Size 16 and Beyond

I have always thought I had problems with my weight. One of the legacies of my upbringing. My mother is obsessed with how much other people weigh. She isn’t overweight herself but not really because she eats a healthy diet or exercises regularly she is just one of those fortunate individuals who seems to be able keep on top of her weight.

It doesn’t stop her from judging others. One of the first things she observes about a curvy woman is her size. “Look at the size of her!” Is a statement she makes frequently. She has directed a similar sentiment at me most of my life. Ever since I can remember I have been subject to comments about how much I eat and the size of my body. Even as a child I was criticised for how much I ate and made to feel self conscious about my weight. When I look back at photos I can see that even though I felt I was fat and bigger than other people my age I actually wasn’t. I was perhaps curvier but that meant that I had boobs when a lot of girls didn’t. My bum wasn’t fashionable then but these days it would have been the pick of the bunch.

I always found it difficult to buy clothing. Curves had no place in the fashions of the 1980’s and 1990s where lean supermodels and the “waif” look were the epitome of fashion. Booty was still at least twenty years away. Clothing was made accordingly and girls with curves, like myself, struggled to fit our lumps and bumps into suitable clothing. Jeans were particularly bad. If they fitted my bum the legs were too long and the waist was enormous. With tops and dresses my boobs always seemed to pop out in an undesirable way. I resisted the idea of simply buying a bigger size and altering it. I had a mental barrier that prevented me from selecting anything above Australian size 14.

These days when I look at old photos I can’t understand how thought I was fat. I feel I wasted those years hiding myself just because of something someone who didn’t really have my best interest in mind told me I was unattractive. Sometime last year I got past this mental hurdle. Probably more from necessity than anything else but there I was. I was able to go into stores and ask for size 16. I looked in the plus section and found clothing that made me feel attractive and happy. I progressed down the path of being happy in my own skin. Then I went on my voyage and lost a significant amount of weight. A year ago I was the happiest I had ever been with my body. I felt slim, I was tanned and I fitted into all my clothes really well. I was comfortable and truly happy.

Fast forward to now and all that weight is back. I am resisting obsessing about it but I know I need to do something to reverse the trend. Buying bigger clothes is one thing and not really the problem but I also need to make healthier eating choices. Coming down from celebrating my birthday hard I am looking in the face of cutting back on alcohol and high calorie junk food. It is hard. The journey is going to be long but my experience last year taught me I can still have chocolate and alcohol and lose weight. I just need to include a lot of vegetables and smaller portions as well.

I have recently watched some friends undergo weight reduction surgery. Many people would think this approach is a cop out but after watching the preparation and the immediate aftermath of surgery I am here to say it definitely is not. I have reaffirmed my feelings that this is not for me. For some the surgery is life saving. Their journey, while difficult, leads to a much longer and healthier life than they would have otherwise had. For some it is a struggle. The after effects are long term, sometimes debilitating, and irreversible. I know people who have had this surgery and if they had their time over would not do it again. It is not for me.

And so here I go on another day of trying to eat cleaner, less processed and smaller amounts of food. Wish me luck.

Smile for the Picture

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and 2021 Australian of the Year Grace Tame during a morning tea for state and territory recipients in the 2022 Australian of the Year Awards at The Lodge in Canberra, Tuesday, January 25, 2022.
Source – SBS News website

I don’t normally listen to the news but as I was driving to work yesterday I was intrigued by the story that accompanied the above shot. Recently the woman in the photo, Grace Tame, was attending a function at The Lodge whereby she was passing on the baton as Australian of the Year to the incoming recipient. Ms Tame is an advocate for, and survivor of, child sexual abuse and this advocacy was the reason for her being awarded this honour in 2021.

The media storm that surrounded this function and the footage that featured Ms Tame refusing to “smile for the camera” has focussed recently on comments by the Prime Minister’s wife about the rude behaviour of Tame. Ms Tame’s response to Mrs Morrison’s comments has been;

“survival of abuse culture is dependent on submissive smiles and self-defeating surrenders. It is dependent on hyprocrisy.”

Powerful words. Ones that make men like Scott Morrison squirm in their seats. Privileged white males who survive on the premise of civility. As a child I had one of “those” family friends who stood too close, put his hands on my thighs and tried to touch me inside my panties. My mother was like Jenny Morrison, always telling me to be nice and smile for the camera. I could never tell her about it because she wouldn’t believe that this man would do something like that. There are millions of stories like mine hidden behind the nice smiles in photos. I am one of the lucky ones who was never seriously touched.

The people who did this never seemed to be outed or dealt with by the adults who should have known better and protected their children. Why? Because looking nice to the outside world and not having to explain why Uncle Arthur or Auntie Gladys were invited to family functions any more was more important than the safety of a child. Ms Tame’s story is similar. Aged fifteen she was groomed and repeatedly abused by a teacher at her expensive girls high school. When the case was brought to trial the court found that the school had multiple opportunities to intervene but chose not to. It was up to the vulnerable teenage girl to stand up against the establishment and out her attacker to stop the abuse.

Fast forward to now. This young woman has done some pretty remarkable things. Which is why she was awarded the status of Australian of the year. She is incredibly intelligent and clearly not up for accepting any bullshit. To be told by a condescending woman to smile for the camera is the ultimate insult. What is even more tragic is that this woman is raising daughters. Do her daughters have to stand next to a relative that makes them feel uncomfortable and whose hands linger just that little bit too long? Who insists on kissing them when they don’t want to? Jenny Morrison says Ms Tame should be ashamed. She should be ashamed for not realising the world needs to call this crap to attention.

For all the children in the world I have this wish: Know your body, value it as the temple it is. Never believe that other people have the right to touch you in ways you don’t like. Nor do other people have the right to tell you to smile when you don’t like the person you are standing next to.