Unconditions

March 16, 2016

BY MADDY THOMAS.

For as long as I can remember my beauty has been conditional. Specifically, my perceived beauty to my family has hinged on what was shown on the scales. Hearing “oh Mad, you’re so beautiful, but imagine how much better you would look if you lost 30kg?” is nothing new to me. I’ve never been a particularly slim girl, but when I was younger I played a lot of sport which kept me in line with all of the other little girls I grew up with, at least until puberty hit.

From the time I was about 11 I stood a foot taller than my classmates, both male and female. I was the first little girl in my class to get boobs, and one of the first to get my period. I’ve looked like a fully formed woman from the time I was 15.

My mother struggled with her weight for most of her life. I watched her yo-yo diet, I learned that there was such a thing as “good” and “bad” food, the former was mostly tasteless, and the latter was something to binge on in secret. While my mother wanted to spare me her problems with her body, the constant commentary on what I was eating, or wearing, or whether I had put on weight began to wear on me. At the age of 29, I still don’t know how to eat properly, and my relationship with food is something that I will struggle with for most of my life. I have had so much of how I see myself placed on the way I look that looking at myself in the mirror is confusing and occasionally soul destroying.

It wasn’t until I started hanging out with my best friend, Jess, and her mother, Kerry, that I learned that not every mum has a conditional view of beauty. Every time Jess and I have left her house, Kerry has told us that we look beautiful. After a while, it began to change the way I saw myself. I was good enough the way I was. I decided that if I ever have a daughter, this is a rule I will live by. For that, I will always be grateful to Kerry.

I have sweated in clubs with a leather jacket covering my “fat” arms because I would look awful otherwise, or so I told myself. I have starved myself for a full day before going out, lest there be a little bump in the front of my skirt. I have placed conditions on my own beauty because that is all I know, that is what I have been taught, it is what I am told every time I open a magazine or turn on the TV.

It stops now.

I happened on a makeover show tonight and by the look of the young woman on the screen I assumed I had tuned in during the “after” segment. I quickly realized I was wrong when an older woman began circling the beautifully dressed, elegantly made up young woman and occasionally making snipes about her being too sexy. The snippy woman dropped the old “you’ll never find a husband when you’re dressed like that” before dressing the younger woman in so many layers that she would require the assistance of the SES to get undressed. I thought about all of the times that it has been suggested to me that I tone my own look down in order to land a husband, or that perhaps it is time for me to dress a little more sensibly as the age of 30 becomes closer.

It made me sad watching the lady on the TV have her corners knocked off, and it made me think about all of the times I have had my corners knocked off – both by myself and by others. I thought of all of the times my friends and I have gotten ready together and all of the conversations we have had about how beautiful we would be if our thighs were smaller, or our boobs were bigger, or our hair was longer. I thought about all of the times I have been deemed too sexy for the indie boys, or too weirdly dressed for the boys next door. I thought about all of the conditions we put on our own beauty everyday. I thought about all of the time I have wasted thinking about how I could change the conditions. Then I decided, fuck the conditions.

I am tired of the conditions making me feel small. I am tired of the conditions making me feel sad. I am tired of the conditions making me feel worthless unless I abide blindly by them.

Instead of the conditions, I say this – if you feel great about yourself when you’re heavier – fuck yeah! If you feel sexier in old jeans and sneakers than hotpants and high heels – boom! Do it! If you want to show off your body – so you should! If you want to cover up – that’s awesome. Do what makes YOU feel beautiful, and happy. Fuck all the rest. Life is too bloody short.

Tonight I let my conditions go, and I hope that you can do the same with yours.

Be happy, love yourself.

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