Category Archives: body image

Period, pants!

I remember when I was barely a teenager, my mother was at the till in Boots and asked the cashier (who was only a few years older then myself) about period pants. Aparently it was a thing when she was a girl, and made the entire thing a lot easier to deal with. The cashier blushed furiously and had never heard of anything like that. So we ended up going home with a box of pads that a small child could have slept on. So yeah. I got where she was coming from, pads used to be rather cumbersome and it was a lot for a young girl to get her head around.

I remember looking at them and wanting to die of shame, there was no way that I could possibly wear them to school, to work, when I went out with friends, did sport… it would be so OBVIOUS. And we were doing sex ed at school so it was also topical.

Fortunatly I caught adverts on TV for companies like Body Form and Always – they looked tantilisingly thin, looked much more comfortable, I would easily be able to squirrel them away in my bag… plus the marketing gimmicks spoke to me.

Periods are perfectly normal

I won’t lie, it was never easy… they were a generic size, and that seemed massive. It was never a pleasent expereince. I mean it isn’t anyway, but you would at least want your sanitary products to be kinda comfortmable. I switched over to tampons as soon as I was able to – but they present a whole different book on discomfort.

Now a few years ago, Mooncup was launched, and there are now countless other period cups, and they are a great idea, and obviously a lot better for the environment. But not for everyone, and no, I didn’t even try. I knew I wouldn’t get on with them.

Before you think ‘but you didn’t even try!’ I use the implant as contraception, and it means its all or nothing with me, but generally, even when my flow goes on for what seems, FOREVER, it is light. So yeah, its not something I feel is worth investigating. IN MY CASE.

So anyway, I couldn’t even say how or why, but last year I found myself looking at a website for period pants. Unfortantly they were based in the USA so it would be prohibitive to order. I did a few searches but couldn’t find any shipping from the UK. I was excited though, finally period pants! My mother hadn’t been imaging it, and clearly others had been working to a solution as well.

Eventually I found a UK company, called Flux and ordered from them – I went with a thong, because its a style I wear the most, due to my booty. I was really excited to try them out – they were a little tight but they otherwise were pretty comfortable. I couldn’t tell the difference between a standard pair, and I didn’t have to worry all day. Absolutely blown away.

I tried a pair of lace top on the advisement on their customer service staff, however, this was for a heavily period and the lace was only there to look pretty. So they didn’t feel as secure while I was wearing a skirt. Because of the difference in capacity and fit, I have designated them as my overnight pair. Which isn’t a bad thing!

So I was well and truely down the rabbit hole on period pants at this point – I decided to order some more, as the stress of washing and drying was doing me no favours. So this time I mixed things up, I tried a thong from Modibody, a standard pair from Wuka and a pair of boy shorts from Flux (as I had a discount). So yeah, getting quite the collection!

So I have to say, on presentation, delivery and product, Modibody is my favourite, they feel really nice and comfortable, the material is cotton like, which is what I prefer over a more silky feel. They were a better fit as well, no digging in. Wuka, I just don’t reach for, again there is the fact they are for a heavier flow, but they just feel very bulky. The boy shorts from Flux cut in slightly on my thighs… but #thickthighssavelives

Now, I can only tell you about the ones I have tried, ad obviously is it down to personal preference, and body shape. If you interested, I would honestly recommend them – a lot of the companies also do swim and workout items, as well as incontinence so there are a lot of options. And a few are now catering to teenagers which…. yeah my heart sings. Can you imagine being 12/13 again and instead of being mortified trying to figure out if it can wait until a break, then sneaking into a cubicle without your friends making a big deal?

Now the science bit – but no! Sorry but I am not getting bogged down. The principal is the same as a pad, there are layers that absorb the fluids, trapping them and thats really it. All the websites have a really good information page, detailing their own materials, and help you chose the right pair for you (based on flow etc) so I honestly would recommend having a look around. There are also options for returns as well, which can be important considering the outlay for just one pair.

Keeping abreast

So … as some of you will remember, a couple of years ago, I shaved my hair off to raise money for Cop a Feel https://strangemadeup.com/2017/10/16/copp-a-feel/

This is a subject I am pretty passionate about, mostly because I was caught with a lump in my breast in my twenties. That isn’t to say that breast cancer was a new idea to me. My mother trained as a nurse and had shared some horror stories growing up. However, I can be a tad complacent when it comes to health because I have no family history. Something my mother complains about when she thinks about her current list of ailments (A list far longer than a middle aged woman should have, apparently.).

As usual, I digress. I had a couple of days off at the end of February and decided to make a GP appointment in my time off for a few things that have been niggling me. One of these things is a lump in my left arm pit. This is not new, I had first noticed it as a teenager, and was dismissed by my GP, telling me that he wouldn’t have it removed because what teenager wants a scar in her armpit..

So anyways, I have grown up with this lump and it has caused some dis-figuration. But the reason that I wanted to speak to someone is because it had been causing me some pain, and look at the possibility of it being removed. I saw a locum doctor who told me that this would need to be checked in the breast clinic, and a letter with an appointment would follow.

So far, so good. Except for the phone call that afternoon by the practice secretary telling me that an emergency appointment had been made for me at the breast cancer clinic. Now if that isn’t a sobering call to receive.

So to time line this, my GP appointment was on Monday, 24th February. I was seen at the hospital on 6th March.

Now this was … this was an expereince. I don’t want to scare or worry anyone, I just feel that if I am going to write at all, I want it to be reflection of my person experience.

I was called into the consulting room and asked to undress. Not going to lie, I thought I would t least speak to the consultant initially fully dressed. The consult came into the room and asked if a junior doctor could sit in. Not a problem for me, everyone has to learn.

Now this bit, this is … so I was asked a few basic questions, nothing really, that couldn’t be gleaned from my notes. I would say that there was a slight lack of bedside manners but I also understand that these clinics are very busy. I was lying down, having met this doctor moments before when he started checking my breasts, clinical but I still felt violated, like a slab of meat on a chopping board. I am, for once, not being melodramatic. He assessed that there isn’t anything serious, just some breast tissue that has migrated. And my first thought was “could y’all not stay in your lane?”.

I was directed to the breast clinic for scan, this is now familiar footing for me, in my first breast cancer scare, I was biopsied and scanned in the first instance and never actually saw a doctor! So I was called into a clinical room, again, undressed, positioned and the clinician for this part of my day was so calm and relaxing. She did a scan, and had a look at the lump. More because of the dubious history (is this new, or is this the same lump?) she recommended a biopsy to rule out any concerns. I could hear the nurses and HCA’s laughing and joking outside and it actually helped me relax, knowing that they clearly have a good working relationship.

Now, well the biopsy was something else. When I had the lump in my breast biopsied, that was not fun, not at all. Not a little bit. And I had expressed my concerns. However, this was a whole new ball game and the implement that was designed to take the biopsy .. I didn’t look because, frankly I can’t stand needles and having the implant is bad enough. But I can tell you what it feels like!

Have you had your ears pierced with a gun? It is exactly that sensation. A punching sensation but it didn’t hurt. It was just odd. Similar to dental work, you can’t feel any pain but the movement?

So anyways, I chatted again to the nurse as I got dressed and got sent back over to the main clinic. That was short and sweet, I was told that a follow up appointment would be made with my results, but again, dismissively rather that reassuringly, telling me he didn’t feel it was anything to worry about.

Sidebar – I am the worst for making doctor appointments, I will only do it when absolutely necessary. And that is because I have time, and again, been treated like a hypochondriac. Which I could understand if they saw me more often. Its an appointment every 3 years if that..

So anyways, there we are waiting for a letter, for a followup appointment… eventually one comes, cal I attend on 18th March.

I saw another consultant this time, again in the consulting room, sat on the bed, so I was genuinely worried I was due for another exam. But no, the good news is that the lump is benign, and they would remove it (post lockdown) and in the meantime, to monitor and let my GP know if it got worse.

And so .. this is my concern, could this not better have been handled with a phone call, it was good news, there wasn’t a clinical reason to have me reattend and I would have saved some time?

So that is my story, and what I want to reiterate to you, is that please, check your boobs and your pits, if you have any lumps, swelling, heat, anything abnormal (that is, not normal for your boobs!) please call your doctor. I realise that I am writing this in the middle of a lockdown but you will need to address it and make sure you are checked out!

Running from my problems

So in January I was suddenly inspired to download the Couch to 5k app. I had started running on the treadmill last autumn and managed to keep it up instead of giving up after a few weeks. My stamina and cardio fitness have been issues for me since having to give up dance but maintaining progress has been difficult. Running is just something I never saw an appeal in. Which is odd, as I ran a lot, and long distances, up hill, cross country, as a teenager.

So anyways, back to my story, in January I downloaded the app, I decided that my first run would be on the following Tuesday. Tuesday came around and wouldn’t you believe it, so did a storm. I was undeterred and went for a run, wearing a bright yellow hoodie and an owl beanie hat to try and keep warm. To say I got wet would be an understatement. I was drenched. But what was important is that I didn’t use the weather as an excuse. Really after that introduction, it could only get better.

Well if i am honest, it didn’t really, not where the weather is concerned, it was pretty wet and windy for 90% of my runs, and I quickly learnt that it doesn’t matter how much lighting, bright colours, hi vis or reflective items you go out in… cyclists will always act like they can’t, or hadn’t see you and try and push you off the path.

A quick run around the lake

As I progressed, I was finding my initial path ( the same I take to the gym at the weekend) was not long enough, so I sat down and had a look at possibilities. I am lucky, I have a river, canal and common land in what I refer to as my back garden. It means that I don’t spend a lot of time running on the road. I spend enough time as a pedestrian that running on roads has absolutely no appeal to me.

I also downloaded Strava to help me track my workouts – I wanted to see what my pace was, have an accurate way of analysing and recording my runs. And this does also seem to have helped motivate. A lot of the time, you need to figure out what works for you, what makes you tick. I found the map on this even easier to use and found a nice reservoir that I could run around… well not around. Every run I pushed myself to run a little further, and I was able to judge how far I was and when to turn around. But between the high winds which felt that I was going to be pushed into a lake or a river, and cyclists pushing me off the path (not as often as my original route) regularly, it was becoming frustrating.

Well, I have found a third route which I have done for the last 2 weeks and honestly, it is like an awakening. As its alongside a canal, so is pretty straight, and there isn’t much variation on the incline. Running around the lake, the path was so bad that I was worried about my knee or tripping and twisting my ankle. The final straw was having to walk back after my knee gave in which I am fairly sure has a lot to do with the appalling state of the path. But the path I am using now is almost bouncy and is a pleasure to run along.

Last night was my final run, I have officially completed the Couch to 5K but you know what really got me, I didn’t hit 5k! How? Well I was going with the timings and now the distance so tomorrow will be my first solo run and I am aiming to hit 5k.

So there are a couple of things that I have learnt – I do not yet have the ability to run without slowing down – I slow down for a few steps before setting off. This is mostly to catch my breath. I am not annoyed with myself, I try and go further and further between breaks and know I will get there, I am not training for anything so there is no pressure. I am a social runner – I take bread out to feed the local birds, ducks and swans.

Finished my final run in Couch to 5K

I have learnt that some days will be better than others, and it is important to recognise when you have had a bad run. It is no good ignoring it, or glossing over it. If it was shit, it was shit. You know you can do better next time. I had a few bad runs but yesterday, my final run of the program? I smashed it! I ran further, faster and longer and there is no real reason for it. But go with the flow, don’t force it, don’t fight it. What is important, is that you tried.

What I can say, is that, outside having a pair of running trainers, and wearing high vis, making sure you are warm, the one thing that is REALLY important when running is a decent sound track! It helps you pace, even if its subconscious. Oh and leggings with a pocket ūüėČ

Fighting Fit – food for thought

Sooooo in my last post I explored the last year and what has been going on with me.

cently, I was at the gym, and I was actually really pleased with myself – both at what I was seeing in the mirror but also with improvements that I had been seeing.

I stopped myself from comparing myself to others, its easy to do, and if you are planning on hitting the gym … word of advice. Do not compare. There is no point in looking at how flexible someone is, how much stamina someone has, how much are they able to lift. There are so many variables and if you are going to compare, file it under goals. I have said it before, and I will say it again, everyone in the gym is there to work out. No one is looking at you and judging. Most people are wrapped up in their own workout and even if they appear to be looking at you, are not focusing on you!

Right, now that I have offered the same piece of advice …

A couple of things that I need to get off my chest, and I don’t mean to offend people but they are niggles that are pretty unhelpful when trying to make positive changes.

  1. When you weigh yourself and your weight has increased. Someone telling you that your weight naturally fluctuates is true. But unhelpful. Do not just assume that it was a glitch and keep on as you have. Think about what you have or haven’t done, activity wise, food wise. And make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of complacency. I am not suggesting that you beat yourself up over a couple of lbs … as long as it is just a couple and you claw it back. But letting it slide, and not keeping it in check is a slippery slope.
  2. Women …… HORMONES ARE NOT YOUR FRIEND BUT THEY ARE NOT AN EXCUSE. I have seen a lot of posts regarding a weigh increase due to hormones, and that time of the month. But think about it objectively. Do you eat differently? I certainly do. I have struggled massively with snacking. Its all the grazing, and frankly chocolate that I crave. And what is the obvious outcome?
  3. Muscle is heavier than fat. Wow… yeah you got me there. That is exactly why I am not losing weight! Its all those gains…. yeah no. No it isn’t. Muscle is indeed heavier than fat. But its down to density and unless your body fat % is nice and low… so no, I personally, am fat, and my weight is down to fat and not muscle. Don’t get me wrong, weight training is amazing but you are just not going to be gaining muscle quickly unless you are eating super clean.
  4. Telling people they don’t need to lose weight is NOT HELPFUL – it is the same as when you tell people to eat a burger. Do you know what they are going through? I have been told that I am fine, that I don’t need to lose more weight, what am I worried about etc etc I of course appreciate that it is coming from a good place. But ultimately it is not helping. It leads to complacency and that is not going to see you reach any goals.

Now everyone’s journey is going to be different – it depends on their starting point. How much you want/need to lose, why you want to lose, do you want to gain, are you more concerned about fitness, have you had to change up your workouts due to injury, are you switching from cardio to weight training, are you working toward a competition. I am absolutely down for accountability, it is a throw back to being a sports wear ambassador and it got me into the habit of posting my workouts. I mean if you don’t post it on SM, did it really happen? But it evolved into not cheating myself and showing some accountability for where I was with training.

But only do what works for you, are you posting so that you can connect with others on the same journey, is it a checklist, do you want something to look back on? You need to be honest with yourself, accountable for yourself and don’t make excuses. You can be reflective and offer a reason but only if that is going to help you understand, overcome and improve.

Fighting Fit : Reboot

I guess this should be a whole, New Year, New me post.

It isn’t, it is reflective and a little bit of an apology.

When I started the series, I was fully immersed and training hard. Since then, a bunch of stuff has happened and to a degree I have probably mentioned it in previous posts. And if you follow me on SM you will already know.

A lot of it will be the same excuses I have trotted out but it comes down to, Life. Life happened. Things changed, I changed. But let us just quickly run down what has been going on before i tackle a few things.

  1. 18 months ago, I broke my wrist. At this point my training was, I felt, going really well so it really knocked me for six.
  2. In that same period, I changed job 3 times, with 3 very different working hours and schedules. Things have thankfully settled down.
  3. I put on A LOT OF WEIGHT
  4. I got a PT (the last 2 are not mutually exclusive)

So lets unpack. When I broke my wrist, my consultant suggested it was probably safer for me to continue at the gym. Which I did. It was okay. But until you have an injury that limits you like this, its really hard to understand how limiting it is. This isn’t just the adjustment while you are recovering. It is how long the recovery actually lasts. I mean. I would say, even now because of the tendon injury and referred pain… I am still not 100%.

Changing jobs – so while I was at the hairdressers, I was working part time and this meant I had a greater deal of flexibility and could spend more time at the gym without worrying about time. It was great. When I changed to, ironically, working at the gym, I was working longer weeks and hours, and walking more. Now walking is something I will come back to. But one thing I struggled with, is getting to the gym. Because I was on a mid shift, I struggled to get to the gym on either side of my shift and when I was on a day off, I avoided the gym. So that didn’t help. I have since started another job which involves a lot of sitting, including my commute. Which leads me to my next point…

My current job involves little in the way of activity. With all my employment while living in Northampton, I have walked a lot, walking through town to get to the bus stop, popping into town during lunch breaks, while at the gym I spent a large chunk of my way canvassing, and working to and from work. So I have now got a job that sees me spend a great deal of time on the bus and at my desk. So yeah… not ideal.

My final point, arguably the most important, is that when i left the gym, I stayed as a member, and got roped into a PT session … and honestly I am so happy that I did. I had wanted to get a PT for a long while but seriously the money was a big issue but also finding someone who I felt I could work with.

Now, that is obviously more than a year, but it all is linked in. I put on a lot of weight when I changed jobs, not so much not going to the gym, because I was spending a lot of time on my feet, but changing to an office based job again. And what is worse, I didn’t realise. It sounds silly, I know. How did I not realise I had put on so much weight. I knew I was over weight, again something i had discussed before, and again I could pinpoint why the weight had crept on. But this was not slow, over a few years, lets not kid ourselves. I got lazy with what I was eating, and I wasn’t doing enough exercise to combat my lifestyle changes.

I started seeing my PT just over a year ago, and I would argue with him about the fact eating plans don’t work for me, that I know how many calories are in the things I am eating (to an extent this is true) and that I was fine. I can’t exactly remember what it was that pushed me. But I took scales into work for a coworker and jumped on myself. And nearly died. I was mortified at the weight. over 2 stone heavier than I expected. So I got chatting to a friend who also happens to work in the fitness industry and she gave me some pointers. The biggest was downloading MFP (and this isn’t an endorsement, just my own experience) and I then started logging my meals. I got a smart watch for Christmas last year (I spend a lot of time debating Fitbit or smartwatch but ultimately decided that this was better for me personally) and it tracks heart points (rate – time spent with an elevated heart rate… or cardio) and time spent walking. The recommendation is 60 mins activity per day and 10 heart points per day. Easy you would think. Right? Well on a non gym day, I would struggle to manage 45 mins / 8 HP …. so yeah, no surprise why I was putting on weight. So anyway, in May last year, that is when I changed up my fitness journey. I started tracking meals, I worked out 3/4 times a week. I averaged 1lb loss per week. Some weeks I maintained. But it was actually, was easier to do than I ever expected. It was a lot of gradual adjustments.

So, why did I go down the calorie deficit route, and not say, Slimming World or Weight Watchers. I have no personal experience of either. I have a lot of friends who have used them to lose weight. And for those who stick with it, the results and fast, and they are amazing. No honestly, they really are fantastic. However, once you stop following the program, the weight comes back and it comes back quickly. So I wanted rather, to make sustainable changes that worked for me. Do I fancy a donut today? (silly question) but then that means, I have to work a little harder. As long as I can stick in a deficit, or as close to… then it works. Of course I am not perfect, I mean I eat donuts. I drink. I enjoy myself. Now, the whole deficit thing, I am not being extreme, I am down to roughly 1400 per day. I won’t go below that. Because I still need to be able to function.

How, one thing that I have found, is that your body is not predictable, some days I weigh myself and i have lost 3 lbs. Some days I have maintained, some days I have…. put weight on. It is hard, not going to lie. When you think you have tracked well and worked hard.. and then your body appears to betray you. Its one thing that I have found particularly hard. When people say, hey its normal to fluctuate, or its hormones… its just not helpful? It feels like an excuse and honestly that is the last time i need to hear. Did I forget something, did I not work out enough. After I had been doing well on the weight loss, I started to lose traction again and I gave myself a kick. I decided to take the long way how. Now … this is a great idea. In theory. Its along a canal and in the summer, I am sure it is a perfectly nice way of getting some fresh air. I don’t suggest it in the winter as walking home in the dark is not fun. So i reset, and decided to go for a walk at lunch. I had avoided this previously because I like to have the time to decompress, but I was out of ideas. It does seem to have worked though.

Now when I say I have run out of ideas, and this is an explanation… I usually get home at at around 18:00 having left the house before 7am. This generally means that I am really, really hungry. So if I have not gone to the gym that evening, the last thing I want to do is throw some food down my fact, let it settle and then go back out. What I am trying to say, is that it is all about being smart with your time. On a typical week, I have bellydance on a wednesday, gym friday night, PT saturday morning, gym & swim sunday. This means that I have a couple of nights off, and a day to play with. Sure, I could go for a run… or spend more time at the gym, work out at home. But if you are going to start a fitness journey, you try and see what works for you, and be realistic. This works for me.

 

Now, I have mentioned him a few times but lets have a look at the PT issue – like i said, I had wanted to get a PT for a while, I have had PT’s previously so I knew roughly what to expect. I guess for me, part of the issue with working at the gym is that I got to know them and how they trained. When I got roped into a session with Zack I didn’t know what to expect, which I think was an absolute plus. Now to cast back to my broken wrist. When I said recovery was a bitch, this was 6/8 months after the break and Zack had an uphill struggle with me and my inability to really do much with my right hand. But another way of looking at it, is that he also helped me strengthen my wrist so I could push more.

I am not going to lie, Zack had had an uphill struggle with me, I am argumentative, lazy, awkward, I like to chat shit. I also hate not being able to do something and half our sessions have been bargaining and debating. I am sure he has spent many a session thinking about throwing the towel in with me as a lost cause. He spent a got chunk of our sessions, undoing all the bad habits i had picked up or been taught. It was harder in a way because I was not new to the gym so I had things ingrained and that takes time to undo. One thing that I really wanted to get on with, is weigh training. That is one big reason that I knew i needed to have a PT for, as well as getting my wrist back in shape! So over the last year, I have made a lot of progress and am a lot more confident than I was this time last year. One thing that did also change… I had an epiphany … similar to the one relating to my stepping on a scale… I jumped on the treadmill. Now most of you will know that ‘not even my tights run’ but I just decided one day that… I felt like having a run. So I did. It hasn’t been easy, what with the whole ‘cardio is evil’ thing I have maintained for a number of years.¬† I have also really made progress overall with my workouts over the last couple of months and actually feel like I have been getting there rather than treading water.

There hasn’t been a point in the last year that I didn’t want to go to the gym, that I felt I should give up. There have been several points where I was frustrated and annoyed, with myself mostly. And I think that a lot of that stems to where I was before i was injured. That I think is what is all boils down to. Knowing where I was and where I let myself get to.

IMG_20191223_173657
December 2019

As it stands, yesterday I hit my goal weight for 2019, in that I lost 2 stone. I have 2 stone to lose and i have given myself the deadline of August – because this is the same length of time it took for the first 2 stone to be shed. I have given myself an arbitrary number to reach, it is based on my ideal weight for my height. So yes, it may need adjusting but lets cross that bridge if and when I reach it.

So anyways, that has been my recent fitness journey – thank you for reading! I hope that you reach your goals for the next 12 months, stay healthy and smash some personal bests!

 

Pretty, fat

So I am basing this on the above image. This image is an argument that i have been having over the years, both directly and indirectly.

You see, the comeback to announcing that you are fat is ‘..but your pretty..’ Not every time, and maybe the wording is slightly different, but the intention is the same. I know some of you will not use the word fat as it is not fair to label people. And honestly, I commend your postive action. I am not merely a fat girl. I am more that what I present to the world or rather the first impression that I leave. However, please don’t stop me from using it. If I am using it to describe myself – it is what i need to do.

You see, as per the other posts, being told that you are not fat, you are perfectly fine, you have nothing to worry about. These are damaging things to say to a person. What you see in the mirror is completely different to what others see. I might think that I am not too fat, but I then stand next to a slender friend and what can I say? I am fat.

I am going to keep using the word. Fat. It is important and empowering. By using the word, I am giving it meaning, and strength but I am also owning it. I am fat and I am the only person who can do something about it.

Telling someone that they are pretty when they are discussing their weight, shape or dress size is extremely unhelpful. Have they asked about how they look, have they dropped a hint about wanting a compliment? Or are they just having a moment of clarity or honesty. Are they explaining why they don’t want to have a slice of cake, or that they won’t be joining drinks after work, or why they have switched to a packed lunch.

If someone is making changes, by all means take an interest but make sure that you don’t make a big deal about it. If someone is trying to make a change, having a spotlight shone can be damaging and their motivation or willpower can evaporate. Swinging words around like diet, likewise can be unhelpful. Don’t start wading in with some magic pill that worked for you, because it worked for you. It may not work for someone else. And be aware of why someone is making lifestyle choices. Often we are given ‘quick fixes’ we are told how to drop a dress size, or lose a couple of stubborn pounds.

What is most helpful, is being honest. Not to the point of rudeness. Don’t start expressing that a person shouldn’t be having that snack, or wearing that dress, or asking how much they have lost. If someone says they are fat, let them use the word. Lets not sugar coat it. It is a word, and an explanation. I personally, am carrying too much fat on my body. Until this has been resolved, I am fat.

To summarize, I am fat, I am pretty. These are not mutually exclusive terms. It would be better if we could all learn to separate the two.

No excuses

Now, ladies, let us get serious Smear tests. They are embarressing, awkward, and in some cases, painful.

I had my first one at 20, I remember the letter arriving on my door step, some sort of ‘coming of age’ – Congratulations, your officially a grown woman! And off I trotted to the G.P surgery to have my first experience of how utterly humiliating it can be to be a woman. 

You see, I was not longer living at home, and certainly have no female friends to discuss this with, so I went in blind. There were stirrups, and a metal contraption that was wound open once inserted, and then the swab? YEOWCH!

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So I have have had more than a few of these, pretty much every one has been uncomfortable to a degree, and after being repeatedly told I have a small cervix, asked about bleeding after sex, and having anomalies with each result… it is just not something I look forward to. But it is something I still eventually get around to doing, because a moment or 2 of being uncomfortable is a pretty small price to pay. And let’s face it, we are all going to go through it! 

I remember vividly Jade Goody, both her rise to fame, and then how important she suddenly became. If you don’t remember, Jade was a pseudo celebrity, but her legacy is discovering she had cervical cancer and she died after a tragically short battle with it. Whilst battling cancer, she campaigned asking people to get their smear test, explaining how important it was, not to leave it, to leave it too late. And following her death, there was a spike in attendance. 

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However, somewhere between my first test and Jade’s death, the age for your smear test was raised to 25. That may seem like a small jump but it is significant. Getting girls, and women to start this routine early is as important as detecting and catching cancer is. It then becomes habit forming, another check on the to-do list of womanhood. While I understand that there is some medical backing suggesting that waiting until 25 makes some sense, I suspect that this is financially motivated as despite some people’s assumption, the NHS is a business and each letter, each appointment, each test, costs the individual trust money. 

Now, speaking of money, where do you get your smear test? It is important to be comfortable with the person and environment. I have switched between GP and Family planning. As I mentioned early, smear tests have never been especially comfortable for me, and especially after moving to Northampton, I tried to do all my family planning, at the family planning clinic. I liked and knew the doctors and nurses there and felt much more comfortable. However, funding changed and now I can only go to my GP to have the test. 

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So when I called a couple of weeks, imagine my surprise to learn that not only can I only go to my GP to have the smear test, there is only one nurse covering 2 GP practises. Now I am not going to lie, this is not making it any easier! 

Now, something that prompted my booking of the test is a post in a FB group that I haunt called Queens of the New Age. There was a status about having a smear test and having glittered the lady garden. I love a challenge so I made sure I had styled my downstairs with some glitter for me appointment and used some Snow Fairy powder to try and keep things fresh.

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Things have moved on since my first smear, should I have led with this? Possibly but I don’t like to do things in a sensible order. You will be shown into an examination room by the nurse, asked a couple of questions, and asked to undress – waist down, lie on the couch and place the paper towel over yourself for modesty. A plastic speculum is inserted to allow the nurse to use a ‘brush’ to get a sample of cells. That is is. Now I managed to chat throughout with the nurse, and we joked about the glitter and lack of shaving (an over sight) and it was over in seconds. I have never had such a quick test, and it was completely painless. 

What I am saying is that, most people will have completely painfree and painless experiences. You will be seen by a nurse who has seen it all before, probably several times that day before your appointment so you will not be presenting herself with anything new. But I cannot say this enough, please, even though the starting age is 25, do not forget, forego or not book an appointment. It is not even 20 mins of your life every few years that could quite literally, save your life. 

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Pinning the tail on the

Victim.

Victim blaming. I am sure you are all aware of what it is, and indeed have done it yourself before now. 

Today, this morning, I woke up to a friend commenting about something that had happened while shopping, Not once, it had happened before when she was with her son, and again which prompted her post. She was followed, cat called, questioned by a group of men while shopping. Now this is bad enough, but what made it worse that in her explanation she said she would speak to the store to see if it had happened previously, because she didn’t want to over react. 

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And I came accross a story from a b-list celebrity (I couldn’t place her so I wouldn’t expect you to) who had been attacked on a night out. She had gotten talking to a guy while waiting for her taxi and suggested he share a taxi with her friend. He proceeded to try to sexually assault her friend and then after the driver had pulled over, attack them both. But she said, of course she shouldn’t have talked to him or invited him to share the taxi.

These are just 2 stories fresh today, but I hear them every day, I hear friends tell me something, first, second or third hand, we see it on the news, again directly or indirectly.

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Victim blaming can be external or internal – victims, try and reason what happened. Where they not careful enough, pay enough attention, do something to provoke it. External? Well why not look at any rape case, the victim is raked over – what where they wearing, where were they, what time of day was it, had they been drinking, were they alone, had they led the victim on.

But it has to stop, we can’t keep accepting something is a certain way, that ‘boys will be boys’, that if we talk to a man, it means we had led them on, that we can’t drink because that means we gave off the wrong signals, that we can’t be alone because that opens us up to attack. 

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See the problem here? The ONLY cause of rape is rapists. There is nothing else to be said. Most rapes occur between people who know each other, even in passing. It happens a lot in marriages and in families, between friends. A stranger raping someone is not uncommon but it is often part of a larger attack.

So knowing this, why when someone happen, is the natural reaction to victim blame. Why is is easier, normal, natural to suggest that someone has been stalked home, around a store, accosted, because … they are too pretty? Because they smiled at a stranger instead of scowling? Because they dared go out without a proper escort? I feel like I am writing about something that happened 100 years ago, that women where not expected to go out alone. But I am talking about things that happen every day. 

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Victims are not to blame VICTIMS did NOTHING wrong – whether you are Kim Kardashian getting robbed in a hotel suite, or a single mother trying to do some grocery shopping. Someone should not feel that they have to keep quiet over a legitimate concern because of how it might be perceived, worrying and checking it from each angle to see if it was something they caused or initiated. 

If we can all realise that victims are not at fault, and look at things critically instead of trying to reason it out. That would make both reporting and prosecuting so much easier. I realise I am leaning heavily on rape/sexual assault in tone, but that is pretty much the concern for most people in this situation and it is one of the most under reported crimes. 

We need to change the way we look at it, and change the conversation.

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The long and the short of it …

Short hair.

Now I have been threatening for years, to shave my hair off. It was always an idle threat to a degree. There are a lot of reasons why you second guess doing it. I had been joking about shaving my hair off a lot at work because I have been mistreating it a lot and when we started planning what to do to raise money…. why not shave our heads. We had only been talking about it the week before hand.

So My colleague and I excitedly started making preparations, getting supplies, setting a date. There was certainly a lot of goading between the 2 of us, and it still didn’t seem real until we received our first donations on Just Giving.

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We started getting twitchy. But why? What is wrong with having short hair? It isn’t even down to gender, both men and women are dictated to when it comes to hair. Last week a friend’s child bought home a letter with the minimum length her son could have at school. And how many times are we told, impressed upon, or told that long hair is desirable in women (symbolism a la Mulan).

I haven’t had long hair for a good 5 years or so, I mean I grow it to my shoulders and get bored. But I remember shortly after I cut it all off, I had sat in the car with no makeup and looking in the mirror, saying ‘I look like a boy now’ .. a friend commented on a selfie I had posted ‘so … rock and roll grew up, gave up, and cut her hair off’ (I deserved that, I was pretty rude when he cut off his hair).

Hell, it was probably said in jest, but doesn’t everything have an element of truth? Every time I put on a wig, with long, luscious curls… I feel great. Like my makeup, it is another layer that stops me looking like… me? As an aside, I realised this summer that I have to wear makeup when I wear baseball caps as they hide (hid?) all my hair and facially it left me looking fairly androgynous.

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Since I started writing this post, I have had my hair shaved, so this is becoming more reflective in tone. I won’t lie, it was emotional. For someone who had pretty much emotionally detached herself from her own hair nearly 2 years ago, the thought of losing it was difficult. I even shed a tear – I think that was more the high emotions of the entire day, people telling me how brave I am.

It is funny, this blog post has had 25 (at last count) revisions, I have retyped, deleted, moved, thought things through. What is it. Hair, that is all it is. But as the cover image states, hair is the crown you never take off. We are taught from a young age that long hair is more feminine and throughout history we have seen women being shorn of hair as not only defeminising but dehumanising. And more than that, we have to think that people might worry that there is a medical reason that you have lost your hair (especially if you wear a headscarf like me). And that raises awkward questions, people becoming embarrassed for assuming or asking and you trying to comfort them in their embarrassment.

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But what it comes down to, vanity. It really is that simple, when I get upset about looking like a boy, when I worry about having to wear makeup so I don’t look like an alien (no brows or hair), it is simple, it is because I don’t want to look androgynous, because I lose my sense of identity. But at the same time, not having my hair, it is making me question my vanity. Is hair really all that important, when it comes down to it. I wear wigs FFS so clearly I am not that invested in my hair. It makes me question myself and how I go through life, those moments when I worry about what my hair looks like, when I stop to look in a mirror to check my hair, when I reach to check my hair when I take off my coat, those moments throughout the day that I tweak, brush, move, adjust.¬†

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I am not brave, I am not fighting anything. It was only hair. I was so blase about shaving it off, and yes, I am not loving it. But me, cutting my hair off? All that has been effected is my vanity. People who are effected by cancer, who have no choice, they are the ones that are brave, they are the ones who deserve our respect.  So while I am not in love with my look, has it changed me? That much? Nope, I need to get over myself and keep my vanity in check.

Those people that we helped with our fundraising, everyone who supports and works with/for Coppafeel every day? They are the ones that we should be raising a glass to. 

And on that note, I am happy to say that we smashed out target of £200, and raised £420 (and counting) 

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#metoo

Well what a shit storm this has created. 

Not long ago, I was open about some of the abuse that I have received – and it took A LOT for me to commit that to a blog. I never talk about it. Ever. I don’t talk about the guys who have grabbed by boobs, my ass, pushed their hands into my crotch, who have pushed the hands up my skirt, who have molested me, who haven’t even asked let along ignored ‘no’.

#Metoo is important. We need to voice this sort of thing, because like I said in previous posts, we are continuously conditioned to keep quiet, to find a reason why it happened. We are told that we must have done or said something, that we should be ashamed over what happened. 

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This hashtag is supposed to highlight how many people are effected, to show that is isn’t just some bint that is featured in a news report or writes a blog or is featured on a documentary. That is is your mother, your sister, your coworker, you neighbour, it is your bus driver, your postie. It is anyone and everyone and these are not isolated.¬†

And you know what else, it doesn’t matter if that person misinterpreted advances. Because … oh hey there, advances, you were unwelcome. Your cat call, unwanted, you comment over the cut of the dress, unneeded. That hand on the boob over the line, the time you forced yourself on her, unforgivable.¬†

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Now, what else have we had over recent DAYS because of this, we have have the men complaining that it isn’t just women that are assaulted, although to be honest I think it is more women pointing this out… so okay. Sure. I get it, I really do. But one step at a time. I am all about inclusion but could we not just appreciate this for a moment before … no? Oh okay… lets all quietly change the wording on the blurb we are busily copying and pasting.¬†

Then we have that the men stepping up and apologising for any time they made a woman uncomfortable or if after reflection they did take things too far, didn’t listen, didn’t stop. These men have reflected, using the benefit of hindsight and been brutal in their analysis. And brave. Really fucking brave. Not only are they admitting they were wrong, they are not hiding behind ignorance or youth. They are not hiding.¬†

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Well, now let us move onto something else that quickly happened, to do with hiding. Women, who, like me just cut and pasted the blurb and didn’t go into their own story. Because to us, just saying #metoo was enough. It was enough to stand in solidarity to show that we are not lone, not the exception to the rule. But no, we are then told that we are faking, or hiding, or not being forthright, that we are jumping on the bandwagon. You know what. SO WHAT IF THERE ARE WOMEN OUT THERE USING THE HASHTAG ERRONEOUSLY it got us talking about it and for each woman who is just joining for solidarity’s sake, 10 more are sitting in the shadows ashamed of what might happen if they stand up.

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Oh then, yes, then we had (let us all remember this is a matter of what, 3 days?) men using the #methree hashtag. Men that have been FRIENDZONED and let us not get me started¬†Nice guys finish last¬†Welcome to the friend zone‚Ķ¬†and a few other blogs have covered my feelings on the matter. Or that women have had a free meal, a night out, a trip to the theatre, or a new bag out of a man and … and … get this. THEY DID NOT RETURN THE FAVOUR WITH SEX. Yes, yes I am shouting because I can honestly not fathom a time, reason, or excuse for this mentality and so I think I will leave this point alone before I do something silly.¬†

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Well, just when I thought that things couldn’t get worse, bear in mind every time it pops up on my news feed there is a different take on it, a friend sharing their own opinion, experience, their feelings or an article.¬†

This woman, I won’t utter her name. I am leaving this here. I have said quite enough about it on my own FB page, and if you are friends with me, I am sure if has popped up and I appreciate your comments on it.¬†dickmove