So. I never thought this would happen.
I have always been fascinated by the abiding sense of unease that most women seem to have with their bodies. In high school, I spent a lot of time drawing women’s bodies. For one art project, I drew skittle-like schematic outlines of women and distributed them to girls at my school, and asked them to draw a sketch of how they saw their own bodies, showing what they liked and didn’t like. We were all about 16 at the time, and pretty much the picture of flawless youthful feminine gorgeousness that 16-year-olds always are. And, of course, oblivious to our perfection, we dieted like crazy, doused every mouthful of pizza or cheesecake with ladlefuls of guilt, and desperately compared ourselves to the 80’s haze of airbrushed sylphs in our mothers’ Fair Lady and Cosmopolitan magazines.
The results of the art project were fascinating and perverse. Aggressive pencilmark arrows stabbed in the direction of offending thighs and hips. Squiggly exaggerated blobs described abdomens that disgusted their (invariably slender, gorgeous) owners. A few objected to their thicker-than-perfect ankles or wrongly shaped breasts. But most were obsessed with bums, thighs and hips. We should all be smaller and lighter and slenderer, they unanimously cried. (One particular respondent had a particularly exacting theory called “The Three-Diamond Effect”, describing the negative spaces created between the perfect pair of legs.)
It was kind of funny, kind of awful, and it made for a high-scoring art project. It was easy to see that we’d all been brainwashed by some weird mystical idea of what our bodies Should Be. It was easy to think that everyone else should just love their bodies as they were. As for me, I knew that I’d simply been doomed by a genetic legacy of skinny calves and a belly that would never ever be truly flat. (Anyone remember the “pot bellies are cute” scene from Pulp Fiction? Anyone else think, yeah right?) Of course, if I could magically remedy the situation, somehow transform my body to look like Christie Brinkley’s in my book of health and beauty tips, then just perhaps true happiness might be mine. Stardom. Or, at very least, the guy I had a crush on in my maths class would notice me. Or something. I was 16, ok, and it was The Truth, direct from, um, somewhere.
Anyway, life went on, and even with the general self-assurance that eventually finds you when you’ve weathered the storms of your teens, twenties and early thirties, I suspect that deep down inside there was always a little fossil of an idea that if I were a true size 32 somehow something would fall into place. (God knows what, ok? That’s the thing about long-buried ideas, they turn into something… unhealthy.) It didn’t happen though. Even when I was doing hardcore long-distance swimming, my appetite was far too vigorous to result in the kind of emaciated slenderness I vaguely imagined to be perfectly attractive. And starvation has never really cut it for me as a strategy (scroll down for the cheesecake…)
And then along came 2009. I don’t know what did it. Perhaps it’s been the year of breastfeeding. Perhaps it was stress. Not too sure. But suddenly, without any effort at all, a whole lot of my body weight just vanished. Around six months after Kolya was born, I found myself around eight kilograms lighter than my usual weight. Maybe slightly more. It was kind of startling. It wasn’t for lack of eating, or excess of exercise. And yet clothes started falling off. Necessitating new jeans (not necessarily a bad thing). Friends started sounding concerned about my health. But that was offset with appreciative noises about the new jeans and how very fine they looked. I picked up a friend’s Cosmo on her dining room table. There was an article entitled “Are you at your model weight?” (The point of the article was, surprise, surprise, that models are generally well under their ideal body weight.) There was a little graph that mapped the “healthy” weight your age and height. And, then, in a threateningly red band below it, your “model weight”. And what do you know, there I was. Model weight.
Storm models have not yet come knocking. (Perhaps they haven’t heard yet?) My agent has not called up with any major plum roles (though I’m sure she will, when she hears.) The maths-class crush guy didn’t magically reappear (though thank goodness for that; please don’t tell him). My general love of chocolate cake hasn’t evaporated, but nor has the sense that if I have it for breakfast more than, say, three times a week, that the jeans might not fit by next week. But it feels kind of cool that just for now, they do.