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.