Ugly ducklings don’t always grow into swans

I’m not going to re-read this, so for any typos, forgive me, I’ll only change it

When I was growing up, I swum. A lot. So for ease, I had my hair cut short. I was clumsy, big footed, fell over things, fell over my words and towered over my peers at school. I was helpfully told I looked just like a boy, sometimes daily. I really struggled with how I looked, I was not the dainty little girl who had long hair. My hair, when it was long was poker straight, and I couldn’t, (still can’t) be bothered to do anything with it other than to either have it down, or scraped back into a pony tail.

I was 5’10” at twelve years old. I had a stand up argument with a teacher on my first day at senior school, I had been asked where a classroom was. Except I didn’t know where it was either, but the teacher who overheard didn’t believe me as I was so tall, I evidently was older and should know, so yelled at me for not being helpful. My parents struggled to get shoes to fit me every time, I still struggle now to get shoes, (another thing I like doing on my own as I know I get frustrated and cross when I go shoe shopping), I’m revving up for another training shoe shop. And I know I will be in a pair of mens trainers – again. I hate, hate, hate it.

But yet, my body has done well. Despite it’s funny tummy, IBS and coeliac. Despite my funny baby garden, dysmenorrhoea, fibroids and the occasional smear coming back with abnormal cells. Despite the shortsightedness, the clumsiness, the words spilling out of me too fast sometimes. Despite it all, my body works and carries me around. For that I’m grateful. For all my whinging when I get a cold or illness, what I deal with when I’m ill is nothing compared to some who deal with far worse, day in, day out. Even when I’m struggling to find five things to be grateful for each night, the first one I can find every day is my breath. Because so many people struggle to breathe every day.

My body issues, oh boy – they run far and deep. I don’t think I will ever be comfortable in my own skin. For too long I was told I wasn’t something, so when I get told I look nice, or pretty, or beautiful, I say thank you, but inside I squirm. I truly don’t believe it. There were years where I did my make-up in a compact mirror, so I didn’t have to look at the whole of my face. I thought I was the only person who did that until I read about it in a book and shouted silently ‘Comrade!’

I once taught a lady I worked with, Patsy, to swim. She wanted to not be the one who sat by the side of the pool looking after the handbags. But what do you teach someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the body they’re in? Telling them they’re beautiful when they blatantly feel they’re not doesn’t help. Telling them that they’re funny, or they’ve a good personality, really doesn’t help. Over time, I’ve got better. Felt better. Having Peanut helped. I felt beautiful when I was pregnant, I’m sorry to my lovely girls who are TTC, I hope this isn’t a trigger for you. But I felt beautiful because I was amazed that this body I detested, loathed did precisely what it was supposed to do.

This week, an article in the Guardian website had me sitting open-mouthed at the breakfast table. Dustin Hoffman is talking about Tootsie. Why it was never a comedy for him. I’m not going to paraphrase it. I’d like you to watch it. The video is only 3 minutes 11 seconds.

I never thought I’d write this sentence: I didn’t expect a man to understand, so completely, the struggle I’ve had all my life. To understand that for the woman who’s standing in the corner of a room, at a party, looking at a painting or the books on the shelves, it’s because she’s trying not to blush and get her breathing under control. She’s not trying to prove she’s an intellectual, she knows that people aren’t going to look at her, because she’s not blonde, she’s not skinny, she’s not what people have been told is beautiful, but she promised a friend she’d be there. So she’s there. But she’s there under sufferance and is struggling.

Hubs and I actively tried for a boy. I didn’t want to bring a girl into this world, this world that looks even more now than ever before at the female form, and holds her entire worth against what she looks like – not what she is. I’ve enough pain and scars across my heart from not being the right height, weight, size, shape, or having the right clothes, shoes, hair cut, make-up *delete as applicable. I am going to teach Peanut that everyone is valuable. Just as they are. I want him to see inside people, to see their goodness, their sweetness, how interesting they are. I’m going to teach him to walk over to the girl in the corner, then to ask her how her day went.

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