As a young woman, it feels like I spend most of my time trying to prove myself. Professionally, socially and intellectually. There will always be the snigger at my frequent use of the word “like”, or jabs at my giggly personality.
No-one ever bought it; me being smart. The saddest part is that even I didn’t. I could bore you to tears with tales of being patronized and belittled by authority figures since childhood, but I would be here all day.
It’s a Friday morning. I’m very proud of myself because for the first time in possible six months, I have risen from my slumber in good time before work. I go to the bathroom, set my phone face down on the window sill, and play aloud the American tones of one of my favourite YouTube vloggers.
I look in the mirror, and feel embarrassment at what I see. It suddenly dawns on me how damaged and worn I look. The skin beneath one of my eyes appears to be sun bleached white. The patch beneath the opposite eye is dark and speckled. Blackheads cover my bulbous nose, and my chin and forehead are dotted with bulging acne. One set of eyelashes are also bleached almost entirely white.
Horrified, it dawns on me that I have been showing up at work looking exactly like this for the past nine months. Waking up with ten minutes to go, throwing on some jeans and runners, and giving a quick brush to my yellow and crooked teeth.
What must people think of me?! And how do I change? I can diet. Try and rid my excess fat to be taken more seriously. But, wait. Maybe then I’ll be just a girl. I cringe at the mere thought. Imagine that… being just a girl! Ditsy, devoid of any personality traits, there merely to be eye candy when the intelligent men get bored from all of their intelligent men things. I shudder at the thought.
I have to pick one… be physically ugly but be quirky and intelligent… or be physically attractive but be boring and superficial. Since I have always fallen into the former by default, I can’t imagine suddenly trying to change to the latter.
Still though, I think, as I stare desperately at the worn and plain woman staring back at me in the mirror, I can’t go on like this.
As my brain tries to think of a solution to this tough call, my hands take action. I grab a tube of beige goo from the window sill, unscrew the cap, and smear it all over my face. Next is sneezy powder, before black paint is applied to my eyelids and lashes. I draw on some new lips with a red crayon. Now, at least I’m slightly more presentable.
I’ve some time to kill before work this morning. For the first time in forever I try to wear something different. Something that takes the attention away from my round belly and thundering thighs. Leggings? A long top?
Work feels different today. I am a walking doll! Maybe this paint and goo works to be taken more seriously, after all. I’m even referred to as a doll. All day, in fact. “All dolled up” was the term used, I believe. Doors are held open for me, and remarks are made about a fictitious “hot date” I will be attending later on tonight.
“Fair play to you!” one smiles. Should I feel proud? Should I feel accomplished that I’ve finally done what I was supposed to do, and apply the goo and paint to be a proper girl?
Another greets me with an arm squeeze, which takes me aback. I don’t know this person very well, and personal contact with people I hardly know feels uncomfortable. I feel this, inside, but the crayon lips force a smile nonetheless.
All my life, I have been taught to ridicule and dislike fellow women. I’ve been taught to see them as inferior intellectually, yet as a threat in terms of male attention. Blonde pretty girls are mean and stupid. Don’t be friends with them. They won’t amount to anything, anyway. Probably just be a trophy wife to some businessman. Isn’t it great to use your body to get places?! At least I have some self respect.
Or, do I? Now that I’ve sold myself out to the goo and paint, am I still me? Awkward, loud, opinionated me? She might have smothered, beneath that gunk. I’m too scared to use it again, in case I lose her forever.
I have struggled with my weight my whole life. Literally, since junior infants I was chubby. I used to get bullied about it back then. As I got older, the bullying changed. It wasn’t direct insults, but it was shown in social exclusion and laughing/talking behind my back.
See that boy to the right wearing a tye dye tshirt and hideous… whatever those jackets are called?! That’s me, aged eight, perhaps.
A lot of my former friends poked fun at my weight, as I did too; a coping mechanism. Transitioning into teenage-hood I realised that teenage boys in particular liked to tease girls about their weight, especially quiet fat girls; and as I was one, this taunting from young men would continue into my young adulthood (17)…
Sometimes the “hoodies” would shout at me in the streets or call me names based on my weight. I never really got insults from women. I think a lot of young men see bigger women as a threat because they don’t initially feel power over them so they have to prove their superiority by being cruel (I am sure there’s better psychology behind it than that – but a psychologist I am not…)
I’m sure the fact that I am quiet in nature with strangers doesn’t help. I have never once stood up for myself against someone making fun of my weight.
I have online; but that’s different. You can hide behind a picture and feel safe defending yourself.
Here I am trying to squash my small brother into nothingness it would seem. As you can imagine, I couldn’t get dresses in child sizes…
When I escaped the hell hole that was secondary school and teenage-hood, I thought the bullying would stop. But it didn’t. Even when I went to college other boys my age still poked fun at my weight. It even happens now, although less frequently.
As someone who suffers from depressive episodes, extreme stress and anxiety… I see bullying about my weight as essentially vocalizing my number one insecurity that I have always and will always have (even when I do succeed in losing weight)
That’s me on the far left. Note to current day children: don’t tie your cardigan around your waist. It screams clueless pensioner. As does my ill looking face. How could a child who looks like that be anything other than miserable?! (It’s what’s on the inside that counts?!)
My fat child is a part of me and she would be even if I were now skinny. I indirectly learned at a young age that people didn’t like me because I was fat and weird. And so, my size, appearance and social awkwardness manifested into my worst enemies. Which translated into, of course, my worst enemy being myself.
I am not writing this post for sympathy. I am writing it to spread a message. And that is… people are normally fat for a reason.
In fact, of (almost) all of the overweight people I know, all have suffered with low self esteem, have been the victims of bullies, relationship abuse, manipulation, self harm, depression, anxiety…
Many (including myself at times) get extreme anxiety about eating in public (especially junk food) as it feels like everyone’s judging you. Look at their glare and you know what they’re thinking… “Fat bitch”. Then, if you’re on a diet and you’re eating healthy food, they’re thinking… “Who are you trying to kid, love?”
Thankfully, many strangers won’t vocalize their impression of you. But I guarantee you, they will think it. And they may let it known through a glance. How do I know they think it? Because I think it, too. I think it when I see another fat person. I judge them in one swift glance. Even though I am fat, too. We’re programmed to do this.
We’re programmed to see fatties as lesser than skinnies. We’re programmed to see them as hopeless, lacking ambition, lacking any motivation or self control. We see them as ugly, unattractive, possibly even a danger. We judge them based on what they’re wearing. “She’s too big to be wearing that”…
If you’ve never been fat, it really is hard to understand. But I am writing this post to tell you that being fat isn’t necessarily down to being lazy and stupid. It can often be triggered by anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
A self harmer might binge eat instead of cut themselves. Does that make them “lazy” and “stupid”?
So I urge you… see fatties as human, not disgusting. I can guarantee you every fatty has a story behind why they got that way.
None of us are ever capable of really understanding the struggles of others. Unless you’ve lived someone else’s life, you can’t judge. So, no-one can judge anyone. Especially if they don’t know the first thing about said person’s past. It’s very easy to look at someone, see that they’re fun, funny, giggly & easy going, and decide that their life has been easy. But, how do you know that for a fact?
I have always been a bit eccentric. I laugh a lot, have a weird sense of humour & I have always struggled to make (and ultimately, keep) friends. Friends, and acquaintances alike, see me as a happy person. I do try to be happy, & I am happy a lot of the time. But I firmly believe that happiness isn’t guaranteed, it’s something you have to work on for your whole life.
I grew up hating myself more than I could possibly explain. I never did well in school, I never did well with friendships, and ultimately, I felt like the most physically ugly girl in all of the world. As a child, I didn’t fit in. I did my own thing. I always had a great family life, though – & I still do today. This was such a huge comfort to me as a child.
As I went into secondary school, my mental health became worse. I hated being there, but I wasn’t the type of student to break the rules, be disruptive in class or even skip class the odd time. I followed the rules, the routine, but I despised it. Unfortunately, I had a few teachers throughout my second level education who, I feel, bullied me. I can’t really use a different word, as bullied is so fitting. They saw that I was under-confident & uninterested, and they played on it. I dreaded some classes as I knew being publicly humiliated by my teacher was always a possibility.
In school, I hung out with whoever would be my friend. I went through a lot of friends in secondary school, but none of them are still my friends today. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand at the time that friends were meant to be kind & respectful to one another. A lot of my friends spent most of the time taking the piss out of me and I was the butt of all jokes. In hindsight, they weren’t really friends at all – but, at the time, I was convinced they were.
As secondary school came to a close, I was excited & happy I’d made it to the finishing line. There was just one problem – I didn’t have the faintest idea what was next in The Aisling Kelleher Adventures. I passed my exams, & my results were a bit under the average. It was enough Leaving Cert points to study something, but not enough to study anything I really wanted to in third level.
I ended up in a PLC course an hour from home, in Print Journalism. It was during this year that I had a mental breakdown. It was partly due to an incident that happened at the time, but mainly to do with a lifetime of covered up depression, self-loathing and heartbreak from just being me. The whole world around me crumbled. I became suicidal – but, there was a flicker of hope inside of me. I knew how to love, & who I loved, & I knew that people loved me. My family. How could I selfishly end my life, & destroy theirs in the process? If it wasn’t for them, I dread to think what might’ve happened to me…
I spent the next few months in recovery. I took anti-depressants, and moved back home where my parents took care of me. I was self harming at the time – the guilt I still feel from this is overwhelming. It is so painful to look into the eyes of a loved one, & to realise that your own self-loathing is actually causing their heart to break, too.
Those few months weren’t easy. Sometimes, I spent the whole day in bed. Sometimes, I found myself crying & I didn’t even know why. Ultimately though, I found a new passion in photography, vlogging & all of the media. I wanted to be a journalist, TV presenter/producer, or a photographer.
Every day was a struggle. A struggle to not cut myself, a struggle to get out of bed, a struggle to do anything productive or worthwhile. If it wasn’t for my family’s supervision & support, those everyday struggles would have been so much harder.
I fell into the same routine of making friends with people who treated me badly. Again, I was the butt of all jokes. I don’t fully know what happened though, but it was like one day I woke up, & I thought to myself that I don’t deserve this. I deserve good people. I deserve good people. I deserve good people… It suddenly made sense to me. The reason that unkind people found me in the first place was because I sought them out. My own insecurities and self-loathing wouldn’t allow good people to come into my life. I needed to work on tearing down the wall that I had had up my whole entire life. If I could do that, good people could become part of it.
I cut off contact permanently with emotionally abusive people, & I told myself that I’d rather be a loner in preference to spending time with them.
To this day, there are still people who see that I am not confident, & they play on it. But I have something now that I didn’t have with the teachers & the abusive friends. I have the ability to stand up for myself. My main interest in this life is the interest of other people – the people I care for. I would do anything to ensure their happiness. But something they never tell you is that you also need to make yourself happy. If you do not work on being happy, taking care of yourself to a certain degree, how can you ever show love & support to other people?
I am now twenty one years old, & I am trying to make my dreams come true every single day. And you should, too. Every day is a struggle to be happy. There are times that all I want to do is go back to doing nothing, & living a meaningless, lazy & unmotivated lifestyle. But when that happens, I need to look inside of my soul & find that strength, that push, that courage, to get back up after being knocked out, to love again after getting a broken heart.
There is no magic potion for happiness. It is something you need to find yourself. What makes you happy?
My past & me have a love/hate relationship. I hate being reminded of Past, but I love how Past motivates me to have a better future. What’s done is done. Messes have been made, milk has been spilt, hearts have been broken & heads have been wrecked. But every single day is a fresh new canvas we can all work on. Every single day is a day that can never be repeated. Today, I am going to try to be happy. Are you?
It seems that we are constantly hearing shudders and disapproving tuts from parents and guardians alike, regarding the Barbie dolls their young girls play with. I am sure that I am not the only one who has heard statements such as “Barbie makes little girls think that they have to look a certain way”, and “Barbie doesn’t represent a normal woman” being thrown around in the last number of years. But, are these disapproving remarks actually truthful? Or, is this just an irrational concern?
When I was younger, I played with barbies. I liked to make them prance around the place, often in a somewhat ‘unladylike fashion’, contrary to their flawless, pretty appearance. In fact, I spent very little time as a young girl concerning myself with what Barbie wore. I can’t remember ever maintaining the dainty little shoes which came with her – they always became lost in some way or other. Similarly, I spent little time brushing her hair. I’d roughly scrape through her plastic dyed hair with a human sized brush, and scrape it back with one of my scrunchies. My Barbies spent most of their time frolicking around the place like they were drunk out of their minds… no shoes, carelessly dressed, often going around with missing items of clothing, etc. I gave my Barbies certain personalities. I remember when I was small, I was not one of these young girls to play into ‘the princess Barbie’; I always found the sporty and sociable Barbie to be far more appealing. I know that other girls are different, and they spend all of their time sitting in their pristine rooms, brushing Barbie’s hair, dressing her, and of course, maintaining every last one of her colourful dainty shoes.
Some little girls are interested in beauty, the colour pink and fashion – and others are not. Whichever the case, I fail to see how playing with a Barbie doll can distort their body image.
Barbie was not the only toy we played with when we were young. There were plenty – Baby Born, toy cars, teddies, board games, remote control cars, or even ‘make-it-yourself’ sets (which were referred to as ‘makey-do sets’ in my house). I cannot speak for the general nation of children, but in our house there was rarely gender distinguishing when it came to toys. My siblings and I shared our toys. I didn’t adapt an unrealistic body image from Barbie, just like I didn’t aspire to be a cowboy from playing with a Woody doll.
For the most part, I feel I can speak from experience, and say that toys do not put any pressure on children to become a certain person. Similar concerns have been expressed regarding video games such as ‘Grand Theft Auto’. My simple response to this concern is that maniacs, murderers and rapists have been around for centuries. I fail to see how a violent video game is going to encourage children to act violently. Also, the game is only suitable for over 18 year olds — so maybe your child shouldn’t be playing it anyway if you do not want these concerns to become reality.
I can safely say that for me, a toy was always just a toy when I was young. I was never under the impression that girls who looked like Barbie existed. Perhaps ‘blonde bombshells’ did, but nonetheless they were human beings with non-animated faces and hair that wasn’t plastic. I also knew that Woody from Toy Story didn’t exist, and that race cars required a driver to move, not a hand.
Toys are there for children to create, to imagine, to have fun and to even express themselves. So, my simple answer to the title of this blog is ‘no’, I don’t feel that Barbie distorts the body image of young girls. Barbie is just a glorified piece of plastic, with round plastic boobs and plastic white-blonde hair. Barbie was made out of plastic – just like Baby Born was, and just like remote control cars were. I was never under the illusion that I would someday become a Barbie replica – and I never felt any of my other friends would either. I was surrounded by real-life women, who were not made out of plastic and did not have permanent makeup tattooed onto their faces. I always aspired to be like these women – I never aspired to look like Barbie, or act like her (considering her personality was somewhat bland.)
If anything, we need to concern ourselves with real-life women. I do recall aspiring to be like Rachel Stevens from S Club 7, or Emma Bunton from The Spice Girls. Rachel Stevens was awarded the title of ‘Sexiest Woman Alive’ during my childhood; and Emma Bunton often wore very little clothes and behaved very promiscuously in music videos (although she was most probably playing the character of ‘Baby Spice’)
Are these really positive role models for young girls? Both examples were sexualised in the media. Barbie was also sexualised; but as I have stated, the difference is that Barbie is plastic. Perhaps we need to be concerning ourselves more with the unsuitable role models for young girls?
But for now, I don’t feel Barbie is putting on any pressure. And, if you think she is, just don’t buy her for your children. It seems pretty simple to me!
Thanks for reading 🙂