Saturday, May 25, 2013

On body image

When I am home alone, I like to walk around naked.

It's not like I actually do it on purpose - "Oops, everyone's out! Let's take off all my clothes!" - it just sort of... happens. Like I am getting dressed or undressed, and I just ...stay naked for a while in between. Unless it's summer, and it's really really hot, and then it's on purpose, because I can't stand the feeling of anything but my panties on (and even that, only because I don't really want to sit anywhere without panties on).
I used to do it in Italy too, but there I had very noisy neighbours (not that I care much about it anyway); and it was actually quite difficult ever to be alone. Whereas now, living in a quite tall building, and with basically nothing but woods around (that I can see from my windows at least); I do it quite often.
And I just installed a mirror in my corridor, just outside my bathroom.

This is to say, I walk in front of it pretty much all the time- dressed, naked, and in between.
At first, I was quite concerned, I really didn't want a mirror there at all - the initial idea was to put it on the opposite wall, exactly because so I wouldn't have had to see myself all the time - but it wasn't possible; so there it is.
I previously had a very ... difficult experience with a mirror like that before. I was living in Ireland at the time, and in my student apartment there was a sadistic mirror right beside my desk. That is, I would be sitting there, studying (or more like it, browsing the internet), and I couldn't help but glance myself in the mirror - I mean, it was right there, even if I didn't want to, it was just inside my rear view. I couldn't unsee it. Of course I tried and, as everybody knows, the more you try to ignore something, the more impossible it becomes to do so. Every. Single. Day.
Also as possibly everyone knows, sitting down is not exactly the most flattering pose to look at yourself; especially if you're bent down on the books. You're tummy is (quite naturally, actually) rolling, and your bum looks larger. A nightmare, that is.
I hated it. And myself.
(Yeah, it was a dark time, that one).

Now it's much better, but that's not really what I wanted to say... well, that too; but not primarily.
What I actually wanted to say is: people actually look at themselves in mirrors? Like, the whole of them? Undressed? Look at their bodies?
Sometimes for me is difficult to understand what people do, sometimes you just take something for granted because that's what you do, and then you go like "...wait, are you telling me that you don't do that?!" - not because it's wrong, you just ...take it a bit for granted, I guess; we all expect everyone to do what we do. Don't we? (I don't think well of myself; I don't see myself as pretty; I'm not a nice person, I'm not sociable or I feel awkward or whatever it is... and we assume that everyone thinks the same of us. Naa-aah. Not true.)
I remember I was watching a tv-program... you know, it was just a silly thing, but I liked it. It was one of those program where they get these stilish personal shoppers persons and they get random people from the streets that clearly have no sense of style, and they give them a makeover. (I know, I know; my taste in tv programs is terrible. What can I say, I don't watch much tv). And this one here, I remember they also give them a psychological sort of makeover, telling them things like ... "you have to learn to love yourself" or "beauty comes in every size" or "you have a beautiful body, just like it is" (yeah, that's the reason why I watched them in first place. I get positive feedback from wherever I can get it).
And I remember this one time, they were encouraging thig woman to look herself in the mirror. Actually look at herself. Because she'd never done it before.
I couldn't believe it! Is there someone that never took a proper look at themselves?
I guess there is, because lots of people apparently never took a look inside themselves either (yeah, that came as a surprise too) (I am talking psychologically and spiritually of course. Not surgery-like. Just though I'd specify).
I'll admit, I am not the best at self-loving, I really need some improvements on the matter but. At least I know how I am. It's not ... obsessively concentrating on my defects either. It's just part of... knowing yourself I guess. 
It's hard to think that people can be so... undetached? I don't even know the words to say it.

Anyway, I walk up and down my mirror everyday and, for the first time in a ... long, long time (first time ever?) I like what I see.
I don't think I've improved much either, I just... improved my acceptance. 

It's damn hard to love yourself and like yourself when all you get is negative feedback.
And, yeah, that's all I ever got. Or at least that was the feeling.
Now, I don't want to hear the usual bullshit about how "that's just not possible!" and "but you're an amazing person!". Please.
First of all, how I am inside is not the point here. Second of all, of course it had happened that... say, someone honked at me, of wolf whisked at me down the street (yeah, growing up in Italy is fun). Once, I was at the disco (Me! I never go dancing.) and a guy approached me:
"Hello boobs."
Charming, wasn't he?! Now I'm not even a body - a piece of meat - anymore. I am just a part of that body, like can be a picture on a porn magazine. That was so degrading. (See, there's a reason why I never go dancing).

Again, I know Sweden (Stockholm) is not paradise on earth. But add this to the list of reasons why my life here is so much better:
I feel better about myself, I love myself.
I know how it's like, you have to like yourself for others to like you, and it's what's inside that matters and blah blah blah.
First of all, I like the inside-me a lot, thank you very much.
And I know that probably part of this new self love is due to the fact that here I just feel so much more at ease and comfortable - with myself and others and hence, with my body too.
But. It's also true the other way round
I feel more appreciated here, so I feel also more at ease inside of this body of mine, and therefore I behave more comfortably... it's a virtuous circle (sometimes, they also happen!)

It could be that here I am less exposed to the media-bombing about the ideal female body image (although I didn't watch much tv in Italy either, and I possibly spend even more time on the internet here lol) but I think that the most of it comes from different sources.
For one, I find clothes my size here. [ok, let's make this explicit - I am a curvy (being nice) lady. Loooots of curves] I can't find a bra that fit me to pay for it (of course you pay for your shopping, it's a figure of speech). Most times, a size L just don't cover enough of me - will be tight on the chest (guess why...?) and possibly shoulders, the sleeves way too short. Don't even get me started on the jeans.
Now, finally, I find clothes that fit me. It's like, here, a woman my size is actually considered. I would go as far as to say, they have clothes for real women.
Here's how it works:
In Italy, you're supposed to be a certain size. So, they make clothes up to that size and no more. You don't fit? Well, clearly you're the problem, and you're supposed to ... shrink and lose weight until you do. Same goes for the expectation that people have. Everyone judges you - males, females, friends, family; ugly, handsome, in betweens... everyone. What the heck, you also judge others! And you're supposed to fit into that image. You don't? Well, you're just not attractive, or plain wrong.
Now, I'm not just curvy. I am tall too (not freaklish tall, here I'm practically short, 170cm). My legs are long, my shoulders quite broad and my hips... don't even get me started. Let's say I am a good breeder, was I born in the medieval time I probably would have been perfect.
I just don't fit!
Here, you see woman of all sizes. And - surprise surprise - it's okay. They actually like you

The first times, it came as a complete shock: "no no no no, you can't be looking at me! You can't be seriously be hitting on me. She's much prettier than I am! The room is full with prettier girls that me. They're all blonder, and taller, and thinner." (yeah, I know. Told you I don't fit)
Nope, that actually happens.
Again, this is not utopia: for once, everyone's obsessed with sports and active life, but more for the sake of it than to actually lose weight or look better. And you'll always get the person that discriminates, or is obsessed with image, or that plainly doesn't find you attractive. But - and that's the thing - not only those.
And, believe me, I am completely and absolutely clueless when it comes to flirting. You basically need to give me light signals like the ones they use to aid pilots land planes, before I understand your moves. I am that bad. So they have to be quite obvious to get through. I imagine there's a whole bunch I actually missed.
Also, I can go out dressed however I like.
That is, also, a first.
See, here people are actually respectful (read: clueless, when it's me trying to get messages through. I told you I fit perfectly). So, all those bunch of fun tops and dresses that were just lying in my closet, that I never dared wear before (something that's meant as "flirtly revealing" can sometimes become "borderline porn" when I put it on. What can I say, not my fault) are becoming my battle horse outfits.
I got random drink offers, quite some stares (one epic night, I was bored and I counted them. Fifteen different people! Ok, it was a pub and the women percentage was possibly below 1%) but not one "hello boobs"!

To sum it up:
I am finally starting to love my body. Here's ok to be shapely, and you're not judged (fail!) for it, but actually appreciated. This makes you feel more comfortable inside your own skin, and that also makes you more at ease when dealing with others. That makes you more comfortable with yourself and the virtuous circle begins.
To hell with "it's cold in Scandinavia", I dress less here than I ever did in the Mediterranean!

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