangerous.

Now, I’m not one for body positivity. In keeping with the blunt theme here, I hate myself. I can’t stand the way I look. I detest what has happened to my body since my heart attack. My reflection fills me with disgust, shame, and grief. It makes me cry. There is no part of my body left, which I can look at and know as my own. It’s bloated, tired, scarred, and isn’t recognisable as the ‘me’ I used to be. I avoid cameras and photos as much as I can, and only use a mirror to do my hair–and on this day, my make up.

I felt good, when I filmed the opinion piece, though. I felt confident. I was wearing size 14 clothes, didn’t look terrible, and my angina was behaving.

And I knew the instant I caught a reflected glimpse of myself in a window, that I would be ripped apart because my face was fat. So I prepared myself for it. I knew it was coming, and I battened down my mental hatches and waved a figurative hand in a ‘whatever’ gesture, and waited for the onslaught. An onslaught, which pissed me off because my gods there are some dickheads out there! An onslaught, which pissed me off because rather than focus on the very real struggle of so many thousands of people, day in, day out, there were dickheads discussing my size–which they couldn’t see.

For all you can see of my body in this video, I could have been wearing a light grey scarf, and had the rest of me naked, painted blue, with a fucking rainbow across my missing nipple! But despite my anger at their ignorance, I wasn’t upset.

And then I was. Because there are thousands of women, and more than a few men, who were reading those comments, and they had not had the time to prepare themselves for what was being said. They were reading those comments, overweight, perhaps having so little money available that their meals are largely consisting of Iceland Value sausages (40 for £2) and bread (10p if you can get it at the end of a day in Tesco). And I started to get angrier and upset on their behalf. I have a fat face, which deflates when I take some pills. Whatever. But the reality of poverty, as so many people face, means subsistence living and cheap, fatty, unhealthy meals. It means so many people living under the breadline are medically overweight. So, so many.

I am fortunate. As I have previously posted, I learnt to cook by watching Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey, The Hairy Bikers and Rick Stein. My meals consist of a lot of rice, pulses, pasta, vegetables, and cheap meat (sorry, it’s not free range organic, but it’s cheap and it’s enough to fill us all up). I can cook. I cook without oils and without fats, Slimming World style. I use herbs, spices, and I am consistently losing weight despite the medication and the water retention.

But there are thousands out there who don’t know how to cook, and they had to also read the vitriol aimed at my head. A message that said clearly, “You can’t be struggling, you are fat.” “You’re obviously not starved.” “You have enough to buy food, obviously.” (I do have enough – I have never said it’s not enough)

I am so sorry, to all of you who might struggle with your weight, and who read the crap written by the sanctimonious arseholes in those comment sections. Thank you for getting in touch with me to see if I was okay–I was. I am. I hope you are too. You’re beautiful–more than those idiots typing vileness into a comment box can ever hope to be.

But, for goodness sake, people, since when is it okay to ball out someone for their size? To insult a body you can’t see? To grind away the small bit of pride I had felt in my appearance on the day I filmed?

Since when do you have the right to use my body as a debate about poverty? When did my face get in on the argument and write anything? The only thing my face does is act as a front-piece for my head, which holds my brain. My face, and the size of my chins has no bearing on my intelligence. It holds no bearing on my financial status, and none at all on how much money I have left after paying all my bills.

It’s just chins. It’s just a face. Most people have them. They’re nothing special.

And mine, away from the cameras, aren’t much bigger than the average. But if they were?

That’s not up for debate either.

 

17 thoughts on “My Body Isn’t Subject For Debate.

  1. Kathleen, you should have titled this blog ‘sanctimonous arseholes’ – your phrase sums everything up perfectly. You looked lovely – LOVELY! – in your podcast, which got your message across really convincingly. You are, thankfully, one smart woman, and those comments can be chucked into the oblivion they deserve. xx

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  2. I’ve just spent the last hour on FB getting more and more irate with the comments about women, equality and feminism, from people who are clearly ignorant and bigoted. I’ve tried to justify my position, but know it’s hopeless. People now have an audience to their rantings, they become over inflated, believing that their writings are important and worse, correct, just because it can be seen by so many. In my long winded approach, what I’m trying to say is, don’t let these people ruin your moment. Yes, have a rant, but they are not worth your valuable time. It would be wonderful if they didn’t say it, but it’s not going to change any time soon, so sod them…what sad little lives they must have.

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  3. I came to this site after seeing the video shared on Facebook; the lengths people will go to to find some reason or other to blame others for their struggles is ridiculous and disheartening. Hats off to you for being so open and courageous and putting yourself out there to give others a voice, both in this post and in that video. One day, people will realise that both life and appearance are not 100% under personal control xxx

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  4. Societal views on things seem to be getting more and more vacuous. Just look at Corbyn and Cameron trading insults about their mothers and dress sense. Theyr’e like those two old duffers from the History Today sketch that Newman and Badiell did in the 90’s (worth a Youtube if you don’t know what I mean). Politicians should be leading examples on how to behave but they are holding a mirror to the idiocacy reflected from their public. I watched your film just now and the first thing first was how healthy you looked.I am a community nurse- working with families and people who have learning disabilities.The very things you are talking about effect the people I am working with- trying to get people to eat well when there is so little money to go round, trying to skill people up to cook for themselves, thats just a bit of what we do here in my team. I can tell you that you’re looking good, you’re in a positive space, you’re speaking out about all this stuff and thats a great thing. I recently downloaded your book onto my Kindle: Into the Woods and it’s really good. Keep going on this stuff I’m a big fan. Finally somebody is talking sense and saying something worthwhile and interesting. Its real, it has integrity. For anyone who wants to troll me on my spelling and grammar fuck you by the way I didn’t go to a priveliged school ,but it doesnt mean that I don’t have a valid opinion and know whats right and I don’t think it detracts from what I’m saying. Best wishes Kathleen, I look forward to further posts, that video really moved me. Peace.

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    1. Corbyn didn’t trade insults about his mother at pmqs. I don’t think society has changed, just read Trollope or Thackery. The difference today is that there is a medium for people to express their views to many people in an instant. And of course, it’s easy to be ‘brave’ from behind the safety of a screen.

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  5. You looked great, and even if you hadn’t the people who thought it appropriate to comment on your size/weight are just ignorant. Anyone with half a brain knows that heart patients suffer from water retention in addition to the fact that ,as you say, poverty makes it difficult to eat healthily. I often wonder what is going on in the lives of these angry people that makes them spew their poison in this way,maybe we should pity them.

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  6. Hi Kathleen, I am Vicky and I am pleased to meet you. Like you I suffer from poor health and live well below the poverty line, ( what ever the hell that actually means ). All I know is there are 3 of us, myself, my partner and our 20 year old son. The only money coming in at present is my DLA. John, my husband, was made redundant after 20 years working for the NHS. his role, they say is no longer valuable. He worked, and ran an Art project for people of all ages and backgrounds who have learning disabilities. Lack of funding meant they had to make cuts and as usual learning disabilities was and always will be an easy target. John is currently building up a new project giving people with learning disability, some extremely severe, and people with mental health issues the opportunity to, freely express themselves using art as a medium. It is a struggle to get funding, enough to enable as many Artists as possible to participate regardless of their financial situation. So at present he is working almost 24/7 and earning nothing. He has been told he is not entitled to benefit because he is self employed. Despite the fact that he has worked and contributed for 39 years. My son SEAN receives carers allowance for taking care of me. He gets so little money, if he paid towards his keep he would have no clothes, shoes, spending money and no social life. So we live on my benefit. We have a mortgage, I need a car or I would never get out, so we have petrol to pay for, we pay full council tax, fuel bills and I need a special diet because of Crohins Disease and damage caused by numerous operations. I can relate to your issue about your body. I have 7 scars on my abdomen. I can also relate to a swollen face. When I was a teenager until my mid twenties I suffered from Cushions disease, moon face, because of high doses and prolonged use of steroids for my condition. On our wedding day I was given a day pass from hospital and in my wedding photos I am moon faced and my skin was a whiter shade of blue. My skin tone matched my Bridesmaid and flower girls blue outfits and my bouquet, so all was not lost lol. I can still hear the things friends but mostly family said at the time. I didn’t want to wear a veil, it’s not my kind of thing. I just wanted a little ring of white flowers and seed pearls. I was advised that ” a viel would hide my face ” that it would draw attention away from the puffiness ” and as I walked down the isle I could hear comments like ” you can hardly see how bad her face is swollen ” and ” the veil hides the puffiness “. I even heard ” God, the White makes her face look blue ” all would have been soul destroying if I didn know that John thought I was beautiful. At times when my weight was really low, reaching 3 1/12 stone when I was 20 I would have people shout at me in the street the worse one was ” check out the anorexic bastard, away and eat some dog food “. Since about 15 years of age I have been having siezures of differing severity. I have been given hundreds ( slight exaggeration) of different reasons for these: exhaustion, medication, stress, not eating enough, pain, allergies and even at times Not believed , although I have had them in hospital, in front of doctors, nurses, family, friends, colleagues, paramedics and total strangers most of whom have confirmed it is seizures. After 40 years I was referred to a neurologist and within minutes of our interview I have been diagnosed as suffering from epilepsy. I am not surprised in the least in fact there is a certain amount of relief. No more tests, getting shunted from pillar to post. I can’t wait for the first person to call me an epileptic, my response will be, ” I am not an epileptic, I am a Vicky, I suffer from epilepsy, if I had measles you wouldn’t call me a measly”. Neither am I a popper, a scrounger, a faker or a moaner. I would love to return to work. I loved my job. I loved earning a decent living wage. I loved the routine and I enjoyed the company and companionship of my colleagues. I give up work very reluctantly, following advice from my medical consultant, my GP, my partner, my family and friends. The fact that I have to take morphine everyday for pain and the fact that I suffer from a chronic illness that can become acute at anytime, I have painful and weakening arthritis, I suffer from depression and NOW epilepsy. We, none of us should every have to apologize or explain how we look or why we need benefits to be able to pay ours bills and eat. I have worked most of my adult life. Only I’ll health has prevented me. It is who we are that matters not how we look. I am an honest, decent, caring, non-judgemental, generous and loving individual , I am Victoria, Vicky, Vic and even wee Vic to some. I am a singer, a sewer, a mother a loving and loved wife, a loyal friend and I make no apologies for that. Take care, Health, Peace and Happiness to you and yours. Vicky

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  7. I watched your video, Kathleen, and loved it. And then I made the mistake of reading the comments. Why do I always make that mistake??? There are some sad people out there. Proud of you for not letting them get to you! xx

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  8. I really despise trolls of this kind. Weight is a very emotive issue and I’m sorry you had to put up with abuse because these sad acts thought you were overweight. Perhaps if they had brains larger than a pea they might have questioned whether a round face automatically equals a heavy body (many medications like steroids can cause a round face) and exactly what that had to do with what you were saying anyway. Ignore them. They have sad little lives and karma will surely catch up with them.

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