Looking out my window this evening there is no mistake that summer is here. There is a storm brewing, it’s hot and it’s sticky. I’m sitting here in a camisole top and a sarong, the fan blowing on me and my balcony door open to get the evening sea breezes until the storm hits and I have to run around and shut everything to keep the rain out.
It has now been about 5 years since I first started hearing about this thing called “fat acceptance” (my first foray into fat activism of any kind), and started entertaining the notion that I wasn’t worthless because there was more of me than there is of many other people. In those years, my life has radically changed. I’m a different person than I was 5 years ago. I no longer put my life on hold, waiting to do things “when I lose weight”. I no longer apologise for being the size I am. I no longer allow people to treat me as sub-human because of my fat. And I no longer hide myself away behind baggy, shapeless, dark clothing because others suggest it is “flattering”.
I realised the other morning as I was getting dressed for work, the me of 2012 really resents having to wear sleeves and cover my body in this hot weather. That astonished me. Was it really only a couple of years ago that I would never have dreamed of being seen without my arms covered? There was once a time, that even in the hottest of summers, I would not leave the house without my arms covered past the elbow, my legs covered past the knees and a full face of makeup. Now I often roll out of bed, shower, throw on a sun-dress and sandals and I’m out the door. If I’m working and I have to have my arm tattoo covered, I find tops with the barest minimum length to cover the bits I need to, and then leave the rest free. On the weekends I will chuck on a cami or tank top, a pair of shorts (sometimes plain shorts, sometimes bike-pants) and go for a walk along the waterfront with the sea air blowing on my skin.
As the weather heats up, I’m currently looking for a new swim suit, preferably a tankini or halter neck top with boy-leg shorts (so they don’t creep up my bum!) to go swimming at my local pool in. No more wearing a huge t-shirt over the top to cover my body, no more dropping the sarong off my bottom half at the side of the pool and slipping quickly into the water. Where my arms and legs were once pale white and untouched by sun, never seen by anyone, they are now gently ripening to brown and are adorned with magnificent ink.
I only wear makeup now when I want to dress up a bit, or have fun with some colour. I no longer feel that I have to have a “face” on to be acceptable to be seen. I once wore glasses that were plain and unobtrusive, now they are bold and make a statement. Where I once wore my hair long, thick and heavy because I was told it was flattering to my round face, slowly cooking my own head under it’s weight, I now crop it uber-short with clippers, cool and light, and dye it bright hues as it grows back to a short back & sides.
Once I would hunt the sparse racks of plus-size clothes looking for black, navy, burgundy and forest green, now I am drawn to red, turquoise, magenta, mint, peach and cobalt. From plain dark colours of my past wardrobe to the now busy prints, bold patterns and clashing colours. I embellish them with big, fabulous accessories, shiny, colourful and jangly. I like accessories that move and make noise, they stimulate my senses. I look for shapes that skim my body, not blouse over it like I’m trying to hide it. Where my legs once were always covered in plain pants, they now are bare under skirts and dresses. When I did wear skirts before they were always with heavy black tights to hide my legs. Now they are bare, or if it’s cold enough to need cover, have bright tights and leggings that draw attention to the shape of my legs.
In the past I walked with my head bowed, looking at my own feet, avoiding eye contact with anyone, trying to disappear. Now I walk with my head held high, my shoulders back, surveying the world around me, smiling at the things that make me happy, meeting the eye of anyone who dares stare at me. I would never, ever eat in public, always uncomfortable in restaurants or cafes, preferring to drink vast quantities of alcohol instead of being seen eating. Now I don’t touch alcohol at all (I figure I drank all my share at once) and I love to dine out, to socialise with friends over brunch, lunch, dinner, coffee and cake. I enjoy the food that I eat, and eat what I want, stopping when I’ve had enough, even if there is still food on my plate. I know the foods that make me feel good, and those that make me feel cruddy. I refuse to allow anyone to shame me for my food choices.
When I am home alone, I am comfortable with my naked body. My new flat has a large mirror level with the plain glass shower stall. The past me would never have been able to shower in this bathroom without covering the mirror, lest I catch a glimpse of my large, round, naked body. Now I see it and value it, for being strong and capable, and for carrying me through my life. I admire the roundness, the curves and bumps, the thickness and the marks of my life – stretchmarks, scars, moles and freckles, adorned with the ink that documents my life. I am not bothered by the hairy bits or the saggy bits. They are part of the road map of my life, signs of my maturing body. Nor am I bothered by my natural hair, greying at the temples. I feel no need to cover it as I grow it back ready to colour it something bright and fun.
This is the first phase of fat liberation for me. I am free, I have been liberated from the prison I lived in for the first 35 years of my life. A prison that I was both forced into, yet for many years was too afraid to leave. My choices are mine. My body is mine. My life is mine. I may never see fat bodies truly valued and celebrated by society in my lifetime, but my body is valued and celebrated by me.
I wish that for each and every one of you.